I know, it’s been very quiet here at the End Racism Blog. Change The World Films has kept me insanely busy over at www.walkamileproject.com, taking up much more than a fair share of my time, but I’m now putting in some hours at nights and on weekends to get back into the racism fighting fray.
I love the NBA and the NFL, so when intense reactions started pouring in over Colin Kapernick’s National Anthem protests, I just had to jump back into things, regardless of time constraints. Why? Because not only am I passionate about fighting racism, and love the NFL, but I also serve on the Circle of Heroes Advisory Board at Helping Hands For Freedom, a military nonprofit that I volunteer and work for at times as well. Since this situation intersects all three, count me in. Hiatus: OVER.
Today I’m talking about the Colin Kapernick and other NFL players deciding to sit, kneel or raise a fist as a sign of protest during the National Anthem before NFL games. It’s amazing that a simple inaction, not standing up, can have such a huge impact, but as you quickly see in the wide range and tuation than one football player staging his own small protest.
As always, it’s time to cut through all the noise and get to heart of the matter here – to confront the elephant in the room that so often exists when racism issues arise in America. If we actually talked about the RIGHT things when these situations arise, we’d make a lot more headway, so let’s start right now.
Sadly, the biggest story isn’t Kapernick’s protest, it’s the insane reaction his peaceful protest has received, especially from people I know well and respect, and from people I admire who I’d never expect to react in such a way (see, to a lesser extent, Drew Brees). I never would’ve guessed that such a little thing could shine such a glaring spotlight on racism in America, but it really does. Here’s why.
If you’re offended by Kap’s action… if you feel it’s an insult to your country, the military, etc., and that you absolutely must speak up about his protest and take a stand, then ask yourself this all-important question:
What did you do when this happened?
(See Eric Garner End Racism for more)
What did you do when this happened?
See more on that incident here.
And finally, what did you do when this happened (fast forward to 5:15)?
If you found yourself reacting with more disdain to Kapernick taking a knee than seeing Eric Garner killed, or watching two people shot over and over again and murdered, then I strongly encourage you to take a look in the mirror and see who truly stares back at you.
We can’t survive as a human race if we allow these sorts of injustices to occur without taking action, and for that to happen, we all need to join together in protests, to speak up, and to not stop until something is done about it. In other words, we need people to react with the same outrage to police murdering black men as we’re seeing right now with Kapernick’s National Anthem protest.
To put it more bluntly, if you find yourself reacting more emotionally to a song being sung before a football game than to an abuse of power by police, then I’d suggest two things –
1 – You might be a racist.
If seeing a black athlete kneel in peace offends you more than seeing a black citizen murdered, then yes, you may very well be a racist. If you can dismiss a murder, but you can’t dismiss a quiet song protest, that should disturb you, and it’s a red flag that you might be a racist. You might not outwardly feel that way, and on many levels you may not act as a racist, but there is likely a part of you you’re simply not being honest about.
What’s the problem with that? We don’t evolve as the human race until we stop looking at skin color. Period. And if you still do, then understand, you’re literally holding back the future of humanity – it is NOT something to take lightly. We can’t move past this as a society until we have equal actions for equal offenses, and these national anthem protests need to evolve into more than protests (which I’ll talk more about in my next post).
They must lead to the pursuit of a better framework, both for bad cops to be punished accordingly, and for good cops to excel safely in their jobs – with racist behavior 100% intolerable in those dedicated to public service.If you’re emotions put you on the defensive during a national anthem protest, but not during a murder, then you’re very likely acting racist and contributing to the problem.
2 – You’re fighting for your security blanket, not your security.
The national anthem is a “feelgood” song that gives us a sense of pride in our country (although might not be as feelgood as you think, considering the ties between the Star Spangled Banner and slavery). It’s a security blanket that we all cling to, as a way to stand together when things in the world may get dark, or even when political lines divide us.
But what happens when that country makes you feel like all its people aren’t standing together anymore… and aren’t standing with you? What happens when you don’t care as much about that security blanket, because you’re starting to feel less and less secure as a citizen? Finally, what happens when you clearly start to see skin color serve as a significant factor in injustices in that country.. when you start to feel that your physical appearance may automatically put you at extra risk as a citizen?
That’s the reality for many minorities in America still today, and if you feel more strongly about a song than you do about people feeling fearful of the public servants we all pay to serve and protect us, then yes, something is seriously off kilter. If you find yourself clinging to your ideal picture of America, and to the singing of the national anthem as a symbol of that… instead of facing up to the real world right outside your window, then it’s time to step back and get some perspective… to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, as we’re so fond of saying over at The Walk a Mile Project.
Take a moment and listen to the WHY behind the protests, instead of over-reacting to the protests themselves. They are not an effrontery to our flag, our military, our veterans… they are simply a call for equality that we should all listen to intently.
If you don’t believe there is a problem here, then consider this –
In the videos I showed above, it took over a year for Chicago officer Van Dyke to be arrested, and NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the cop who choked Eric Garner, wasn’t even indicted after the incident (a federal grand jury case finally began in February 2016, over 1.5 years after Garner’s death). At least in the last one incident, the offending officer was arrested right away, but that’s only one of the three.
This is a real problem, it’s negatively affecting people, and if the people feeling those effects want to protest our national anthem until the problem is finally getting solved, you should respect that, if not support that – and most certainly not reel against it.
Now initially I didn’t 100% agree with Kap’s choice to use the anthem as a protest tool – and that was only because of Kap’s privileged status, as he’s not exactly suffering right now – but I did 100% defend his right to do it. Period.
That said, however, as the situation has evolved, and I’ve learned more and more about his motives (and how he did the protest all preseason, even without media coverage), I’m starting to think it might be a great idea, one that more and more people should support. I also realized that, in reacting the way I did initially, I wasn’t exactly at my best.
Why? Because I’ve always felt that wealthy people in sports and entertainment should speak up and act more to affect social change, so it was completely incongruent with my own beliefs to think negatively about Kapernick in any way.
On a lighter note, it is also possible that being a Dallas Cowboys fan since the age of 5 (“The Catch” ring a bell, anyone) may have tainted my initial response (hey, I’m human too)!
The big caveat for me, however, is that it can’t just be a kneel down during our anthem. More needs to be done, with a specific goal in mind, or the protest will just fade away. Donating money is nice, but actions focused on actually solving the problem are what we truly need.
I’ll talk about that in my next post, but for now, like the legendary Tony Robbins says, “Focus on the desired end result, and let that lead your actions.” That’s the road we need to walk together as Americans.
Last of all, I think that any non-black person who feels the need to rip on Kapernick for his “disrespect” of America, needs to learn a little respect his or her self. Unless you’ve walked a mile in a person of color’s shoes, you have no place throwing harsh criticism at a person who walks that mile every day, especially when they are responding to racism.
Yes, Colin is “privileged” as an athlete, but it’s a privilege he’s earned, and one that doesn’t take away from whatever flak he’s had to deal with as an African-American. I don’t care what percentage “black” he is, and by the way, I am shocked that a lighter skinned black man like Rodney Harrison would either, but I’ll leave that one alone other than to quote the words of Martin Luther King Jr., as shared by my black friend JT (in reference to Harrison’s reaction) – “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
The fact that Colin is trying to use his “privileged” state as a force for good, should make you respect the man more, not vice versa. I suggest we all kneel with him. And you can bet that I’ll be kneeling in solidarity during the National Anthem myself, until we move things forward, together, as a nation.