Not since the 1960s has the specter of the assassination of public figures featured so prominently in the national discourse. Donald Trump’s insinuation during an August 9, 2016 rally forebode this possibility when he told his audience that “If [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although perhaps the Second Amendment people – maybe there is, I don’t know.”
His veiled threat recalls the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, who had secured the Democratic nomination for President of the United States and was killed on June 6, 1968. In this instance, as in the case of the assignation of his brother, President John F. Kennedy five years earlier on November 22, 1963, the reasons for their assassinations remain a mystery, but are assumed to have been politically motivated.
The 1960s was a time when the nation was embroiled in massive civil unrest as Americans stood in unison to decry the injustices perpetrated against African-Americans, women, and workers. Thus, it is a disheartening that in the intervening decades, and with all of the advancements made in achieving civil rights for many different groups, that we are witnessing such vitriol. But, given the hateful climate of this presidential election season, it should come as no surprise that assassination threats are once again being used to try and silence those who are taking a public stand against injustice.
49ers football player, Colin Kaepernick, has chosen to stand firm in his stance to protest the increased incidents of the killing of unarmed black men and because of this he is receiving death threats. His peaceful protest should remind us of civil rights titans like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought tireless for the equal rights of African-Americans. King also stood firm in his mission despite numerous death threats which ultimately culminated in his assassination on April 4, 1968. King knew that his sacrifice, if required, would help galvanize the civil rights movement, and it eventually resulted in the enactment of Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To Kaepernick’s credit he has declared that he will not be cowed by anonymous cowards.
“To me, if something like that were going to happen, you’ve proved my point,” Kaepernick told reporters, describing the aftermath of his decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. “To me, if something like that were to happen, you’ve proved my point and it will be loud and clear for everyone why it happened, and that would move this movement forward at a greater speed than what it is even now.
“Granted, it’s not how I want it to happen, but that’s the realization of what could happen. I knew there were other things that came along with this when I first stood up and spoke about it. It’s not something I haven’t thought about.” (Source: Washington Post)
Kaepernick’s is not the first athlete to take such a bold stand. African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos participated in a political demonstration during the medal ceremony of the 1968 Summer Olympics by raising their fists in the Black Power salute during the American national anthem to protest in part, human rights violations in the U.S. as well as the wanton killing of black men. Kaepernick’s public profile has enabled him to similarly elevate to national and international awareness the rampant extra-judicial killing of black men by police, equivalent only to the numbers killed prior to the civil rights movement.
The police shooting of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the latest act of inhumanity perpetrated against a person simply because of color and gender. His death, captured in a graphic and disturbing video released by the police has been viewed uncounted times and sparked national outrage. It is incumbent upon us as a nation to support Kaepernick and others who are protesting against his murder and the other injustices besetting America today, otherwise, our silence implies consent.