Kaepernick Kneeled So That We May All Stand Taller

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 Colin Kaepernick (c.) kneels during the national anthem before the team's NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers. (Chris Carlson/AP)
Colin Kaepernick (c.) kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers. (Chris Carlson/AP)

by Faith Barksdale

It’s hard to speak with your face pressed against concrete. Or when you can’t breathe. Or with a broken neck. And even when you manage to speak, people in power seek to silence you. Just ask the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick.

The all-too-familiar voices of the status quo tried to quiet Kaepernick as soon as he began to protest. They want Americans of conscience to just sit down and shut up. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t say anything about kneeling. Kaepernick has been doing just that, and in doing so, has spoken volumes.

Kaepernick’s protest isn’t about the flag. It isn’t about the “The Star Spangled Banner,” which has its own racist roots. As Kaepernick himself said, “[T]his is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick is kneeling to protest the unrelenting state of police violence against communities of color. These are figures you may have heard before but bear repeating: Though we comprise 13 percent of the American population, Black people were the victims of of 25 percent of fatal police shootings this year.

Statistics citing the number of civilians killed by police provide an alarming snapshot of the state of law enforcement relationships with communities of color, but they do not tell the whole story. They don’t speak to the trauma of racialized policing in schools. They don’t speak to the reality of unequal policing of communities of color. They don’t speak to the harms associated with arrest and pretrial detention. They don’t speak to our nation’s underfunded and overburdened public defender system and its disastrous impact on people solely because they are poor. They don’t speak to harsher sentences based on race. They don’t speak to the unseen and innumerable collateral consequences faced by individuals and their communities as a result of an unfair criminal justice system.

Statistics tell us a lot, but they cannot adequately explain anyone’s story of discrimination. They can’t convey their individual experience as a person of color. They can’t bring home the trauma of their involvement, even indirectly, with the complex and massive web of the world’s largest criminal justice system. We should be talking about what the statistics don’t tell us.

When we talk about the criminal justice system, we’re talking about a system — a horrendous system of violence and silencing that threatens to perpetuate itself as long as we as Americans don’t speak up. The First Amendment grants all of us the right to speak — or remain silent if we choose. As President Obama made clear, Kaepernick is “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement.”

For those of us who have taken to the streets, and the page, and the courts, and the field, it is our conscience and frustration that gives rise to a duty to speak. In spite of a barrage of social pressures and unconstitutional state actions, communities of color and their allies are resisting calls for “respectability,” refusing to allow their voices to be policed by those in power.

Exercising our constitutional rights to criticize policies and practices that have failed us is not unpatriotic. In fact, holding our society to the aspirational standards we set for ourselves — liberty and justice for all — is one of the purest forms of patriotism.

On issues of racial oppression and police violence, it is our responsibility to speak in solidarity with our communities of color in furtherance of the principles upon which this country was founded. Kaepernick’s fellow athletes, many of them who are men of color, have accepted this responsibility in light of his protest.

In support of Kaepernick, former NFL star Shannon Sharpe said, “Hear me, I’m trying to have a conversation … [this is a] … peaceful route … Colin Kaepernick sitting down and taking a knee.” Denver Broncos’ Brandon Marshall referred to Kaepernick as “one of the biggest patriots out there … [b]ecause he’s standing up for human rights.”

The message is spreading.

So rather than urging a football player to stay in his lane and be grateful for the financial success he has enjoyed in his career, we should recognize the truths that inspired and fuel his protest. It is our responsibility, each and every one of us, to speak our truths to power.

Faith Barksdale is a Legal Assistant with the ACLU

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72 thoughts on “Kaepernick Kneeled So That We May All Stand Taller”

  1. Barack Palin

    Though we comprise 13 percent of the American population, Black people were the victims of of 25 percent of fatal police shootings this year.

    Despite only being 13% of the population blacks commit an equal to greater amount of violent crimes than whites and whites are almost twice as likely to be killed by police officers.

    1. David Greenwald

      “whites are almost twice as likely to be killed by police officers.”

      This is not an accurate statement. More whites than blacks are killed by police officers, but blacks are much more likely to be killed (based on their population share) than whites.

