A photo of Colin Kaepernick tweeted out by Jennifer Lee Chan on August 26, 2016 launched a public debate. Kaepernick stated his action (sitting, which led to kneeling, during the anthem) was due to the oppression of people of color and ongoing issues with police brutality. However what was intended to draw attention to the demand for justice for people of color, quickly turned into a debate centered on patriotism, supporting the US Armed Forces, and First Amendment Rights; meanwhile the subject of his action was quickly and quietly ushered off of the main stage.
Let’s take a moment to acknowledge a few of the unarmed men and women of color killed by police courtesy of Daniell Funke and Tina Susman of the LA Times http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-police-deaths-20160707-snap-htmlstory.html:
- Alton Sterling, 37 Baton Rouge, LA – 2016
- Gregory Gunn, 58 Montgomery, AL – 2016
- Samuel DuBose, 43 Cincinnati, OH – 2015
- Brendon Glenn, 29 Los Angeles, CA – 2015
- Freddie Gray, 25 Baltimore, MD – 2015
- Natasha McKenna, 37 Fairfax County, VA – 2015
- Walter Scott, 50 Charleston, SC – 2015
- Christian Taylor, 19 Arlington, TX – 2015
- Michael Brown Jr., 18 Ferguson, MO – 2014
- Ezell Ford, 25, Los Angeles, CA – 2014
- Eric Garner, 43, Staten Island, NY – 2014
- Akai Gurley, 28, New York, NY – 2014
- Laquan McDonald, 17, Chicago, Il – 2014
- Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, OH – 2014
A few of the names you may be familiar with, all of the names many are not. But most are familiar with Colin Kaepernick and by his actions he spoke for all of them.
In 2017 Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers. As of yet he has not been signed by another NFL team while at the same time police violence against black men and women has continued. Once again the conversation is not about the victims but has now shifted to the reasons for Colin Kaepernick not being signed by an NFL team, First Amendment Rights and NFL boycotts.
This reminds me of a scene from The Dark Knight – “You spat in the faces of Gotham’s worse criminals. Didn’t you think there would be some casualties? Things were always going to get worse before they got better.” – Alfred Pennyworth to Bruce Wayne (Batman).
Football is the most popular sport in America. Racism and oppression of people of color has been a part of the American way since the founding of this country. Colin Kaepernick unintentionally (or intentionally) drew a battle line against racism and oppression in front of millions of NFL fans. The battle for the soul of our country was laid bare for all to see. But instead of the issue being confronted and finally resolved, the NFL owners have decided to fight to restore the status quo by the supposedly “quieting” of one voice.
Colin Kaepernick took a knee, not for you nor me, he took a knee for those voiceless known and unknown black men and women who were the victims of police violence and it is now up to us to not only be their voices in protest, but to also to work to change the system and end the bloodshed so that those lives lost will not be lives lost in vain.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jesuorobo A. Enobakhare, Jr.