How racial prejudice in the United States affects the absorption of criticism, and makes it about ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘where’, rather than ‘why’.
You may be familiar with the term irony. Originally used in Greek tragedy, it’s a literary technique by which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character. Irony abounds in the tragicomedy that’s unfolded recently surrounding 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, with conservatives playing to the hilt the role of oblivious main character.
If you are not familiar with Colin Kaepernick, I hope that rock you’ve been living under is comfortable, he is the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked a nationwide conversation by sitting during the national anthem, and in turn was labeled by many a traitor. Dubbed a ‘national disgrace’ by some in the media, Kaepernick was vilified after he exercised his first amendment right to protest the treatment of POC in the United States, explaining that the country that ostensibly stands for freedom and liberty for all, isn’t actually for all, at the moment.
As a result, the predictable acts of deflection came pouring in, typically in the form of obnoxious questions irrelevant to the point of his protest. Some of which were...
Is he even black?
Why is he complaining, he was raised by white parents wasn’t he?
How does he represent the oppressed, he has tonnes of money?
Does he not care about our veterans who gave their lives?
Why doesn’t he just leave if he hates it here so much?
Now I know what you’re thinking, how dare he slap the hand that has fed him generously, how dare he refer to issues surrounding oppression, after all, he was raised by white parents. Once again the underlying issues driving Kaepernick’s protest get buried under questions from critics who would rather skew the headlines towards an athlete’s legitimacy as a protester, thereby deflecting from the conversation itself.
Those who don’t want to address the serious and legitimate grievances of POC in the United States demand that professional athletes and others in the spotlight live up to a purity standard and satisfy their criteria before being granted a right to protest. I guess no-one told Kaepernick he had to fill out this form before protesting.
Now here comes your mouthful of irony. While spewing this relentless bigotry wrapped in patriotism under the false implication that it comes from the heart of most veterans ― #veteransforkaepernick had a response to that ― the same outraged bigots are comically oblivious to the connection Kaepernick has to a certain combover they worship as the savior of the states, Donald “This Country Sucks” Trump.
I mean surely they can see the hilarity in this. While hyperventilating at the nerve of a rich man who doesn’t meet ‘their’ requirements before demanding change, they themselves have spent the past nine months hyping an absurdly rich man whose entire candidacy is based on the notion that America is not great and needs to be made great again.
Trump: “This place is a hell hole”
Trump: “This place is turning into a third world country”
Supporters: “Yeah!! We suck, Trump for change, make us great again”
Trump: “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
Supporters: “Yeah!! Wait that’s kind of creepy...but what the hell, he’s white. Yeah Trump for president.”
Trump has played the role of boogey man since he first stepped on the podium, screaming about the depths that this great country has plummeted to in every facet imaginable, all of which has been met with cheers from the same mouths that are spitting in the face of Kaepernick and ironically their most sacred Constitution. So what differentiates one man’s advocacy for change over another’s? Oh yes, that race thing again.
For a black person to advocate for change it must mean he is targeting white people, right? It is an unfortunate narrative in this country that when one speaks for change, another places blame. Not once did Kaepernick mention white people as the cause in the reasons for his protest, but what happens? Crazed Trump sycophants like Tomi Lahren, A.K.A Barbie on adderall, decide to interpret Kaepernick’s statement as an overt attack on white people simply to appeal to her demographic and further widen the divide. Why is it completely unfathomable that when he said “we” don’t stand for these values, he meant America, collectively?
Truthfully I have my own concerns about Kaepernick’s method of protest. I feel that to mend this divide we need to stand or sit together. Whether it be during the anthem, on the field, on the streets or outside Capitol Hill. Change is only possible with a collective willingness to understand contrary views and listen to the ‘why,’ rather than the ‘who,’ ‘what’ or ‘where.’
Kaepernick sitting during the anthem, on his own, only provided the right wing with the necessary weaponry to shoot the messenger and hone in on the ‘who,’ deflecting from the ‘why.’ My preference would have been for a collective sitting, a group, strength in numbers, thereby making it harder to spend hours of media coverage focusing on one person’s credibility as a ‘rightful’ protester, and instead maybe the ‘why,’ would move further up the list of priorities.
To conclude I will leave you with this, my disagreement towards Kaepernick’s actions does not mask my ability to understand what motivated him to do this, and it most certainly does not grant me the privilege to tarnish him as a traitor. However, for those on the right, this is instinctive. They choose to rake an African-American athlete over the coals for disrespecting this great nation and yet at the same time their hero, Donald Trump, earns their undying love and admiration when HE questions the country’s greatness, but in that case it’s OK because, you know, he’s a white man saying we suck.