Colin Kaepernick is Courageous
Colin Kaepernick is following the tradition of many black athletes in America by protesting. His form: Not standing up for the national anthem. The backlash has been relentless. Fans, politicians, coaches, players, and media have all shared their opinion. Kaepernick was already a divisive figure in the NFL, especially among the 49ers fanbase. After a lackluster year, coming off of a serious injury, and with a new coach who has had issues with players who were outspoken, Kaepernick’s job is in serious danger. And that’s what makes his decision even more noble and courageous.
Kaepernick has so much to lose, and chose to do this anyway. History has shown us since Muhammand Ali and Jackie Robinson, that black athletes taking a stand for justice has only harmed them. Their legacies are only honored by white America now that they lie in their graves. In a year where we honored the memory of the Greatest, unmistakably the most prominent athlete to take a stand for civil rights and against the Vietnam war, there is the same visceral reaction to Kaepernick not standing for the anthem in response to police brutality. It’s almost 50 years later, and not much has changed.
Those in the wide array of movements for social justice and equality have called on popular black figures to stand up and use their platform to promote issues that affect their peers. No prominent NFL player, not Russell Wilson, Cam Newton nor Odell Beckham has made any effort to bring attention to the cause of racial justice. There were calls for LeBron James and Steph Curry to sit out games, but those pleas fell on deaf ears. James wasn’t even aware of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old black boy murdered in Cleveland and Curry was never asked about Mario Woods, the black man murdered in San Francisco.
Kaepernick was eloquent, and succinct in his answers to the press. He made clear this was about oppression and unaccountable police officers who have murdered innocent men and women. He did not mince his words; he did not make generic calls for unity or healing. He shoved the gaping wounds of Black America into the face of White America and demanded they look. As Bomani Jones said, Kapernerick wants justice not peace. The act itself was banal and harmless, but the message was clear and abrasive. That is what bothers so many. Kaepernick did not just reject the flag, but reject that it represents what so many Americans think it does: justice and equality. Once you take away our whitewashed history class version of America, the atrocities our country has inflicted upon black people and other minorities throughout our history and to this day becomes impossible to ignore. For many white Americans, this is alarming and catastrophic. They don’t want to hear it, they want it to go away.
No matter what black Americans do, they will never protest the ‘right way’. Martin Luther King Jr. is always brought up as the ideal golden boy of black resistance by the elite of America. Of course they ignore that MLK faced the exact same questions that we still ask of those who protest today. It is never the right time or place for people who claim they care so much about the cause. Please realize these people aren’t interested in equality or justice, just their own comfort.
Protests are designed to make us uncomfortable, so to demand comfort in the face of a protest is to reject the protest itself. To some, complaining about the form of protest is really just a smoke screen. It’s no surprise that many Trump supporters and Trump himself oppose Kaepernick’s view and have told him to find another country, even though the entire focus of Trump’s campaign is that America sucks and must be made great again.
Predictably, many have used the troops and veterans as human shields to ignore Kapernick’s critiques of police officers and America’s unwillingness to take action. Of course these same people also don’t care about the rampant issue of veteran suicides in America, or the foolish and counterproductive wars we send our troops into. Black soldiers have also had a history of being discriminated against as well. They were excluded from the GI bill in the aftermath of World War 2, served in segregated units and some were even lynched upon coming home.
Through a combination of racism and foolish nationalism, Kaepernick has faced a hurricane of pressure. The San Francisco Police Association even wrote a letter to Jed York, the owner of the 49ers, demanding an apology from Kaepernick. This is the same police department that gunned down Mario Woods execution style by multiple cops and has been in multiple scandals related to several officers sending racist text messages. It doesn’t matter what Kaepernick does or says, or the level of evil and injustice he opposes. Because he is an unapologetic black man, he will face this opposition. Those that remain silent are cowards, and those that try to play both sides by saying “I agree with his message, but don’t like the method” are pathetic.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells the story of how people were contributing to the treasury and the rich gave more money than most, but a poor widow gave everything of the little that she had. Jesus told them “In truth I say unto you that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God, but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”
Among those in his class, Kaepernick has given almost all that he has. That is what makes him courageous.