Past Present Podcast: Colin Kaepernick, Burkinis, and Crime at Walmart

National Anthem

On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem, the burkini, and crime at Walmart.

Colin Kaepernick

San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated during a recent pre-game national anthem in protest against racial discrimination in the country. Neil argued Kaepernick likely chose that moment to lodge his protest in reference to other black athletes who have done the same, such as at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Natalia observed that non-political events like athletic competitions often provided useful moments to make a protest, like Beyonce’s 2016 Super Bowl performance that referenced the Black Panthers. Niki detailed the history of the Star-Spangled Banner and why some have called it a racist song. Natalia shared a Christianity Today article that detailed how the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” almost became the national anthem. Neil recommended listeners read John Stauffer and Benjamin Soskis’s book, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, for those interested in learning more about the song.


Towns along the French Riviera have attempted to ban the burkini from their beaches this summer. Natalia situated the controversy in France’s tradition of laïcité, a word that roughly translates to “secular ideal,” as the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut has described it. Niki explained an Australian-Lebanese woman had created the burkini in 2006 as a form of modest beachwear. Natalia recommended the Public Books essay, “Saving Muslim Women,” for thinking more about the complicated responses of American feminists towards Muslim women.

Crime at Walmart

A recent Bloomberg article found that Walmart stores have become high crime locations. Niki recommended William Leach’s history of consumption, Land of Desire, for understanding how the rise of department stores encouraged shoplifting. Natalia added Elaine Abelson’s When the Ladies Go A-Thieving, as another history of shoplifting. Niki noted Jane Jacobs had argued that the physical design of cities increased crime rates in areas where there less eyes on the street. Natalia recommended a City Lab article on the history of the 24-hour convenience store.

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