Kaepernick's Problem: He Hasn't Said Enough

No one has the moral, much less the political standing, to preach to Black people about any obligation to “honor our soldiers.”
08/30/2016 05:18 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2016

My position on Kaep is that he absolutely has a constitutional right to express his opinion on the politics of diversity in America today. Kaepernick is courageous, well-informed, and steadfast in his position. He is evolving through an “awakening,” and (perhaps) really understanding for the first time ― given his background ― the true depth and scope of the history behind anti-Black racial hatred and injustice in America. It appears to have come to him suddenly as a stark, jarring awareness through self-education and reality, rather than growing up over time and being socialized in the “racial truths” in the “land of the free.” From afar, his response seems more akin to that of a man being startled awake to his house on fire than the result of a deliberately crafted articulation of a political position.

With regard to those outside of the sports fraternity who are critical of Kaep, that’s their opinion (for whatever it’s worth) and they are entitled to it. As are former or current players who are publicly critical of his statements (e.g., Victor Cruz, New York Giants; Alex Boone, Minnesota Vikings). However, given that these athletes are taking advantage of their forums as NFL players, I would take their opinions on Kaepernick even more seriously if I could see their protest statements regarding other racial issues. For example, Eric Gardner being choked to death (only a few miles from where Cruz practices), or the killing of Philando Castile (just outside of St. Paul, Minnesota ― minutes from where Alex Boone lines up to play football). I would really like to see their expressed opinions on the outrage regarding the killings of Mike Brown, or 12-year-old Tamir Rice, or perhaps 7-year-old Aryana Jones, or Trayvon Martin, and the scores of others who have died at the hands of police since 2012 ― including the senseless death of Oscar Grant on a BART station platform in Oakland, California. I’d love to see their protest statements on the systematic economic underdevelopment of generations of Black communities by both government and private mainstream corporate interests ― underdevelopment that has so devastated the institutional viability of most of these communities where crime and violence exist on a scale of pandemic public heath issues. I eagerly await their records of protest over systematic, anti-Black job and educational discrimination, or over the institution of unconscionable rates of Black male prison incarceration.

At times, race-based hatred was so virulent, so rapacious, that some were lynched or killed in the very uniforms they had worn fighting for our freedoms abroad.
 

As to those who have the arrogance and audacity to bring up the old “honoring the flag is honoring our soldiers” trope, black soldiers have fought and died in every war that this nation has ever waged. Even those who returned home were typically confronted with the same old institutionalized and abysmal levels of racism and discrimination. At times, race-based hatred was so virulent, so rapacious, that some were lynched or killed in the very uniforms they had worn fighting for our freedoms abroad. Even today the numbers of military veterans who are jobless, homeless, and in need of critical social and medical services ― a disproportionate amount of them African American ― constitute a morally and politically unconscionable outrage.

Talk is cheap, especially when it is expediently wrapped in patriotism and the American flag.

 

These are the opinions I would be very interested to hear from the detractors of Kaepernick’s statements who also play in the NFL. I would be very interested in their records of protest about these circumstances since they are so dedicated to “honoring our soldiers” that they would caustically criticize him for sitting during the national anthem. If they have no such record of equally vehement protest that is no less critical than what they have waged against Kaep, well, perhaps it’s time for them to sit down as well.  

Talk is cheap, especially when it is expediently wrapped in patriotism and the American flag. In any case, no one has the moral, much less the political standing to preach to Black people about any obligation to “honor our soldiers.” Especially if it’s by way of adhering to some mode of “patriotic” behavior (typically conservative mainstream-defined) that is deemed mandatory during the national anthem at a sporting event. In fact, the tradition started between WWI and WWII as a way of sports organizations to demonstrate their “patriotism” in the face of widespread criticism at the time. (Strong, healthy young men at home playing games while other men were laying their lives on the line at war.)

Still, having said all of this, it is nonetheless necessary that there should be due focus upon other, more patently subjective considerations: while Kaepernick is right, the argument can indeed be levied that what is right is not always appropriate, that what is appropriate is not always best, and that what is best is not always timely and wise. These subjective concerns must also inform this discourse and frame the questions germane here. Consequently, the discussion cannot be limited only to the substance and immediate visuals of what Kaepernick is saying/doing ― as if his words and actions are occurring in a vacuum, in isolation. The interrogation of Kaep’s words and actions must take into consideration the context and background developments cited, compounded by the challenges of this historical era (with one candidate openly mocking Gold Star parents and declaring that a U.S. senator and former prisoner of war is not a hero, because heroes “don’t get captured.” In addition, both candidates/parties have openly accused each other of racism and catering to “racist interests groups and movements” ― meaning that once whoever wins, Black people at a minimum have reason for continued heightened vigilance).

While we are voicing our opinions on police killings, we must be no less vocal on the madness of killing police.

We must all consider as well that while Black parents are having “The Conversation” with their sons and daughters about what to do when stopped by a cop, the sons and daughters of cops are having “The Conversation” with their parents every day they walk out of the house wearing that badge: “Be careful, we want you to be safe out there and come home tonight.” While we are voicing our opinions on police killings, we must be no less vocal on the madness of killing police.

Under the circumstances, again, I support Kaepernick in stating his opinions, the method and vehicle that he has chosen to employ toward those ends, and his willingness to face the consequences for doing so. I do now ― and have all my life, more than anything else ― abhorred silence in the face of injustice. In this regard, I reiterate: Silence is evil’s greatest and most consistently dependable ally. So I have no problem with Kaepernick also breaking his silence, and like others in generations past, standing up by sitting in and essentially declaring, “Silence in the face of injustice? Not so long as I have this platform and anything to say about it!”

His problem is that he hasn’t said enough.

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