Why The Colin Kaepernick Situation Hasn’t Gone Away – And Why It Shouldn’t: A Letter to “Kap”

Unless you’ve been living on Mars for the last month and a half, you have probably heard about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel before football games as the national anthem is played in an effort to protest police violence in America; with a specific attention paid towards Blacks in America.

You’ve probably heard him get called every name in the book.

“Traitor.”

“Terrorist.”

“Un-American.”

“N***er.”

But what you probably haven’t heard is the impact his actions have had across many in the African American community – myself included.

 

Dear Colin:

Growing up in a bi-racial family (Black father, White mother) just like you, I’ve gotten to experience both sides of the aisle. I’ve been wrongfully stopped and harassed by police. I’ve been targeted and discriminated against. But I also know I’m not the only one, and there have been far more and far worse situations than mine. Just ask Eric Garner’s family, or Michael Brown’s, or Alton Sterling’s, or Tamir Rice’s.

Regardless if you believe their deaths were justified or not because of their supposed criminal activity, one must consider the fact that a father will no longer come home to his kids. A mother will never get to celebrate the birthday of her son. A brother lost another brother. And that hurts.

While initially I had no opinion one way or another in regards to your decision to kneel during the Star Spangled Banner (to be completely honest, I’m not even a big fan of your play or the 49ers organization – I’m a Saints fan), I’ve spent time listening to your justification for you actions and others praising and criticizing those same actions. Now, more than ever, it’s time to be vocal in that you have sparked a new conversation on an everlasting topic that should not – and can not – go away.

I am not writing this piece as an anti-American, or someone who feels that this country has wronged him so severely that I no longer take pride in living in the United States. This is the best country on Earth. I believe with my entire being that I am fortunate to be born in America and don’t ever envision myself leaving.

But, that doesn’t mean we live in a perfect society. I refuse to turn a blind eye to the social injustices my fellow minority brethren face, and I’m thankful you will not either.

First, let’s throw away the argument that you, the current 2nd-string quarterback for the 49ers, are “disrespecting veterans who have fought and died for this country.” Get off your high horse. Not only has that argument been debunked, but it is flat out wrong. Military personnel fight for the rights of EVERY American to take full use of their Constitutional rights. According to the First Amendment (that everybody seems to love referencing in explaining why they feel Kaepernick is a “‘traitor”), every citizen has the right to protest and address their grievances with the government. Just because he is criticizing the government, instead blowing smoke up it’s a** saying that everything is just perfect and there is nothing wrong in the world, doesn’t mean his privileges are revoked. He is actively and efficiently exercising his right to protest. So let him protest.

Speaking of protesting, let’s take a look at the method you used: sitting during a song (a song which was created almost 40 years AFTER America won independence from Britain, and was not used as our national anthem for another 120 years after that, by the way). This song, which was altered from its original version that included racist remarks towards Blacks, wasn’t even played with NFL players on the field until a suggestion was made to have the players come out and hold flags in a publicity stunt.

On a related note, I would like to travel back in time to Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO. His death and lack of an indictment on the police force sparked weeks of unrest and violent protests across the country. This has been the case for the countless deaths since, and each time, Americans not directly affected feel its incumbent upon themselves to criticize those protesting for not doing so peacefully. Social media erupted with authority figures people who have no credibility or connection to the situation slamming those protesting for destroying houses and businesses, lighting cars on fire, and looting. I don’t know how much more peaceful you can get than sitting during a song, but nonetheless, he’s still in the wrong. Right?

Now to the part where you must, and hopefully will, continue your actions.

Not only have you inspired some of your teammates to join in protest, but dozens of other NFL players and athletes across multiple sports have joined in the protest. Eric Reid, Brandon Marshall, Robert Quinn and Megan Rapinoe are just a few of the names who have come out in support of your decision and as your message continues to spread, more and more will follow suit. It is imperative for this conversation to move forward and real change to come that those brave enough to stand up in the face of adversity do so with their heads held high.

This is not a #BlackLivesMatter mission. This is not a “white privilege” cop out, nor a notion that I feel like we are living in 1940s America again. This is a message. We as a country are doomed for our future if we fail to recognize and fix the mistakes we’ve made in the past. Just because your have made a successful living as a quarterback doesn’t mean your opinions suddenly become void and you should not have a platform. You are doing exactly what we need in a time like this. Honest, open conversation about where we are at as a country and what needs to be done in order to make sure that we truly live in a society where “liberty and justice for all” really means FOR ALL and not just a select few. Thank you, Colin, for your bravery, sincerity, humanity, and compassion.

 

Raymond Ellis

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