A Protest of Injustice: Michael Oppong and the US national anthem

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Worcester city and school officials had ruled that Oppong would not face a suspension

Patrick Fox, Scarlet Staff

Apparently inspired by the recent high-profile actions of National Football League players such as Colin Kaepernick, a high school football player from Worcester’s Doherty High School knelt to the ground during a rendition of the national anthem that was played prior to the start of the game. Player Michael Oppong had noted via social media that his act was meant as a protest of alleged police brutality suffered by African Americans at the hands of police departments. According to Oppong, the kneeling was also meant to be a gesture of solidarity with other athletes at several different levels of ability such as  Kaepernick across the country who were protesting overarching police brutality nationwide.  

Oppong was quoted by several media outlets as saying: “I feel like there’s a lot of injustice and inequality for a lot of black people nowadays, this is my way of being able to protest.” As of Sept. 13, Worcester city and school officials had ruled that Oppong would not face a suspension and that his protest fell within both school policy as well as his constitutional right to protest, despite calls to the contrary.  

As in the case of  Kaepernick and others who have chosen to kneel during the national anthem, the response from portions of the media and in particular, social media, were quick to respond with vitriol. Some commenters on social media platforms such as Facebook flooded comment sections with racist, sexist, and homophobic chatter. Calls for resignation on the part of the Worcester City Superintendent of Schools, a chief endorser of  Oppong, followed shortly after.

It has been said that true freedom is not only hearing and understanding viewpoints and opinions of those who we agree with, but also those of whom with which we disagree. If a young man with a clear and large legal precedent to engage in a peaceful protest is hampered and attacked as much as Oppong has been, then clearly, the Worcester community has a much longer distance to travel to equality than previously thought.

Peaceful protest of injustice is not merely precedent, however- it is enshrined in the very bedrock of this United States, the constitution. The Oppong protest and its aftermath has demonstrated an unfortunate truth: that basic rights ostensibly guaranteed under the country’s founding document, are being selectively applied to African Americans. If the United States is to truly resolve its issues, issues that are causing rifts and protest from Oakland to Charlotte, then it must attempt to recognize and remedy the grievances of African Americans and other people of color. The savagery of white America, whether responding to such crises on the internet or in real life, is evidence of the fact that there is still much work to be done in understanding those who possess different views or ideology. The national anthem deserves respect, but so does every citizen who lives in the country under its clarion call, regardless of race, religion, or political views.