      1. Barack Palin

        You missed the point, based on the amount of violent crimes committed by whites compared to blacks whites are twice as likely to be killed by police.

        1. South of Davis

          David wrote:

          > Except that the UC Davis study debunked that point showing

          > there was no relationship between locations with high crime

          > and police shootings.

          Forgetting the “study” (that was junk IMHO) can you (or anyone else) name a single low crime area with a lot of police shootings?

          EVERY location I have ever heard of or read about with a lot of police shootings is an area with high crime.

      1. South of Davis

        Biddlin wrote:

        > There, all fixed.

        If blacks are just “arrested” more often does that mean that racist cops are covering up all the white kids killed by “white on white” crime in white areas?

        P.S. Do you think all the kids in Atherton that “are at boarding school on the east coast” were really “killed in a drive by shooting over gang turf”?

    2. MamaBear

      Statistics really leave little room for most to read between the lines. Are you sure blacks commit an equal number of violent crimes or are they just more likely to be charged?

      Setting what is defined as “criminal” aside, clearly we are ignoring legalized violence and warmongering when we look at those figures. Considering that would surely present a drastically different racialized view if we look at color rather than human nature. (which is wrong to begin with imho).

      Sidenote, the affect of Africans outside of America is so drastically different than what is oft considered culturally typical (of us) in America. Africans outside of America have a strong sense of identity, are confident, health conscious, calm – so very peaceful and calm, elegant. This is the only prototype I have seen among them. I wonder what is at the root of the difference… Hmmm.

    3. Eric Gelber

      Despite only being 13% of the population blacks commit an equal to greater amount of violent crimes than whites and whites are almost twice as likely to be killed by police officers.

      We can all pull statistics to support an argument. The issue, however, is unjustified violence, and overall crime statistics are not really relevant to that. The indesputable fact is, blacks are far more likely to be victims of excessive or unjustified police violence than whites. As an example, unarmed black people were killed by police in 2015 at nearly 5 times the rate of unarmed whites. 37% of unarmed people killed by police were black in 2015 despite black people being only 13% of the U.S. population.

      Those who question even the basic legitimacy of the issue being raised by Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter are either not paying attention or have other, more insidious, motivations.

      1. quielo

        “The issue, however, is unjustified violence, and overall crime statistics are not really relevant to that.”

        Let’s parse this:

        “The issue, however, is unjustified violence” So your theory is that when black people commit acts of violence it is usually justified? Can you support that?

        “overall crime statistics are not really relevant ” Says who?

        1. Eric Gelber

          quielo – I’ll try to explain it in words you can understand. Regardless of overall crime statistics, the issue is whether, in each specific instance, excessive force is used. Therefore, the overall crime rate has nothing to do with whether the police acted appropriately in a particular case. If an unarmed individual is killed by police, it is highly likely that excessive force was used, regardless of overall crime rates. Unarmed black people are killed by police at a much higher rate than unarmed whites.

          “So … when black people commit acts of violence it is usually justified?” No. I have no idea how you got that from what I wrote.

        2. South of Davis

          Eric wrote:

          > Unarmed black people are killed by police at a

          > much higher rate than unarmed whites.

          True, but unarmed black people attack police at a much higher rate than unarmed whites.

          In 2013 37% of the cops in America killed were killed by black people (a rate about three times higher than their percentage of the population).  Blacks kill an even greater percentage of non-cops (probably because they are less likely to be wearing a bullet proof vest).

          I’m no cop defender I think that (on average) one in five should not have a badge and LOT more belong in jail for murder of people (of all races), but let’s not try and dismiss the fact that the most violent places in America are usually predominantly black areas.

          If you look where the deaths are in Chicago (that has more deaths than New York City and Los Angeles COMBINED so far this year) you will not find many shootings in mostly white neighborhoods:

          http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/chicago-hits-deadly-milestone-500th-homicide-2016-n643516

  2. Tia Will

    holding our society to the aspirational standards we set for ourselves — liberty and justice for all — is one of the purest forms of patriotism.”

