In the last 24 hours, Colin Kaepernick has become the whipping boy for a good portion of America. What what his crime? Not standing for the National Anthem.
When the anthem was played at this weekend’s San Francisco 49ers preseason game, Kaepernick found a spot among the Gatorade coolers and sat quietly. Judging by the reaction of the sports world, and society in general, you’d have thought he dug up Vince Lombardi’s body and peed on it at the 50 yard line. After the game, he was asked why he didn’t stand. He said:
“”I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media’s Steve Wyche, confirming Pro Football Talk’s original report. “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.” – ESPN“
The thing that’s being missed, I believe, is that there is nothing incorrect in what he said. In fact, as Ian O’Connor said in the same article “African-American athletes are often asked (unfairly, perhaps) to speak out on social issues and, well, Kaepernick just did. If you don’t like what the man did or said, that’s your prerogative.”
It’s true. We often demand that people of color comment on social issues. And when their comments make us uncomfortable, we turn them into pariahs. America is funny that way.
America just celebrated the life of Muhammad Ali. In 1967 he was asked about the Vietnam War. When he spoke out against it, he was stripped of his title and his license to box.
Dr. King spoke out against injustice and knew he was risking everything, including his life. He was vilified as anti-American, smeared as a communist, arrested, beaten, and eventually killed for his beliefs.
I’m not saying Kaepernick is on the level of an Ali or Dr. King. Not by a long shot. He is, however, walking in the footsteps of the giants who came before him. Colin knew what the risks were, and he still had the courage to speak his mind.
Dr. King believed that the biggest roadblock to justice was not the openly racist segregationist, but the white moderate who agreed with him. The white moderate who “is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
As Jim Hightower once said, there’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.
Don’t be a dead armadillo.
Speak up…the world needs more trouble making Hot Messes.