A couple weeks ago, I would have had nothing to say about Colin Kaepernick. He doesn’t play for the Texans, so my only impressions would have likely been negative. Of course, all that has changed now, with Kaepernick evoking controversy by making the choice to not stand during the national anthem before games.
In the immediate aftermath of this brouhaha, I still did not really care. So what? An athlete makes a political statement. Tom Brady backs Donald Trump, for crying out loud. Why should this controversial stand be treated any differently?
Kaepernick brought attention to one of the myriad of issues facing black individuals in this country. He pointed to the injustice perpetuated every time a police officer kills an unarmed black man and gets away without consequence. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and so many others brought the issue, that of the Black Lives Matter movement, to the forefront of our national consciousness a couple years back. Kaepernick has reminded us.
Now, in his shoes, would I have chosen to make the same choice, to not stand for the Star-Spangled Banner? Well, that’s not really relevant, because I am not in his shoes. I am not black. And if I had a dollar for every self-important white person clamoring about how he should speak, or express his opinions or spend his money, well... you get the point.
But perhaps what has been most disquieting about this entire controversy is the response to it. Jingoistic, faux-patriotic cacophony has intruded once again into our national dialogue. Cue the chants of “Love it or leave it” and the bigots on the Breitbart comment section whispering about him being a Muslim or using assorted racial epithets.
America is not a country you have to leave if you do not love. That would be Russia.
Perhaps even more offensively, the Santa Clara Police Union has threatened to abdicate their responsibility to provide security for games of the San Francisco 49ers, the team on which Kaepernick plays. It is the latest in a troubling trend of police threatening to abandon the communities they pledge to protect because of criticism. (A shining example of light contrary to this trend is seen in many other cities as well, including, perhaps more significantly, Dallas.)
Kaepernick may not be a perfect messenger of his cause, but who among us is without our imperfections? As for those aforementioned self-important white critics of his who say he needs to put his money where his mouth is, they can eat crow. Kaepernick just announced a $1 million donation to community groups. And he has seen many allies in his fight, including the president of the United States, who backed his exercise of constitutional rights.
I really never thought I would care about an issue so seemingly minor and trivial, but the response to it has been too offensive, to the man in particular and our civic institutions and culture in general, to ignore.