Elias Atienza is a history sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.

Colin Kaepernick does not deserve the vitriol and hatred he has recently received. The 49ers quarterback took to the field, knelt down for the national anthem and received criticism for his actions. People burned his jerseys. The police threatened to boycott the games and withdraw their protection. People demanded he be silenced and others have demanded he leave the country.

All of these reactions are wrong.

This is not to defend him from legitimate criticism; people have a right to criticize his actions. But they should not demand he be silenced. They should respond with constructive dialogue and find out why he is protesting. They should listen to him and the voices he represents.

Some ask why he chose the national anthem. Others ask, why now? Why did he choose to do it this year instead of two or three years ago?

What these people don’t realize is they would say the same exact things if he decided to protest in 2014 or 2015 or even 2012. They would still demand he be silenced. They would still denounce him for making millions of dollars and demand he leave the country.

Kaepernick has a right to protest for what he believes in. That right is enshrined within the very founding of this country. When people demand others be silenced, that is precisely what is wrong with this country. When the foundation of your argument is to tell someone to “get the hell out” instead of addressing the reasons of the protest, where is the dialogue people claim they want?

Jack Hunter, editor of Rare Politics, wrote that people on the left along with those on the right dislike talking about things that make them uncomfortable.

“Many don’t like to talk about obvious things that make them uncomfortable, or, for conservatives, that might challenge their conventional view of having respect and admiration for the police. This is political correctness,” Hunter said in the article.

We must have an honest dialogue on race relations and review our own biases. Kaepernick’s protest revealed there is still much left to be discussed about the state of our country. We must face the reality that America is not perfect.

The hatred he received is unwarranted. It reminds me of Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader was criticized for his protests by many people. In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” King admonished how people believed it was never the right time for a protest; that he had to wait for a much more “convenient time.”

“…But the white moderate… who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season,’” King wrote.

If this protest makes you uncomfortable, it should. That is the role of protests. Kaepernick has the right to protest on the field. If you want him to rethink, don’t demand he leave the country. Don’t demand his silence. Start a dialogue. Ask yourself why his supporters why they are kneeling for the national anthem. Don’t try to silence your opposition.

As Hunter writes, “conservatives are right that our increasingly hyper-PC society too often prevents honest conversation, but dialogue is a two-way street. We need to stop being so politically correct. The right included.”

People must see past their own biases and realize everyone has the right to an opinion. Even ones we don’t like.

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