FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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.

Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
Cesar Chelala
President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”
Christopher Brauchli
An Education in Fraud
Paul Bentley
The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO
Louis Proyect
Breaking the Left’s Gay Taboo
Kani Xulam
A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment
Ralph Nader
Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General
Jessicah Pierre
A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality
Edward J. Martin
Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States
Chuck Collins
Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”
Paul Edwards
War Whores
Peter Crowley
Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable
Alycee Lane
Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers
Martha Rosenberg
New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice
Nicky Reid
Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality
Jill Richardson
Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices
Richard Klin
Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018
David Rovics
Of Triggers and Bullets
David Yearsley
Bass on Top: the Genius of Paul Chambers
Elliot Sperber
Eddie Spaghetti’s Alphabet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail