On August 28, 2016, Colin Kaepernick caused national outrage when he sat down during the National Anthem at the opening of a preseason game for the San Francisco 49ers. A few days after the news of the protest broke, Kaepernick stated that he sat down because of racial injustice and police brutality.
You would think this would be enough for people to understand why he felt the need to use his platform to bring attention to those particular issues. But no, people completely ignored WHY he was sitting and fixated on the WHEN. But while everyone was concentrating on a man’s “disrespect” for the military, a racist song, and the flag of a divided nation, caught up in the way that they believe an American should act and what their view of America is, nobody stopped to consider all of the people that he was fighting for.
Kaepernick clearly explained his protest, 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. 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.”
However, his explanation was completely missed by some lug heads because they couldn’t or wouldn’t relate to or comprehend that the racism and brutality against Black and brown people in America were important enough to protest over. Especially not by a uber rich educated professional athlete who was raised by white people. There was no way he could understand the Black experience.
Because, you know, apparently, being adopted and in a higher tax bracket automatically opt you out of your Blackness.
The complete cluelessness of many Americans when it comes to racial injustice, racial disparity, and police brutality in the Black community is no surprise for Black people. Many immediately recognized the need to call attention to police brutality and racial injustice in America and began to show solidarity by participating in their own protests nationwide.
It is the black community’s understanding of this white cluelessness and callousness that caused no surprise to register in the Black community this week when former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of the December 2011 murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. Black people knew he would be found not guilty. We were just hoping to be shocked by a different outcome this time.
Black people are acutely aware of just how little we are valued in this country. We are constantly reminded of this fact. Yesterday, we were told that a white man could literally be caught on tape saying he was “going to kill this motherf****r”, actually kill the guy, try to cover it up, and still be found innocent.
This is how we know with no uncertainty that Black lives don’t matter in America. Despite what some white people see as progress, Black people in this country are still considered less than in the eyes of many. Our lives are so unimportant that even saying that they matter is met with vitriol and disdain. Rebutted with cries that all lives matter. The irony in that statement is laughable because if the people truly believed that ALL lives matter they would have a problem with people being specific and saying that black ones do.
This is particularly disconcerting because we just want to live our lives as every other citizen of this country does. We work hard, raise our kids, and conduct ourselves in the manner in which “they” say we should, and still we are faced with bias, aggression, and outright racism.
As one Twitter user so eloquently stated:
We march, y'all mad. We sit down, y'all mad. We speak up, y'all mad. We die, y'all silent.
— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) September 2, 2016
But they want us to cover our hearts and pledge allegiance to a country that many of our fathers and grandfathers went to war to protect, only to be treated like second-class citizens or worse when they got home. They want us to stand up in reverence during a racist song. They want us to honor a flag that wasn’t created as a covering for us.
To all of that, I say: Hell no.
I’m tired. We’re tired. Black people are fed up with being treated like we don’t matter in this country. This is why we sit when you all stand. This is why we close our mouths when you all sing proudly about something you probably don’t even understand. This is why we say “Black Lives Matter.” This is why stop traffic. This is why we call out racists when we see them. This is why we don’t recognize the white supremacist that is currently occupying the White House. This is why we will continue to speak up and speak out.
Silence is no longer an option.
Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble, and kind:
Beware the day
They change their minds! – Langston Hughes
Featured Image from Harris County Sheriff’s Office via The Riverfront Times.