In mid-August, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick now infamously sat down during a preseason game's performance of the national anthem. He explained his action stating, "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."
Kaepernick's action elicited a boisterous reaction from many Americans, most of whom were white. They claimed he was unjust and indignant and he was disrespecting the ideals that soldiers have fought so hard to uphold. Since Kaepernick chose to kneel during that game, at least 16 black men have been killed as a result of police brutality. And the silence of his critics on this matter just makes his voice louder.
Technically speaking, Kaepernick's right to protest the anthem falls well within his contracts as a football player, as affirmed by both his team and by the NFL. Even if his right to do so wasn't sanctioned by them, it's protected by the first amendment: something that his critics love to throw around arbitrarily, but only when it's applicable to them, because, as we should know by now, American "freedoms" are only accessible if you're white.
Perhaps people are simply angry that someone is protesting the systemic racism that they love to uphold.
This is what this debacle has been about from the start. It hasn't been about Kaepernick's indignation, soldiers, or even respect for America. People like Kaepernick don't hate America, but they are addressing the deplorable treatment of African-Americans in the country. They are justifiably angry, they want change. Yet Kaepernick's critics continue to find ways to silence him, like criticism, cruel jokes, and even death threats. What they don't seem to realize is that all of this backlash is proving his point. Just last week, police brutality claimed yet a few more victims: Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott. But Kaepernick's critics have remained noticeably quiet about the killings. This silence is extremely telling of how America feels about racial tensions. It demonstrates how the safety and freedom of black lives is not a strong priority in the country. America would rather maintain these systems of white supremacy for its own comfort and benefit than listen to the angry and fearful voices of its black citizens. The silence exposes how many Americans are quicker to vilify a black man for peacefully standing up for his rights than they are to speak about racially motivated police violence.
Let me make something clear. If you criticize Colin Kaepernick for his actions, but stay silent when black people are murdered, you are part of the problem. If you admonish this peaceful protest, but look for ways to justify the killing of an unarmed black person, you are part of the problem. If you lament the lost potential of a white rapist, but concentrate on the bygone criminal record of a black victim, you are part of the problem. If you say "all lives matter" and try to erase the fact that this issue is deeply woven into America's social fabric, you are part of the problem. If you are more concerned with policing this protest than actually listening to it and considering how law enforcement targets people of color, especially African-Americans, you are part of the problem.
America has spent far too many years tilting the socioeconomic and justice systems against African-Americans. It has reached its pinnacle with America becoming a country that will send death threats to a man who peacefully protests this injustice during a football game. When will we as a society say enough is enough to this violence? It's time that we start to listen to the voices of the oppressed instead of silencing them.