Last time, I talked a bit about my perspective living with a disability, and why I think people should care more about disabilities on the whole.
It was obviously a very personal post for me, and it has taken me some time to think about what to write about next; a little longer than usual, in fact.
I remember sharing that piece with a friend because I knew for sure he would appreciate it as well; he is also disabled.
He loved the piece, and commented that the feelings I expressed in my article were very similar to his, but he did not know how to articulate them.
In the same breath though, this person was – seemingly like the rest of America – scathingly critical of San Francisco Giants’ quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
If you haven’t been following the Kaepernick situation, and have no idea what/who I’m talking about, here’s a refresher.
Kaepernick didn’t stand up during the national anthem before a preseason football game, and everybody was upset about it. He decided to use that moment to protest continued racial bias and police brutality, and it doesn’t look like he is going to stop anytime soon.
What I typically hear folks say, in critique of Kaepernick’s decision, is that it is unpatriotic; how dare he disrespect the American flag.
And so, I want to mess with this idea a bit because I find it peculiar that Kaepernick has been so harshly criticized for the way he did what he did.
One thing I find unique about this situation is that it took place within the NFL, in which two thirds of the league is comprised of black players. In theory, people say that sports is where people can put their differences aside – differences like race and religion – and just focus on winning. You would think that being surrounded by so many players of color would make others in the league more aware and sympathetic towards issues that they face.
Maybe that is true, but it probably isn’t.
What Kaepernick did is something that few athletes decide to do. Heroism is often a lonely road to walk.
Michael Jordan has been notorious for being silent on black issues both during his legendary NBA career and since.
Derek Jeter was the same way as a baseball player.
It is interesting that folks are giving Kap’ such a hard time for doing what he did – and not in a good way. More often that I would like to recall, when persons take to the streets and protest, critics will say that there is a time and place, or that they should do it peacefully like Martin Luther King Jr. did.
And yet, Kaepernick was peaceful. On paper, he went about it the way that folks said protesters should. He didn’t hurt anyone, he didn’t chant, he didn’t hold up any signs.
He just kneeled down.
I guess it’s just something about it being done during the American National Anthem that is rubbing people the wrong way. I guess during the anthem, we like to pretend that issues like this no longer exist, and that everything is fine; how dare Kaepernick interrupt this shallow illusion, even if only for a moment.
It is events like this that reveal the truth. The truth is that it is easy to criticize things that you have never experienced a day in your life.
President Barack Obama made a point that I think is an important one to consider when looking at the Kaepernick situation, and others like it. After the G-20 Summit in China, Obama took to the podium and said the following about Kaepernick’s actions, and of activism in general:
“I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process than people who are just sitting on the sidelines not paying attention at all,”
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee the first time, he was alone, by himself, and was ready to take all the criticism and feel all of the hate. Last Friday, his teammate Eric Reid joined him.
Whether you agree with the way he protested or not, the issues he is taking a knee for are real. Instead of dismissing why Kaepernick protested the way he did, maybe it’s time to actually talk about these issues instead of living in some fantasy land, and pretending everything is fine.
What do you think? Was Kap’ wrong for doing what he did?