    This is the formative idea of our nation. Liberty and justice for all. Now the “for all” has been mutable over time. Historically speaking, it has at various time not applied to women, nor to individuals of certain skin tones or ethnicities. However, at each point in time, there have been individuals who have been willing to, many times at great risk to themselves,  stand up and publicly proclaim that we are not living up to our own highest intentions. I see Colin Kaerpernick ( juvenile piggy socks aside) as one such individual. He has used the station that he has achieved in life to point out our current times deficiencies in “liberty and justice for all”. For that I congratulate him and hope that the majority of Americans will come to understand that a peaceful expression of our own values is precisely what many of our soldiers have fought for and given their lives for. The right to express ones own convictions without fear of reprisal is critical to the existence of our freedoms. Freedom of speech without the ability to speak is an empty promise and of no use. I cannot believe that this is what any of us want when we send our young to defend our values with their lives.

  3. Barack Palin

    I don’t disagree with everything Kaepernick has done, he did say this about Hillary Clinton.
    edited
    [moderator] This thread is not about presidential politics.

    1. hpierce

      Don… share your concern, but since the President and both major candidates have commented re:  CK’s actions (or lack thereof), there might be some overlap, depending on context… suggest you tread lightly while watching for “continental drift”…

  4. South of Davis

    I’ve never met anyone that is a stronger supporter of free speech than I am so I support Kapernick’s right to say and do anything he wants (for all I care he can replace his “pig cop” socks with “F the police socks”), but with that said I’m using my free speech to say I think the guy is an idiot.

    P.S. It looks like he is not the “black lives matter hero” many think he is but a “racist idiot” (some of the most racist people I have met have been mixed race):

    “Kapernick was fined $11,00 by the NFL for using a racial slur”

    http://dailysnark.com/throwback-colin-kaepernick-fined-using-racial-slurs-towards-black-players/

    1. MamaBear

      I don’t like the word myself but “Nigg@h” used among blacks is not truly considered a racial slur. Being mixed race, Kaepernick is considered black among black people. Sounds like someone made an example out him there. One caveat of being mixed is that while you may get profiled less often; when you are profiled/persecuted, the racism factor is less obvious to non-whites. So your support system is weaker. But as Obama has proven, in the eyes of bigots, mixed people are 100% black.

      1. South of Davis

        MamaBear wrote:

        > But as Obama has proven, in the eyes of bigots,

        > mixed people are 100% black.

        I’m not a big football fan, but reading the news I’ve seen hundreds of photos of Kaepernick I’ve always thought he was of middle eastern decent (he looks a lot like my first cousin that is half Lebanese).  With Kaepernick making his move off the sports pages to other news in the past couple weeks I have talked to many other people who have said “I didn’t even know he was black”…

        1. MamaBear

          That is the case with most mixed people. My experience as a mixed person has been that once someone knows I am half black, black is all they see. Which is not an issue unless that person is racist. Then, as a mixed person, you become a sort of outlet for all the angst they tread more carefully with in the presence of more obvious blacks. It can be a tight position for mixed people, targeted less but bullied more harshly once targeted. And often receiving ambiguous support from the black community… It can be weird.

          I don’t follow sports or know anything of CK other than his mom gave him up for adoption (which I respect), but was daft enough to criticize his recent stance in a most condescending way. (Something I don’t feel she is entitled to do).

          The best points I saw made about this were #1 most people who are up in arms over his kneeling have been silent about the heinous acts that inspired his kneel. #2 Activists for BLM or similar movements have been criticized for violent protests (as they should be, killing innocent people is never okay) but then the guy kneels at an anthem and even this is criticized. Cant get more peaceful than that. So it just seems like people don’t want anyone to protest police brutality. Not violently, not musically, not silently on their knees.

          It could be that black lives don’t really matter to a lot of people. Or it could be that a lot of us have lost all chutzpah. And if that is the case I sure hope America is as perfect as these folks seem to think it is, and that it stays that way. because otherwise, we are all screwed. No one wants to stand up for anything, no matter the cost of silence.

