Freedom Rider: Kaepernick and True Protest
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“What should have been a righteous protest in support of Kaepernick and, by extension, all black people was turned upside down and sapped of any significance.”
National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick is getting the same treatment all black people do when they dare to speak truthfully about their condition in this country. During last year’s season he “took a knee” instead of standing for the national anthem and he did so to protest police murders of black people.
Kaepernick hasn’t wavered in speaking out against the state that takes at least one black life every day and he has paid a high price for his courage. Kaepernick is now a free agent but not one team has expressed an interest in signing him to a contract.
Kaepernick’s actions are in stark contrast to those of other sports figures who chose silence and expedience over speaking out on behalf of their people. When basketball star Lebron James was asked about the police murder of 11-year old Tamir Rice he replied, “I haven't really been on top of this issue, so it's hard for me to comment.” James surely knew one thing. Racist white people support killing his people, including children, and aren’t shy about saying so. Even a mealy mouthed statement would have brought criticism and he knew it. That is why Kaepernick’s stance deserves our support.
“Any strength in the message was diluted and black people’s legitimate reasons to protest were discredited.”
Calls for boycotts have grown among the ordinarily football obsessed. But as always, protest is not created equal. It turns out that some Kaepernick supporters are less credible than others. A group of ministers recently released a now viral video called NFL Blackout and proclaimed their intention to withdraw time and money from this year’s football season.
It all seems impressive until a disclaimer is announced by a man identified as Dr. Leslie Pollard of Oakwood University. “This protest in not anti-flag because people of color love the stars and stripes. It is not anti-American because people of color love this country even when this country has not loved us back. And this protest is not anti-veteran because we support those who made sacrifices so that our liberties have been secured.”
What should have been a righteous protest in support of Kaepernick and, by extension, all black people was turned upside down and sapped of any significance. Any strength in the message was diluted and black people’s legitimate reasons to protest were discredited.
“Who can express love for a country that legitimizes state murder and a plethora of other oppressions?”
It is untrue to say that black people “love this country.” Except for the eight-year long derangement created by the Obama presidency black people were the least likely to hold patriotic attitudes toward this society. That reasoning was sound and logical. Who can express love for a country that legitimizes state murder and a plethora of other oppressions? Flag waving is quite rightly kept to a minimum by the people who are treated the most cruelly by this system. And regardless of their reasons for enlisting, the last veterans who fought for anyone’s freedoms did so between 1861 and 1865.
Boycotting the NFL should be about more than getting Colin Kaepernick a good gig. This is an opportunity to rekindle mass black protest without mincing any words. It is also an opportunity to say that we don’t love this country and we don’t care about its flag. Black people have no reason to be apologetic about their political beliefs and every reason to be clear in condemning this country.
“We should all take a knee and not just for Kaepernick’s sake.”
This is what Kaepernick has done, unlike the so-called leaders who do and say so little. How many black elected officials have spoken out clearly and directly against the terror inflicted against their constituents at the hands of the police? Their numbers are shamefully small.
No one should shrink from saying as forthrightly as possible that they don’t like the stars and stripes. Every symbol of the United States is used to justify terrorism at home and abroad. We should all take a knee and not just for Kaepernick’s sake. His decisions should inspire courage on everyone’s part.
Kaepernick’s actions have turned him into a revolutionary figure and anyone who claims to be supportive of him should at least attempt to be one too. It is all well and good to foreswear watching one’s favorite team or finding another use for time on a Sunday afternoon. But being unafraid to tell the truth in the land of the big lie is a far more difficult task.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.