FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Protest and Disrespect: America in Black and White

This country was built on protest, or so we are told. Americans fight for what is right, to correct injustices and to secure the freedoms and liberties we wish to enjoy. We teach our kids to admire Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the many others who organized nonviolent protests like sit-ins as a tool for challenging deep inequality. We talk about the importance of allies, or those who stand up with the oppressed, even if they themselves are not.

Yet when a well-paid professional athlete elects to use that same strategy we allegedly admire so much to call attention to the continued oppression of black people in this country, he is critiqued for his privilege and denounced for being unpatriotic. As has been widely reported, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been refusing to stand for the national anthem, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” What really seems to be at play here, then, is not that Kaepernick’s cause is unjust or his strategy unsound. Rather, it is that Americans want their athletes, especially those on the new plantations that are our football fields, to do as they’re told. Just stay in your place and all will be fine.

It’s also interesting to juxtapose the reaction to Kaepernick’s protest with the reactions to Donald Trump, who wants “make America great again,” which of course implies it is far from great right right now. It can’t be, as some have said, that Kaepernick’s salary with the NFL makes his complaint less legitimate, since Trump makes a crap-ton more than Kaepernick will ever dream to. Trump slings all kinds of criticism and hate in a far from peaceful fashion, yet is not told to “find a country that works better for him,” as he recently recommended to Kaepernick.

The reactions of Trump, his political toadies, and a host of others (generally white) are the very real manifestations of white privilege. And they are further proof that we want to enjoy our brutally violent football without the bother of confronting anything more serious than when to grab the next beer and how many wings to eat. When other black athletes have shown solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement, supported justice for Trayvon Martin, or engaged in a host of other nonviolent protests in recent years, they too have faced such criticisms. In sum: Rich white men can complain. Black men should not, income regardless.

The New York Giants’ Justin Pugh, in the very city where Eric Garner and, before him, Sean Bill, both black and unarmed, were killed by police, used Kaepernick’s protest to pledge support for “different opinions” but most importantly for the military who risk their lives for the flag. What Pugh sees as an issue of opinion is unclear; it is undoubtedly true oppression of people of color remains a problem in the U.S. This is not Kaepernick’s opinion. It is fact.

Minnesota Viking Alex Boone called the protest shameful and denounced it for being disrespectful. Yet, as others have noted, Boone did not call out the “disrespect” of the Minnesota police who killed a black man, Philando Castile, during a traffic stop.

Former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh also referred to Kaepernick’s protest as disrespectful, later claiming it wasn’t the position but rather the action to which he disagreed. New Orleans Saint Drew Brees commented similarly, despite playing in a stadium close to where Alton Sterling was killed by police and in a state that is generally considered the most unequal for people of color. And his coach Sean Payton’s assertion that they have “more important things” they are working on within the stadium is not at all minimizing or disrespectful?

An NFL executive has claimed that he hasn’t seen this much dislike for a player since Rae Carruth, who is incarcerated for hiring someone to kill his pregnant girlfriend. Wow. Truth-telling is not the strong suit of the NFL, it seems, if a peaceful protestor is being compared to a convicted violent criminal.

Many others have supported Kaepernick, thankfully. White female soccer player Megan Rapinoe knelt during the playing of the national anthem before a game on September 3. She explained, “Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.”

Veterans are not all uniform in their response, of course, but the hashtag #VeteransForKaepernick makes it clear that some are not at all disrespected by his action, seeing it instead as precisely what they fight for. And, in an interesting turn of events, sales of Kaepernick’s jerseys have skyrocketed since he began the protest. Maybe there’s hope he can make Trump-like money after all, and therefore be his criticisms of the U.S will be more widely applauded.

More articles by:

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail