What does America stand for? Has it ever been perfect? We all know the answer: Of course not. Consider our beginnings. The first Settlers arrived on a land that did not belong to them. It belonged to the Native Americans, whom they began to push out of their own territory as the years went by. Ultimately, the land we now call home belongs to anyone who can make it here. Is this fair or right? Of course not.

Furthermore, the wealth of the United States was built upon free labor. Sure, in 2016, we look down on other countries who pay their employees well below minimum wage. Yet, America began with slaves working from plantations to the homes of complete strangers to them. Those in charge did not pay one cent for this labor, which was also the beginning of the divide in social class. Or, as Bernie Sanders would say, this is the top one percent.

This is the foundation of our Nation.

One group of people taking advantage of other groups of people. Since then, those from George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X have been trying to fix the problem of racial inequality. Now, on the edge of 2017, how much progress have we made?

Sadly, similar problems remain. Yes, African-Americans can drink out of the same water fountains, eat in the same restaurants, or go to the same universities as everyone else. However, the cry of discrimination still rings loudly in the way of peaceful protests and unruly rioting. As an African-American, I have decided to use my voice for a change to join the conversation.

Would you kneel during our National Anthem?

I have never knelt during the Anthem before while knowing full well of the History I just mentioned. Even today, during the drive home, I passed a large Confederate flag flowing in the wind of a neighbor's front yard. Yes, it does sting me each time I see it. Still, it does not sting as much as the sixty-foot Confederate monument that is surrounded by a water fountain in Downtown Jacksonville, Florida.

Yet, I stand. I do not stand because of what America is. I stand because of the hope I have of what America should be. Generations after mine will continue to improve and know better than to return to where we started. I hope...

To make matters worse, what is referred to as "Black-on-Black" crime has risen substantially since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. The infamous southside of Chicago is often mentioned as African-Americans are afraid to lose their lives to other African-Americans while making a routine stop at a local cornerstore.

The protests did not start, then. One death after another, no one knelt during the National Anthem. No one lined the streets in protests demanding that African-Americans stopped killing each other in droves. No one raised a fist to raise awareness of the fear that is growing in their own communities because of their own. No one.

Is not a life still a life, no matter who takes it?

Therefore, to my surprise, the protests and riots rose in light of a white police officer killing an African-American. Obviously, these instances of white police officers killing unarmed black men are atrocious and should not be tolerated. My point is, the killing of a black person should never be tolerated, no matter who pulls the trigger. In both cases, protests should have ensued.

Instead, this massive uproar only occurs when the race card can be played; it comes across as hypocritical to me. Because, essentially, what people are saying is it's okay for a black person to kill another black person as long as a white person isn't involved. Yes, they say it through their selective silence. Perhaps, they don't mean to, yet, the negative perception is crystal clear.

What of Colin Kaepernick?

In full disclosure, I must admit I have been a San Francisco 49ers fan since my toddler years. My parents, my sister, we all rooted for Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Roger Craig, the list goes on. Meaning, I am overly sensitive when it comes to my team. I also must add, I was disappointed when Alex Smith was replaced by Kaepernick upon returning from his injury. I simply felt with Smith, we knew what type of Quarterback (and person) we were dealing with. Colin was still an unknown.

As you can imagine, my disappointment only increased as I learned Kaepernick's teammates were not to fond the Quarterback. Analysts would say, "Colin has lost the locker room." Then, I became agitated when I realized Kaepernick wanted to be traded out of San Francisco after they had already paid him the enormous contract he practically demanded.

My attitude became, 'Fine. Let him leave. Good riddance.' However, at the start of the 2016 season, I realized Kaepernick wasn't going anywhere. He was stuck in San Francisco and I could only imagine how much improved the locker room atmosphere would be. Not only did Colin not get the starting QB position, he was benched for a Quarterback many believe is less skilled than he is. Yes, this keeps getting better.

Suddenly, rumors of Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem began and I thought to myself, 'I knew it. He is going to be a huge distraction because the 49ers refused to trade him.' I know. The organization, along with the new head coach, have voiced their support for his stance.

Yet, I still have this lingering suspicion that feelings do not change that quickly. They could not stand each other one minute and now, everything's okay? I do not believe his motivation behind all of this is genuine. At least, it certainly did not start out that way.

One of the quickest ways to get yourself fired from a team is to create bad press.

Controversy. Constantly. No organization wants that type of spotlight on them. They would rather get rid of the problem altogether than try to tolerate it.

However, this case is special because Kaepernick proclaims he is raising awareness on racial inequality. Obviously, it's even more bad press if people believe they have traded Colin over this type of distraction to their team. Yes, they are stuck.

As the situation escalated, Colin's jersey sales skyrocketed, and certain people started mimicking his actions. Kaepernick found himself under a national microscope, which likely forced him to take a more serious look at his actions.

While many will say he was sincere in his cause all along, I saw no signs of these concerns during his successful years as a starting QB. Whether it was on the way to the Super Bowl during his first year as a starter or up to the point of losing the NFC Championship game during his second starting Season. I only heard his gripes of wanting a huge payday from the Niners.

As you know, I cannot be certain without a hint of doubt. It simply looks bad to me. As for how I believe African-Americans should handle racial inequality:

Before you attempt to clean up someone else's house, you must start with your own.

This is not what we want to hear. Still, the truth is necessary if we truly want this country to be worthy of us standing during the National Anthem. Again, I stand in hope of us fighting for a better today and tomorrow. This is what our men and women in uniform literally fight and give their lives for. Not simply for who we are, but who we can become. I would rather stand.

Will you stand with me?

Published by Eric Christopher Jackson