I wrote a draft originally of an essay here at this blog on Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” before football games. The full piece has now been published over at Medium.com in The Coffeelicious, one of the premiere original Medium e-zines out there. You can read the whole piece here.
It starts out as follows: “San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is following his conscience by not standing for the national anthem before football games. I get exactly what’s going on here and I am glad that our national “conversation” on race is being pushed harder than people want by someone with at least a bit of influence.”
I have been disturbed ever since the violence we saw in Ferguson, Missouri about how people who want to see more social and environmental justice in this country are coping with their frustration. Overt anger, violence, hatred, and aggressive intolerance — no matter how seemingly justified — have been proven time and time again to be ineffective if you want true change.
It’s also clear to me that marching in the streets and making a spectacle of yourself in Washington, D.C. is only marginally effective at best. So how does one raise the stakes of communication and force people to pay attention to something in a way that sticks in their craw — or “rocks the boat” as I say in my essay. Ask Colin Kaepernick. The is civil disobedience, of course — non-violent civil disobedience to be exact.
You laugh. What’s one measly, adopted, mixed race twenty-eight year old really going to accomplish? Even if he is an overpaid quarterback (now second string) in the NFL. And yet, so far, it actually seems like he’s pushed harder than anyone who has used violence or foamed at the mouth with hatred and “us vs. them” rhetoric.
There’s no doubt Kaepernick’s face-off with America came out of left field and confused a lot of people. Initial responses by people, even within the Black Community, were all over the place. But that’s to be expected. Most of us are pretty freaking knee-jerk as a matter of course these days. We’re also incredibly confused and precious (liberals and conservatives). Fortunately, once you open your mouth and have an opinion, it forces you to think about whether you’re actually right or wrong about what you said (even Donald Trump is finding this out). So people are at least thinking now about what Colin is doing and they will continue to think (a few will continue to freak out) as the 2016 football season goes forward.
I do want to put in a word from all us mixed race adopted types in deep personal support of Colin Kaepernick. Mixed race people in general have a very unique and important perspective on race issues in this country. No one is really allowed to talk about that, but it’s true. And those of us who are mixed race and adopted, especially if we’re adopted into one of the specific tribes of color but have a hard time fully identifying singularly with that tribe, have an even more unique perspective on race. We can’t help feeling like we stand apart from most of the rest of you. We try hard to be friends with everyone. In some ways we are defined by the need to be loved because at our cores we feel how singular and separate we are from everyone — which, of course, in reality is how everyone feels because that’s the existential reality of life in the universe.
Talking about being mixed race and adopted is very personal, I know. Sorry. It’s just that it’s really hard to watch systemic racism and discrimination happen over and over and over again, when we know that most good people in this country don’t want The System to hurt others in their names. We know, too, that the police aren’t killing kids because cops are evil. We understand that they’re scared and that they’re just doing the best they can given the insane situations they find themselves in over and over. But we also know that violence begets violence and that looking for a fight often creates a fight. We know as well that thinking racially is a default for people in tense situations — doesn’t matter your heritage.
In my Coffeelicious piece, I predict that others will be joining Colin Kaepernick on the bench real soon if we don’t start moving on the issues he is so upset about. I think this all started really getting nutso when our nation began disinvesting in schools and the police in about 2010 as federal stimulus money ran out after the Great Recession. Of course, we haven’t been paying cops well for eons and teachers have been getting the short end of the stick since at least 1980 when Ronald Reagan and William Bennett started to directly attack the public education system.
So many people feel that Kaepernick’s protest is disrespectful of the flag, and by extension of the men and women of the armed forces — and the nation as a whole. Donald Trump’s response was classic: “I think it’s personally not a good thing, I think it’s a terrible thing. And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try, it won’t happen.” The thing is, Kaepernick isn’t protesting the flag (besides, Old Glory is one tough enchilada), or the military, or even the nation as a whole. I assure you, he loves this country. What he is protesting is our hypocrisy as a nation and our lethargy and unwillingness to acknowledge that we can indeed solve problems of racism if we want to. We need better trained, smarter, and more competent community policing, especially in our urban hot spots (that means a lot more money, I know). Cops and citizens need to spend more time talking and problem solving and less time being enemies. That, again, is an example of default, tense thinking. It’s sloppy, dumb, and pointless. And it’s why innocent (and not so innocent) people keep getting killed.
We also need to double our funding to inner city and other low income school districts. That may mean more taxes — especially of the wealthy. But it also means each of us stepping up and voting for local, state, and national representatives who are actually committed to making better communities and more functional local economies.
I’d go on, but I’m sure you’ve had enough. Go read my article at The Coffeelicious and give it some love. Maybe comment there. You can comment here too. You can comment even if you think I’m full of shit or don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s fine. Get it out. The more you commit to your opinion the more you will question yourself. And the closer to truth we’ll all find ourselves –perverse as that may seem.
See the full press conference Colin did in the last weekend of August below. His patience and straight-up responses are pretty impressive … and should be studied by all young rebels.
Also published on Medium.