San Francisco 49ers players Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before an NFL game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on Sept. 18. (Mike McCarn/AP)

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said of his decision to kneel during a pregame performance of the national anthem.

The action, which Kaepernick said was intended to draw attention to the way law enforcement, and American society in general, treats minorities, has since been adopted by other athletes, professional and otherwise, around the country.

Critics, such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, have upbraided Kaepernick and others for an action that they say is disrespectful and unpatriotic. Kaepernick recently shot back, saying that "there’s a lot of racism in this country disguised as patriotism."

Patriotism, of course, can mean a lot of different things. For one person, it can be saluting the flag and standing, hand over heart, for the national anthem. For another, a quiet act to draw attention to injustice can be a gesture of patriotism.

White and nonwhite Americans describe themselves as "patriotic" or "proud" to be American at generally similar levels, according to polling by Gallup. But there nonetheless remains a distinct and significant racial gap on these measures.

This summer, for instance, white Americans (54 percent) were about 9 percentage points more likely to describe themselves as "extremely proud" to be American than nonwhites (45 percent).


That gap has shrunk considerably since 2001, when whites (58 percent) were 18 percentage points more likely to call themselves extremely proud than nonwhites (39 percent).

Among both groups there was a surge in civic pride following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But that rush of patriotism had subsided by 2005 or so.

Much of the reduction in the racial pride gap since 2005 is due to white Americans becoming less proud of their country.

Since 2005, the percentage of whites saying they're extremely proud to be American fell by 10 points. Among nonwhites, the drop was only 3 points.

All that has added up to a record low in the number of all Americans — 52 percent — saying they're extremely proud, according to Gallup. Civic pride has declined among every demographic group Gallup has polled since 2003, but the drop has been particularly steep for younger Americans (26 percentage point drop), women (23 percent) and Gen Xers (23 percent).

Nonwhite voters saw a modest bump in civic pride in 2009, following the election of Barack Obama. Since then, nonwhite civic pride has been fairly stable, neither rising with Obama's reelection in 2012 nor dropping in the wake of widespread protests and unrest following the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014.

But Kaepernick's kneel may represent an inflection point in civic pride for both white and nonwhite Americans. Are you disheartened to live in a country that continues to see stark inequalities in how law enforcement treats minority communities? Are you proud to live someplace where a role model can openly protest that treatment on the national stage?

If the reactions to the protests of Kaepernick and others are any indication, your answer to that question may partly depend on your race.

More from The Washington Post:

If Colin Kaepernick has First Amendment rights to protest, do the police, too?

Here are the most — and least — patriotic states in America

I stood up for the national anthem by sitting down for it