Two thousand eight hundred people have been shot in Chicago this year, 487 have been shot and killed; 78 in August alone, making it the deadliest month in the city since October ‘97.
No one seems to care.
Six hundred and twenty-six people, both armed and unarmed, have been shot and killed by police in our country this year. With everyone having a recording device in their pocket now, we’ve seen a handful of these shootings and like never before understand the haunting contexts: People shot in the back running away, cops spraying bullets in every direction without a thought, and in some instances, children being gunned down for no apparent reason.
No one gives a damn.
We have a candidate for President who openly vilifies people of color, embraces a racist, misogynistic sect of our society, and has little or no care for the things he says and the damage he does around the world.
Last week a professional football player didn't stand up during a song.
Everyone lost their goddamn minds.
It’s a testament to the conservatism of the NFL and their base audience, the backlash Colin Kaepernick has received since remaining seated during the national anthem last week. So many of his newfound critics have taken to social media, burning his jersey in protest (if you can’t see the irony in that, I can’t help you). Others have labeled him “disrespectful” and “un-American”. Most missing the point of what he did, none of them listening to what he said after the fact, and all of them fundamentally misunderstanding what it is to be American, and what it is to be free.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color, “ Kaepernick said after the game. “To me this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Pundits and members of the media have since called Kaepernick selfish for what he did. Are you going to give back the money you’ve made working in THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD? HUH? They’ve not only missed the point, it’s clear now most of them weren’t even paying attention, just waiting for their chance to spout their branded nonsense.
“People don’t realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust. People aren’t being held accountable for. And that’s something that needs to change.”
For an NFL player, the stand Kaepernick is taking is refreshing and unprecedented. More often than not we hear players say this is the best country in the world, rarely do we hear them tell the truth. The honesty Kaep showed, the understanding of things larger than himself and his paycheck or endorsements is something we should applaud, not denigrate.
He’s not doing it because he himself feels persecuted or violated. He’s doing it for those who don’t have a voice. He’s doing it because he’s seen the same videos we’ve all seen these last few months and years, and he’s sick to his stomach just like you.
The video of Eric Garner being choked to death by police, screaming “I can’t breathe” eleven times to no avail. The video of Philando Castile dying after being shot in his car reaching for his wallet; his girlfriend live-streaming the aftermath to Facebook, his four year old daughter looking on in the backseat. The haunting death of Tamir Rice which looks more like an execution than anything else. The cops shooting and killing him less than two seconds after pulling up to his location; he was twelve years old. Or Freddie Gray who got into a police van en route to the station and arrived with a broken spinal cord. His killers were put on administrative leave (with pay), all six have since been exonerated of any wrongdoing.
The list of stories is never ending, the list of victims to this kind of violence continues to grow. And not because it just started happening all of a sudden, but because everyone has a recording device and the police can no longer lie, cheat, and commit crimes without someone seeing.
The bottom line is: protest is the purest form of practicing our freedom, it’s what created this country in the first place. No where in the country’s doctrine does it say you must stand and salute a piece of laundry, nor does it say you must respect and revere a song; it’s a personal choice, just like going to church or joining the armed forces.
The vitriol directed at Kaep only serves to highlight how many Americans conflate patriotism with nationalism, and how wildly different those two terms are. If you disagree with what he did, that’s fine, but temper your expectations for what your fellow countrymen think and believe. For, we’ve all grown up in America, but there are great number of different America’s that people experience, and some of them are simply not pretty.
Kaepernick may get cut, he will most certainly lose endorsements, but he hasn’t let down a sect of the population who needed to hear this. They don’t need to hear it from President Obama (his cries fall of deaf ears at this point), they don’t need to hear it from an NBA player (a league that has embraced it’s predominantly black culture), they needed to hear it from a African-American quarterback in a white-washed league.
Old America needs to come to terms with where this country is headed, and it’s not back to the black & white 1950’s. It’s headed towards a colorful array of thoughts, opinions, and ideas that not everyone is going to like; and that’s okay. Sitting down during a song is not a national scandal, but demonizing a fellow citizen for taking a stand for something they believe is quite simply un-American.