Colin Kaepernick played his first game of the season Sunday, October 16, but not everyone was pleased to see him out on the field again. Cans were thrown at him. T-shirts were made and sold depicting a target on his chest. By now, everyone is aware of his peaceful protest of systemic racism, and we all have our opinions.
As I continue to read articles and interviews and see more black men and women killed by law enforcement, I am scared and heartbroken at what is happening to our nation. So, I feel that it is time for me to add my opinion, especially as a fellow transracial black adoptee. There are three statements that I hear most often about Kaepernick’s protest that I’d like to address.
“Kaepernick is being unpatriotic.”
First, there is nothing “unpatriotic” about putting a spotlight on systemic racism and recognizing that it’s definitely not OK. In fact, it is more “unpatriotic” to stop talking about racism or police brutality altogether when our Constitution clearly reminds us that “all men are created equal.” I am American, yet I am angered and disappointed at how my country has continuously handled issues involving people of color: blacks, Mexicans, Asians and Natives to name a few. When does being patriotic mean being OK with ALL of our country’s actions or continuing to believe that everything is OK? Kaepernick is forcing us to take a hard look at where we’ve gone wrong and then find ways to do better.
“I respect Kaepernick’s right to protest, but I don’t like the way he’s doing it.” Someone said this to me last week. I’ve noticed that a lot of people feel the need to dictate how minorities should react to history. “Slavery was in the past; stop bringing it up and move past it,” “Be grateful,” “People shouldn’t be protesting like that.” When there is violent and physically disruptive protest, we are told to choose a different way. When we choose to silently and peacefully protest our struggles (as in the case of Kaepernick) we are told again that our way is not right. Protest is supposed to be disruptive and uncomfortable. How else will light be shed on the issue and action put in place? If we are so bothered by racism, what is being done?
“How is his protesting influencing anything?”
Lastly, Kaepernick’s protest has been very influential. It has led him to donate money as well as use his celebrity status to start conversations. There are middle school and high school teams joining him in protest. Conversations are being started and hopefully steps are being taken to ensure that more black men are not killed by the police for walking down the street, wearing a hoodie, sitting in a car or carrying a gun. We in the black community do not have Martin Luther King anymore. We are getting pushed back when we cry “Black Lives Matter!” We need Kaepernick’s voice to remind us that the fight for equality is still happening.
So, what am I trying to say here? Before pushing against Kaepernick’s right to protest, his anger at police brutality and our continuing battle with institutionalized oppression, please understand WHY he is doing it. Please understand that racism is still alive in this nation. Secondly, in order to put an end to racism, conversations and action (often in the form of protest) need to continue. Our voices must be united and those with lived experiences must be given center stage. As Christians we must recognize that black lives matter and depend on this.
Watt is a sophomore majoring in elementary education. She can be reached at WattA@jbu.edu.