As the news cycle on Colin Kaepernick’s “revolutionary” stance on oppression in our country comes to end, I am left wondering what the discourse would have been like if the people making the stand had a bit more commercial credibility than “Kap”.
What we do know about him is that he is biracial, an outstanding athlete, led his team to the Super Bowl, but has been hampered by injuries and poor play the last couple of seasons. He has been maligned for his play over the last two seasons and up until he chose to make his stance, was best known for tattooed canvas. He is not Lebron James. He in not Dwayne Wade. He is not Russell Wilson nor Richard Sherman.
I must make the statement very early here that I support Mr. Kaepernick in his exercise of his first amendment right. I also note there is has been a long history of men of color standing up against oppression who have met familiar consequences for their actions (e.g., Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Charles Deslondes, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, Medgar Evers).
However, in today’s society, assassination does not come in form of physical lethality for revolutionaries of color but at the hands of social castration and vilification. We have seen this with the counter narrative surrounding the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has been a called a hate group, a terrorist organization, and anti-police, even in the face of enormous evidence that show the contrary. It is this counter narrative that scorches the untrained mind and leaves it without reason to find the substance in the truth.
As the news of Mr. Kaepernick’s failure to stand for the national anthem seeped into the mainstream of traditional and social media, those on the “periphery” began to make statements of disdain about his actions, labeling him uneducated, stupid, an idiot, and the most nefarious adjective in the American discourse, unpatriotic.
Lest we forget, our country, that we stand up so mightily for during the singing or playing of national anthem, is representation of those who chose to leave their home country because of their loss of freedom. They were oppressed. Lest we forget, the reactions of households around the country, who stood in solidarity, as millionaires around the NFL banded together in their fight for “less oppressive” work places, and decided to strike, placing the livelihood of all those who facilitate their success on hold. Was Drew Brees called unpatriotic? Was Peyton Manning called an idiot? Was Tom Brady called stupid?
Yet, the greater argument here is this—what if the aforementioned had decided to sit down for the same reasons that Mr. Kaepernick did? What if Tom Brady, spokesman for so many powerful companies around the world, such as UGG, Under Armor, and Movado, decided that atrocities we are witnessing (e.g., Tamir Rice, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile) merited him to forego standing for an anthem that purports, “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, but falls far short some. Would we call him unpatriotic or would we take greater notice?
What if Peyton Manning, in retirement, as he endorsed the gorging of “Papa John’s Pizza during Sunday’s barrage of football, sat on his couch in a Black Lives Matters t-shirt, would the world vilify him or take stock of the fact that there are unfortunate outcomes for many Americans that go unchecked or overlooked? Parsimoniously, it should not take the actions of the privileged to warrant a shift in our mindset towards the oppressed. It should not even take the actions of a football star, even in the face of adversity, to spark a national conversation. It should simply take the images and sounds of men, women, and children suffering to incite all people to think critically about a revolution that ensures that all people have an opportunity to thrive.
As we have seen with many of the revolutionaries that have come before Mr. Kaepernick, the journey is long, arduous, and you must put on your best armor to weather the psychological storm that follows such a bold move. As leaders, you will be tested, your biases placed squarely in front of you, your privilege exposed, and your emotions unveiled. It is what you do in those moments, when you have to be courageous with yourself that will differentiate you from being an adequate leader or a revolutionary one.
Mr. Kaepernick, I applaud you for your stance, but I also employ you not to succumb to the weight of the magnitude and gravity of the movement that you have started. I also employ those who don’t look Mr. Kaepernick to think about who they are going “stand up for” by sitting down.
Photo: Getty Images