On August 26, 2016 a celebrity and person of color expressed his sincere concern over the loss of Black and Brown lives to police brutality…and chaos immediately ensued.
Following a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers’ Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick was questioned about why he sat down during the Star-Spangled Banner, to which he remarked: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”, effectively announcing his decision to protest given the numerous minorities who have perished as a result of police brutality and excessive force.
Kaepernick went on to say: “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.”
The backlash was, of course, instantaneous. Kaepernick was immediately called a racist, a cop-hater, ungrateful, unpatriotic, blah, blah, blah. The reaction from equality-intolerant “fans”, faux patriots, and athletes was exactly what I expected, and yet I still feel as if I’m experiencing déjà vu because I swear I’ve been here before. In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw similar reactions from racists and faux patriots following Jesse Williams’ speech at the 2016 BET Awards. I also saw Beyoncé vilified for her performance of Formation at Super Bowl 50, and more recently after her performance at VMA 2016. Why are celebrities of color who take a stand against police brutality automatically deemed “racists” and “cop-haters?” Why must celebrities of color be subjected to an assassination of their character when they display support or concern for other people of color?
Over the past week, Kaepernick has been so vilified one would think he was Satan in a football jersey. I don’t recall Kaepernick going out onto the field wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “Fuck the Police” over his chest. I don’t recall Kaepernick going out on any football field and setting an American flag on fire. Kaepernick opted for a peaceful protest, the keyword being peaceful, so why have there been calls for his dismissal from the San Francisco 49ers? I don’t understand how an American who chose to exercise his right to peacefully protest can be considered unpatriotic. I don’t understand how an American who wants justice and equality for all Americans can be considered unpatriotic.
While recognizing August 29th’s well-deserved “Donkey of the Day”, Charlamagne Tha God made this marvelous statement: “What Colin Kaepernick is doing is exercising his right to protest. He’s exercising his right to freedom of speech, and those are constitutional rights that he has as an American citizen, and I applaud that man for doing this because he has nothing to gain and everything to lose. The easiest thing to do when you’re successful in life is forget about those who may be going through it, but Colin is smart enough to know his money, his status, mean nothing because as long as he’s a person of color in America he can still get profiled and brutalized like anybody else. Colin Kaepernick isn’t throwin’ the middle finger to patriotism, he’s throwin’ the middle finger to prejudice, and if you as an American who loves America would have a problem with a person demanding justice for a group of people, demanding equality for a group of people, demanding the constitutional rights that are promised to this group of people under the laws of America, if you have a problem with that then maybe you’re one of those patriotic prejudiced people who loves America, but not all the people in it.”
Full disclosure: I am not a football fan, nor will I ever be. I have one reason for watching football, and I assure you it is not sports-related. I watch football to shamelessly ogle the lust-inspiring male bodies that take the field, and nothing more. I know nothing about the mechanics of football, and even less about Colin Kaepernick. However, I do know that his choice to protest peacefully required a tremendous amount of courage, because in the words of Charlamagne Tha God, he has “nothing to gain and everything to lose.”
As always, subconsciously and overtly racist Americans are uncomfortable with their celebrity idols voicing their political views or social concerns; they just want to be entertained. To quote Lkeke35: “Black performers aren’t allowed to be socially conscious. There’s this idea that people with money, especially Black people should just be grateful for their privilege and keep their mouths shut.” Kaepernick did what few of today’s celebrities use their fame to do: call attention to a problem that is impacting the lives of people of color everywhere, on a daily basis. He used his platform to voice the fact that hate crimes and police brutality shouldn’t be tolerated in a country that is supposed to stand for “liberty and justice for all”, not for some. I don’t think this was a spur-of-the-moment decision for Kaepernick, and I’m certain the decision to act weighed heavily on him. After all, he has risked money, endorsements, and so-called fans to do what he felt was right. The fact that he’s being condemned for standing on the right side of history says a lot about the current state of America and Americans. The cowardly thing to do would’ve been to turn a blind eye to injustice, and continue to collect checks, like so many others have done thus far and will continue to.
As America regresses to the 1950s version of itself (along with the mindsets of many Americans), the dream of “liberty and justice for all” remains unattainable for many people of color. With hate crimes on the rise, recurring cases of police brutality, and even discrimination against natural hairstyles, 2016’s America has reached a place of social and racial unrest. According to The Guardian’s The Counted, over 542 people of color were killed by police in 2015. 318 people have been killed by police this year, and there are still 4 months left in 2016. As far as I’m concerned, silence during a time of social unrest is equal to condoning the oppressive conditions that are affecting others. Silence is cowardice. Sure, we’re all the same on the inside, for the most part. We all have red blood. The problem is in America the color of your blood is the never the issue, it’s the color of your skin.