Freedom of speech vs. mockery

The Wichitan

OUR VIEW: Standing for the national anthem is freedom of speech, not mockery of our country. 

Last Monday, the annual lip sync competition took place in Akin Auditorium, where 14 organizations competed to win 25 possible Homecoming points and earn bragging rights across campus. During their performance, the Black Student Union members donned Black Lives Matter T-shirts, raised their right fists in the air to represent the Black Panther Party, and kneeled during a lip synced rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

In light of recent events involving the Black Lives Matter movement, such as the Colin Kaepernick national anthem incident, some students say that this performance was mocking the national anthem. Others say that it was an expression of our First Amendment right to freedom of speech. While this argument can go back and forth, our staff believes that this is freedom of speech rather than mockery.

In the world of ceremonial body language, standing is often a sign of respect. It shows that what we are standing for is important to us; for example, we stand when we say the Pledge of Allegiance in school, we stand when the bride walks down the aisle, we stand when we greet old friends and family members, we stand in church when the Gospel is read. Standing suggests that something important is going on that we need to acknowledge and give our attention to. 

Kneeling is a very different thing.

Kneeling is viewed as contemptuous. If any one of us kneels during any of the aforementioned events, it is seen as a sign of disrespect or mockery — but BSU, through its protestations, is trying to show us that something is wrong in our country. It is not anti-American, it is anti-injustice. While Americans have a lot to be proud of, we also have a lot to be ashamed of, too. There is not a moment in history that we can point out and say, “Hey, we had this all figured out.” 

It’s become a social norm, maybe even an automatic response, to stand as soon the familiar opening chords are played. But standing for the national anthem, we believe, is not a blanket endorsement that everyone must follow.