When a professional athlete does something it is, of course, magnified in the media. Sometimes this is the very reason they do it, while other times it is something that is simply part of being a professional athlete in America. We, as a nation, have placed professional athletes equivalent with other leaders of the world in terms of their influence. Most athletes go their entire career without causing any sort of media frenzy but some are not so fortunate. The better the athlete the more air time they receive. Because of the understanding that what they do or say can be blown up and seen as negative, most athletes live a quiet existence in the media for good reason. Their livelihood is at stake.
If you somehow missed it, Colin Kaepernick recently decided to not stand during the playing of the national anthem at a 49ers pre-season football game. The fact that he didn’t stand was done from a place of conviction for him, but why would he do this? He stated, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” He isn’t the first athlete to make type of statement about the current state of our country. Plenty of others have come before him and made statements regarding this issue but his, in my opinion, is by far the most dramatic and bold.
When a person stands up in protest, she/he must do it with respect to the body they are trying to heal. Kaepernick didn’t do this. His level of what many see as disrespect causes them to be blind to his heart. Personally, I think Kaepernick’s heart is in the right place, but the mistake he made was doing it in such a bold fashion by not standing for the anthem. People now can focus on his not standing for the National Anthem and what many refer to as disrespect for American soldiers rather than the reason behind his protest. This is what Kaepernick is doing. He is protesting a system that refuses to be looked at and changed. Kaepernick is not talking about military issues, nor is he saying he even dislikes the military what he is trying to get across is the fact that America needs to take a look at what people of color are enduring and listen to their stories.
Whether you agree with Kaepernick or not, there is a larger issue at hand – racism.
Let me emphasize something – we do not live in a post racial America. Racism, classism, sexism still exist in our young country. If you are one of the people responding to Kap by saying that he isn’t right for doing what he did – fine, but at least be willing to address the reason behind his action. Be willing to look deep within our system, our country and see if there is something happening. Listen to the stories from men and women of color before you so readily dismiss their cries as foolish or false.
It is very convenient and easy to focus on his “disrespect of American military” than confront the issue of racism in America. We would rather deny it and focus on Kaepernick not standing for a song that is a symbol of a country at a damn football game, rather than what is actually happening daily.
And if you are one of the ones who responds to that statement with, “His disrespect of our servicemen and women is worse that the racism we have in America.” I would assume you have the luxury to avoid racism because of your skin tone. Almost all of the responses I’ve seen on my FaceBook feed, minus ONE, have been from white people. Literally all but one. The one that wasn’t, was posted by a white person of a young black man.
I don’t think it’s outlandish to assume that many people of color support Kaepernicks protest but are fearful of voicing their support because of the backlash that would come. Look at social media and the response to how he is being talked about. Not one post on my feed has been in any way thoughtful or considered his position. All have been completely demeaning of his protest. Many have even made statements referring to his large salary and him not understanding what oppression looks like because he now has money. I’m sure a young man with a black father and white mother, who was given up for adoption to a white family never saw any sort of oppression… are you kidding me? How dare people speak of Colin’s life as though they know his history and what he did or didn’t go through growing up.
I responded to a comment on a family members post and the persons response was to talk about how oppression of people of color wasn’t a big issue in the states compared to oppression elsewhere. Just because there is a “greater oppression” that exist in some distant land, does not mean we shouldn’t fight the oppression at home.
Saying racism is not bad or doesn’t exist is a luxury white people have but it doesn’t make racism nonexistent. Racism is still alive and well. If not through peoples words and perceptions of people of color, then through their support of racist politicians and the systemic racism people of color battle on the daily.
Perhaps you do disagree with the way in which Kaepernick protested. I’m fine with that, but be pissed, and be willing to look at the system he is referencing. Look at why he did what he did. When someone does something that we don’t agree with, if we just look at what they did, we will never understand why they did it. We must look beyond the surface and see what lies below but too often we are busy being selfish talking about how it makes us feel and why the person protesting is “wrong” because it doesn’t line up with our ideas.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is look within our own system and see where we are failing so that we can improve, so that we can free those facing oppression within our own nation.
Can we put our ego aside and look within?
Are we mature enough and loving enough to try and understand where Kaepernick is coming from?
If there isn’t at least a willingness to try and understand Kaepernicks protest, growth will not occur. We grow when we are uncomfortable. We grow from confronting things that need to change within ourselves. Whether you agree with anything Kaepernick says or stands (or doesn’t stand) for, doesn’t matter in terms of growth. What matters is your willingness to truly listen, to be empathetic, to hear and meditate on what his message is saying.
All Kaepernick is doing is saying what men and women of color have been saying, he simply has a stage to say it. His microphone was not standing for the anthem and everyone heard his words. The problem is that some have dismissed his words because it’s easier to deflect than it is to introspect.
I identify as a follower of Christ, as a man who attempts to live life as He did. Because of the ancient scriptures and the spirit of Christ my life is one that should be spent walking in solidarity with the oppressed, not denying their cries. We as a people, from all faith and non-faith backgrounds, must look within and see what needs to change.
If there are things in our life that do not share and express Love – we need to examine.
If our hearts do not break for the oppressed but instead rise in anger at their words – we need to examine.
If our spirits will not allow us to see past our cultural perceptions -we need to examine.
We must remember that the body we desire to heal needs to be loved as well. I don’t think he meant disrespect and I pray those who view it as such can be the people who look past it to see his heart and listen to the cries of the oppressed. Whether his method was right or wrong, Colin Kaepernick is causing us to look within and by the reactions I’ve seen, we don’t want to look within because what is underneath our floorboards scares the shit out of us.
May we look within today so we can be better tomorrow.