Sitting down to take a stand

What does Colin Kaepernick have in common with Samuel Adams?

No, not the beer. The guy it’s named after. The fella that got together with some of his buddies back in 1773, sneaked onto a British freighter and chucked a bunch of tea overboard.

Take a moment and think about it. What does that famous act and an NFL starting quarterback refusing to stand for the National Anthem have in common?

Got it yet?

That’s right. Both were acts of protest.

But while we celebrate Mr. Adams’ famous act of civil disobedience that turned Boston Harbor into the world biggest cup of Earl Grey, Mr. Kaepernick is being vilified in the press and on social media for failing to rise at the playing of the Star Spangled Banner.

Mr. Adams and his pals were protesting what they considered unfair taxation of colonial citizens by the Crown. And what they did was, by any estimation, criminal.

Mr. Kaepernick was protesting racial injustice and inequality. And what he did was sit quietly.

But, BOY! Has it ever created a helluva lotta noise!!

He has been called everything from “Unpatriotic” to names that, even in this permissive forum, cannot be repeated. Jerseys have been burned. Invectives hurled. Even threats made.

And to all of this I say, get a fucking GRIP!

This is America, remember??? This is a nation born of and molded by dissent and protest. Protest broke us away from the British Empire. Protest gained women the right to vote. Protest got workers fair pay, safer conditions and better hours. Protest was instrumental in ending the war in Vietnam. Protest got African-Americans the right to vote, to eat at the Woolworth lunch counter and sit at the front of the bus.

Protesting is what Americans do because they CAN. Staying in line, following orders, doing what you’re told when you’re told, following societal norms and never questioning authority…that’s more North Korean than North American.

Not to mention that the very nature of protest is to somehow buck the status quo to draw attention to your cause. Sam Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Upton Sinclair, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Abbie Hoffman…all were at one time ostracized, jailed and even murdered for protesting things that, in their time were considered acceptable. And that ultimately, history proved to be unjust or inequitable. The activism and sacrifice of these and so many more great Americans would result in making a greater America.

We just couldn’t see it at the time. Maybe just like now.

Of the 7.3 billion people on this planet, there are only 32 NFL starting quarterbacks. They live in rarified air and have the spotlight on them constantly. And I’m sure that when Colin Kaepernick decided to make his stand by not standing, he knew that it was going to be seen by millions. And that he was going to catch hell for it.

And he has.

Shortly after it happened, I was discussing the incident with a friend. She said that she thought he could have found a better way to get his message across. And in a way, she had a point. I don’t say that because I feel that he was being unpatriotic or disrespectful. But rather because too many people are caught up not in what inspired his protest, but in the protest itself.

As a retired advertising copywriter, I know that you can create a commercial that is so good, so entertaining or so funny that the message gets lost. Where the viewer can recall everything about the ad…except for what it was selling.

Kaepernicks message has gotten lost in his protest. And that’s a shame. Because racial inequality and injustice still exists. And this very event underscores that truth.

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, many Americans were outraged. When civil rights protesters tried to eat at a “white’s only” lunch counter, many Americans were outraged. Civil rights marches sparked more American outrage.

And what’s sad is that much of the outrage was directed at the protesters. Rosa Parks was arrested. The diners were pushed, punched and spat on. The civil rights marchers were clubbed, attacked by police dogs and blasted with fire hoses.

And these protests were peaceful. Others sadly devolved into rioting, burning, looting and violence. And of course, more outrage.

So black people protesting peacefully is wrong. And violent protest is wrong.

And Colin Kaepernick sitting quietly is wrong.

So, could someone please tell me, what is an acceptable way for African Americans to protest? A letter to the editor? Maybe a pithy bumper sticker?

No. Colin Kaepernick has something to say. We should listen. We should forego the righteous indignation and pearl clutching over what he did and discuss the reasons that he did it.

And even if you don’t agree with what he says, every American should stand up for his right to sit down.