RI State Representative Jan Malik (District 67, Barrington/Warren) said that when he re-posted a picture of 25 flag-draped coffins of American soldiers killed in battle, he didn’t notice that the picture and text came from right-wing political activist, musician and racist Ted Nugent.
“I couldn’t care less about that ass,” Malik said about Nugent.
When friends on Facebook noted the Ted Nugent connection, Malik took the photo down, even though he still stands by the meme, saying that the picture and the words make an important point.
The picture is accompanied by the words, “Would the suppressed millionaire, NFL quarterback, who would not stand for the National Anthem please point out which of these guys are black so we can remove the offensive flag.”
Malik says he did not see this meme as racist. To Malik the point was that, “you can’t tell who’s black or white beneath the flag. The [soldiers] should all be respected.”
The meme Malik re-posted was made in response to NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
When Kaepernick announced back in August that he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he started an important, spiraling conversation about race, police violence, the National Anthem and free speech.
Kaepernick was striving to make point about police killing people of color. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” Kaepernick said. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Malik maintains that not standing for the National Anthem disrespects our veterans and is a “disgrace.” Taking a knee, he said, “is a little bit better, but not good enough for me.”
The backlash against Kaepernick seems to have emboldened other NFL players to express solidarity, but so far no other players have chosen to remain seated. Instead, over the weekend four Miami Dolphins took a knee during the anthem, and two New England Patriots raised a fist.
“The way they are protesting the flag is a disgrace,” said Malik. “There are other ways to protest the killings of blacks – and whites – by police. Standing arm in arm is better, white and black together.”
Malik was referring to the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks who locked arms in solidarity during the anthem. The Seahawks said they wanted to “bring people together” while the Chiefs vowed to “work with local law enforcement officials and leaders to make an impact on the Kansas City Community.”
Football players like Kaepernick need to set the right example, says Malik. “They’re looked up to” by kids.
Malik says he understands the importance of free speech, but he takes not standing for the anthem personally, because he lost a friend last August in the war. “I really do think it’s wrong to not stand for the National Anthem. I believe that Black Lives Matter.”
Kaepernick “made his point,” said Malik, “We Americans don’t need anything else to divide us. We’re all Americans. We have to work together to make this world a better place.”
Malik, who serves as the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is facing a challenge from Jason Knight in tomorrow’s primary. Knight served in the U.S. Navy from 1988 to 1996 as an enlisted nuclear power technician.