“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Colin Kaepernick set off a storm of controversy over the weekend when he refused to stand for the National Anthem. He did so in stated protest of the oppression of Black Americans and the images of black bodies lying dead in our nation’s streets. After the game, Kaepernick released the following statement to NFL media:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Predictably, the response ranged from horrific racist smearing to passionate opinions defending and condemning his actions. Somewhere in the middle was a more measured response that reminded us that protest is our most fundamental American right. This country was founded on the premise that protest is vital to prevent oppression. This very country arose out of protest against taxation without representation and religious persecution in England.
Despite this fundamental notion in our nation’s history, selectivity is an American tradition like no other. Kaepernick’s protest was a cry against this selectivity in enforcement of our basic rights. The response by many showed how selectivity is still a serious problem in this country.
One of the more common responses was from the “Stick To Sports” crowd excoriating Kaepernick because he’s a young bi-racial multimillionaire adopted by a white family playing a professional sport, football, and therefore must be grateful and just shut up and play. Yes, there were actual people telling Kaepernick he had no right to voice an opinion on what they perceive as a “black only” issue becasue he should be grateful for the magnanimous decision by his adoptive parents in providing him a home.
This of course begs the question as to why “they”, or anyone for that matter, would think inhumanity toward a fellow American (despite the color of their skin) isn’t a human issue. It should be an issue for any compassionate human being who believes in freedom and justice for all. No! White parents adopted you Colin you should be grateful! Now stand up and play ball and put your body and future health on the line for our collective entertainment.
Words come hard when trying to understand how Kaepernick is less than a valid spokesperson for the murder of black men simply because he is less than 100% black. Again, this is selectivity at its
finest worst. It says the injustices suffered by those who don’t look like us are unworthy of our national attention, or our collective sympathy. It is only a “black” issue and not an issue outside the “black community.” Apparently, these people do not view black people as fellow Americans or as human beings.
“With liberty and justice for all?” Selective justice is no justice.
Then there is the notion that a rich man, regardless of skin color, cannot speak out against injustices which is so ludicrous, and hypocritical, that it boggles the mind. Never mind that Kaepernick, by virtue of his status, is capable of speaking to a wider audience than those who are poor and disadvantaged, and that it is those poor and disadvantaged that are disenfranchised and ignored in our society. Dead men cannot speak.
If those who make that argument don’t want to hear, or listen to, Kaepernick who then is worthy of your attention? Will you listen to Jenée Desmond-Harris over at Vox when she points out that activism, and racism, aren’t exclusive of poverty? There are many stories where famous athletes and entertainers have experienced oppression and racism. How soon we forget racist (and sexist) backlash against black athletes such as Simone Manuel and Simone Biles experienced a short time ago while competing for their country in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
If you have an issue with your news/and or sports consumption coming from a woman (believe me its a thing), and a black one at that, perhaps you will listen to Jarrett Bell, a black male who as far as I’m aware is fully black and not rich! He wrote this for USA Today where he points out that Mohammed Ali, a beloved sports figure who was universally mourned not long ago has a similar history of protest. As Bell writes, what good is a platform if you don’t use it to do good?
Don’t want to hear it from a black male who isn’t young, rich and/or playing in the NFL? How about this from Uncle Chaps (@UncleChaps) writing over at Barstool Sports where he said he didn’t like the method by which Kaepernick voiced his protest but that he fully supported the right to do so because the flag and the anthem stand for what is really important and that is freedom and liberty. As a veteran who has served this country he is fully aware of the sacrifice and price paid so that we all SHOULD enjoy those rights.
Which brings us full circle to the real issues here and that is the systemic denial of that freedom and liberty to some of our citizens based on the color of their skin which is at the heart of that protest. If you are more outraged over the manner of protest than you are over what is being protested you are part of the problem. The flag and the national anthem are supposedly symbols of a greater purpose and if you worship the symbols more than what they represent you are a hypocrite.
Perhaps you are also unaware of the full history of our national anthem. I certainly was until I read this via Jon Schwartz at The Intercept. Have you ever read the full lyrics to the song? I had not and now I truly wonder how it is still our national anthem. Like many of our founding documents, the authors were slave holding men who felt the grand principles contained therein were only for the selective few. We forget Francis Scott Key was a slave holder and a racist.
Putting all that aside, the flag and the anthem are supposed to represent freedom and justice for all. That freedom and justice is being denied to your fellow Americans. When you profess outrage over Colin Kaepernick’s method of protest, I can’t help but wonder where is your outrage over the things about which he IS protesting.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Martin Luther King Jr.