This piece was originally published on September 12, 2016, to Missing Filter. In order to better organize content, it has been updated and republished here.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
-The United States Constitution, Amendment I
Oh, Colin. What have you gotten yourself into?
Such a noble and honest cause expressed so earnestly, such a quiet and respectful protest. How have they all gotten it so wrong?
They just don’t get it. They say they love America as they ignore her flaws and stick their fingers in their ears at evidence that she is ailing. They pay no heed to the systemic oppression built into her design that will ultimately bring her down. They are blind to the injustices visited upon so many of her citizens causing terrible division and upset. They disregard the poor and disenfranchised being held down by those in power unable to claw their way to the top of the hole they were born in. They vilify those who speak out against the destruction of the very virtues claimed to be her foundation. This isn’t how you treat those you love. You want the best for them, you want happiness for them, you want them to be healthy and strong. They are failing America.
You see injustice and you decide to start a conversation. You sit quietly as a song written by a slave owner to honor a country who saw your ancestors as livestock plays while everyone else stands in reverence, swelling with pride. You drawing attention to the hypocrisy at play angers those benefiting from it and you’re branded un-American. Clearly, if you can see the flaws in this system, you’re unpatriotic, you hate the military that protects us, and you’re selfish for making this about you. Never mind that you’re sitting for you and all like you who feel the yoke of oppression tighten every time another person of color is brutalized, which happens every day.
They’ll dig and dig for reasons to be offended while gnashing angrily that society has become too sensitive. You wore socks with pig-cops on them, you’re struggling in your career right now, you can’t be oppressed because you’ve made millions, you’re ignorant of the sacrifices brave soldiers made to protect your rights, including the one you’re exercising by taking a knee during the National Anthem. They can’t even accept that the anthem might mean something different to you than it does to them.
The real problem is that they benefit from all you are protesting. They are the haves and you have the audacity to suggest that the have-nots are worthy of consideration. How dare you threaten the power structure that holds them up high. A power structure that needs to be taken down if we ever want this country to exist for everyone as it does for them. They can’t have that, can they?
UPDATE (June 6, 2017):
Since this was originally published, Kaepernick pledged to donate $1,000,000 plus the proceeds of his jersey sales to organizations working in oppressed communities. He is currently at the $700,000 mark. The organizations he’s helped include Causa Justa, Mothers Against Police Brutality, Black Youth Project, Communities for United Police Reform, UCSF for the Mni Wiconi Health Clinic Partnership at Standing Rock, Appetite for Change, 350.org, Center for Reproductive Rights, Meals on Wheels, Somalia Famine Relief, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, H.O.M.E., and many others. He has literally put his money where his mouth is.
Colin Kaepernick is also out of work, seemingly blackballed by the NFL. He is still waiting for a job offer while many arguably worse quarterbacks have been signed in free agency. No one would mistake Colin Kaepernick for Aaron Rogers, but he would certainly make for an immensely valuable back-up, and yet he sits. While players like Riley Cooper, the former Philadelphia Eagle who became such a distraction for his team after being caught on video yelling a racial slur at a black venue employee at a Kenny Chesney concert that he was cut, are getting tryout invites from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Colin Kaepernick is unemployed. His willingness to use his voice to fight oppression and violence has made him seemingly unemployable while domestic abusers and bigots get second chances. I need someone to explain this to me. I don’t think I’ll ever understand.