Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The problem with Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick has recently begun protesting by refusing to stand during the pre-game performance of the national anthem. Because he's protesting racism and police brutality, conservatives would like him to know that American soldiers are dying and killing mooslims in foreign countries every day to protect his freedom to protest, and therefore he should shut the fuck up. Statistically speaking, 99% of them have done just as much as Kaepernick and should take their own advice. Well, actually I'm sure they put some lovely bumper stickers on their cars, so, you know, way to one up him, Tinkerbells.

The thing that strikes me is that he simultaneously picked such an intentionally inflammatory symbol which basically indicts the whole system - he dishonors the flag which represents the entire country, all of its flaws, but also all of its virtues, which are significant -  to use for his protest while not actually doing much else about it. There's been a great deal made of how wealthy he is and whether or not that should somehow preclude him from protesting (it shouldn't). On the other hand, if he finds reality in this country so terrible, it's incumbent upon him to do a little more to bring about systemic change than warming the bench for an extra couple minutes. In short, its fucking lazy. This, coming from a guy who said of his own protest,"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."

People have compared his protest to Muhammad  Ali, in both a positive and negative light (as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr). Muhammad Ali went to jail for his beliefs at the height of his career. Kaepernick is getting a second chance at maybe being a starter on a team in the dumpster with a new coach into whose system he may or may not fit well. All he seems to be sacrificing is the potential for endorsement deals and to pile more cash on top of however much he's already stashed away. When other athletes wanted to raise awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement or police violence against the black community, they entered with their arms raised to evoke the chant "Hands up, don't shoot!" or wore t-shirts with names or slogans printed on them. Their gesture was commensurate with how important the issue was to them and how much they were willing to risk of themselves.

But Kaepernick actually said he held off any sort of protest so he could do research and become fully informed. So he emerges from his moral slumber and...decides that he'd like to change the moral fabric of the country by sitting down when he shouldn't, for a couple minutes, for maybe a couple dozen times a year. This is even less impressive than the South Carolina protester who took down the Confederate flag after it was pretty much already decided it was going to come down anyway, and then claimed she feared for her life for extra drama points (for which she was compared to, I shit you not, Rosa Parks). At least she had to put in physical effort. He seems to basically want the easy rush of righteously condemning all of America without any of the sacrifice of trying to fix it (I wonder if he #FeelsTheBern). I'm sure, however, that much like his career, his activism will stall after this early impact it's had before regressing below the mean and he returns to being a moody, sub-par asshole with shitty headphones.

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