The whole kerfuffle about Colin Kaepernick has got me so confused y’all. I mean, isn’t the WHOLE POINT of freedom of expression to allow each other to hold our own distinct political and religious views without having to worry about what other people may think?
“I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world.” -Colin Kaepernick
I can’t front, I’m a big football fan (though I’d never allow my son to play) and I’ve never really thought twice about Kap. He never made my Fantasy Football roster and he wasn’t on any team that I have an emotional investment in (NY Giants, natch). But the second he chose to use his platform to start a conversation about the indiscriminate murder of young black and brown people in our country, he became a god damn American hero.
There have been scores of op-eds written, social media posts drawn up, memes created, and tweets furiously typed all because one young man decided that he would not salute a flag that represents a country that has done nothing to protect him.
Lots of racists have made stupid arguments about why he is “wrong” to protest in his chosen fashion, but once you scratch below the surface there all just different versions of the old “Shut up, boy!” narrative people of color are all too familiar with. He’s unpatriotic? Since when did the flag stand ONLY to represent our armed forces? Further more, these men and women are fighting to protect the very same freedoms you are now trying to prevent the 49ers QB from exercising. Don’t believe me? Then hear it first hand from this amazing veteran Jim Wright.
And it’s not just him. The hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick has been trending. The second Kaepernick sat down and then spoke his mind so freely at that press conference, he became an athlete whose jersey I’d proudly let my son rock.
Then there’s the old argument that no black man can complain of being oppressed when he is making 19 million dollars a year. Let’s quickly address this stupid argument with two points. I’ll start with the immortal words of Nas, who was so wise to point out, “You can have all the chips, be poor or rich, still nobody wants a n*gger to have his shit.” Seriously, just ask James Blake, who was assaulted by the cops in NY.
The whole money argument is totally ridiculous for another reason that we never talk about. Kapernick makes millions of dollars a year, he’s an elite athlete who has worked his whole life to get where he is. No one can really argue that. But as Chris Rock says, “See, the black man gotta fly to get to somethin’ the white man can walk to.”
Even if you’re a freaking millionaire and you live in the poshest of neighborhoods, if you’re a black or brown man you will be constantly reminded that while you had to be the BEST of the BEST to get where you are, the white men around you got there by being average. You are in no position of power because YOU HAVE NO POWER. Money can only buy you protection if you have the means to translate it into institutional and systematic change. And money only translates to systematic and institutional change when you have the political, familial and business connections to make it so. I’m going to let you guess how many black and brown families in the U.S. have all those keys, but just FYI that a recent study showed that the average black family would need 228 YEARS to build the wealth of a white family today (and that would just be a start).
I’ll let Mr. Rock drive home this point:
“A black C student can’t be a manager at Burger King, meanwhile a white C student just happens to be the President of the United States.”
The last and most important fact is that every single one of these conservative, rightwing idiots out there, clutching their pearls, burning jerseys and writing post after post about how Kaepernick is ungrateful or disrespectful should try to LISTEN for once to what he is actually saying. We’ve been shouting it from the rooftops, we’ve been screaming it over the graves of our dead sons and daughters: STOP MURDERING US.
It’s really not that hard to understand. There were 1,134 people killed at the hands of the police last year (2015) and black men were nine times more likely to be the victims of these killings than any other group. It doesn’t seem to matter if there is direct eye-witness accounts or irrefutable video of these murders at the hands of those charged to protect and serve, it has been proven time and time again that black lives DON’T matter in this country. And until they do, we should ALL take a seat.