I suppose you’ve been wondering when I would get around to saying something about Colin Kaepernick and his sit-down protest of the national anthem. Well, I was really hoping we could let this one slide past, but some of you just won’t let it go, on both sides, so… Here we go. In no particular order, here are a few random thoughts on Mr. Kaepernick’s 15 minutes of infamy…
First, regardless of what I or anyone thinks of what he has to say, he absolutely has the right to say it. We have freedom of speech in this country for a reason. If you want to live in a country where everyone is forced to stand for the national anthem, move to North Korea. We stand by choice, out of respect. That is as it should be. If there is no choice it is a meaningless gesture.
Second, by the same token, if someone is disrespectful, of anything, you have every right to criticize it. First amendment protection only protects oneself from the government, not from the opinions of individuals. Speech has consequences. Our first amendment simply guarantees that one of those consequences is not prison.
Third, and more to the heart of the matter, I respect Kaepernick’s desire to protest, but I think he is an absolute idiot for choosing the method he did.
Yes, an idiot. Here’s why…
In a nutshell, his protest accomplishes nothing. Nothing. We have gotten so caught up in HOW he is protesting, that no one is talking about WHAT he is protesting. His protest started a dialog alright, but it’s entirely the wrong dialog. It is not just ineffective, it is a distraction from the dialog we should be having.
The simple fact is, black people are disproportionately more likely to be stopped, searched, detained, and arrested than white people. They are more likely to be convicted, and are more likely to serve longer sentences. Those facts are clear. (Go look them up, if you like… I’ll wait.) What is not entirely clear is whether, once stopped by the police, blacks are more likely to be injured or killed by the police than whites, but even if the rate of injury or death is the same, as one study suggests, the fact remains that they are stopped, and thus subjected to that possibility, disproportionately more often.
Regardless of the reasons, regardless of the perceptions, regardless of anecdotal evidence, the fact is that the black experience in their relationship to the police, and to the criminal justice system, is very different than the white experience. This is the conversation we should be having. This is what the protests should be all about. But no, everyone’s bent about whether or not athletes should stand before a ball game. Standing, sitting, or taking a knee is not the problem. Nor is it the solution. It is nothing but a distraction, and focusing on it does no one any good.
If I had any advice to offer Kaepernick (like he would have any idea who I am), it’s this. There are other ways to start the dialog we both know needs to happen, so stop freaking out the white people, stand up, and find another way to make your point.
Third, I’ve heard a lot of people say that he has no right to complain, because he was raised by a wealthy white family, has lived a life of privilege, and is paid millions of dollars to play a game. I’ve heard him called a whiny, ungrateful, spoiled little brat. And worse…
This notion that, just because one has not personally experienced oppression, that one cannot protest on behalf of the oppression of others, I find this notion deeply disturbing. This idea that I cannot complain about the unjust treatment of others, simply because I have had the good fortune to live a life or relative ease, I find personally insulting.
You do realize right, he is not protesting on behalf of himself, he is protesting on behalf of the millions of nameless, faceless people who do not have weekly exposure on national television. If the people who enjoy celebrity will not speak out for those without a voice, who will? Those of us who are fortunate enough to have used our skills and talents to achieve a level of success, do we not have a responsibility to advocate for those who have been less fortunate?
Personally, I believe we do. That is why you will find me here often, complaining about things that do not affect me personally. I believe Colin Kaepernick does too. I just think he chose an unfortunate and ineffective way of going about it.
I hope he changes his approach soon, his current “protest” isn’t doing anyone any good.