  5. Biddlin

    I don’t like CK. I’m not a fan of the NFL. I think the current police mentality and theories of policing are so antithetical to the premise of protecting personal freedom as to be beyond repair. I think their methods are the reason US cops excel at killing people in exponentially higher numbers than any other country,(808 so far in 2016) I think people who get their political opinions from characters on television are also probably beyond saving.

  6. Eric Gelber

    It looks like Kaepernick’s views changed after he hooked up with his current girlfriend.

    So, what’s your point? Maybe his relationship was responsible for his increased awareness and activism. If so, good for her, and good for him.

  7. Frankly

    So would it be OK for Tim Tebow to burn a BLM flag in downtown Ferguson during a Black Family Day celebration in protest of the killing of white police officers?  Would all you liberal social justice types support his free speech, or would you pile on in righteous indignation about how insensitive it is?

    My hypocrite meter is being charged.

    1. Eric Gelber

      My answer to your direct question is: Both.

      Your comparison, however, is silly. No one was burning flags at a 49’ers game. A more apt comparison would be if Tim Tebow failed to follow the crowd and give a standing ovation to a speaker at the celebration.

      (I also think you have no idea of the kind of decent and respectful person Tim Tebow is.)

      1. Frankly

        Eric – you will have to do better than this.

        No the comparison is not silly.

        It is the same for the southern confederate battle flag.

        I am calling out the hypocrisy of those defending CK for what was clearly insensitive to many that see the ceremony of standing during the Star Spangled Banner as meaningful symbolism that should be protected and defended.

        Come on now, you are smarter than your response would indicate.  It does not take much imagination to come up with similar analogies that would inflame people in your political “good people” or “good victim” list and cause you to scream opposition in righteous indignation.

        But since these football fans tend to be white and conservative and male (all three thing on the “bad people” side of the liberal groupism ledger) then it is ok by you.

        I will agree that Tim Tebow is too respectful to do anything like that.  But that isn’t a valid escape from the analogy I posed.  Just replace it with another failed white NFL QB.

        My point here is that CKs stunt was insensitive to a lot of people.

        1. Mark West

          “the ceremony of standing during the Star Spangled Banner”

          The actual ‘ceremony’ is to stand while the flag is being presented, it just happens that the anthem is often played at the same time. Whether or not to stand is a personal choice (probably influenced by how one was raised) and should not be anyone else’s concern.

    2. Delia .

      Frankly, in football language, I think  your reply was a deflection.

      Nice to see even more peaceful protests today at the Seahawk/MiamI game.

      Happy to see Kaepernick’s jersey sales going through the roof, too. Apparently he has a lot of people who support his non-violent peaceful protest.

  8. hpierce

    Here’s another theory… CK has just started doing this, right?

    What if he was setting up the basis for a “wrongful termination suit”, in the event he is cut from the team, and/or as a ‘starter’, based on performance as a player?  He could assert that it was due to the sitting/kneeling thing, rather than performance…

        1. Frankly

          Reports on the new media include rumors that the 49ers and Seahawks teams are talking about a total team refusal to stand.  Just told my son that he should prepare for no NFL games allowed to be played in the house if that occurs.

        2. Eric Gelber

          “Just told my son that he should prepare for no NFL games allowed to be played in the house …”

          I assumed your TV was already programmed to only receive the Fox News Channel. Now he’ll have to get his NFL fix on the streets.

        3. Frankly

          Naw.  If I watch the news, it is usually NPR.  Fox News only sometimes.  I do tend to stay away from the Clinton News Network and the Morbidly Stupid National Barack Channel.

        4. hpierce

          Frankly, some folk, when they find themselves ‘in a hole’, just keep digging… their inalienable right… a 3:16 post comes to mind…

          This whole issue with CK’s actions is trivial… the issues behind them are significant and are worthy of discussion and action… think CK has “impotent power”… no meat, but a lot of motion (or lack thereof)…

        5. Tia Will

          hpierce

          If the team fully supports, why don’t they all “take a knee”?”

          Perhaps because they understand the principle of individual freedom of speech. It is not necessary to agree with someone to defend their right to express their own convictions peacefully.

        6. Biddlin

          “Just told my son that he should prepare for no NFL games allowed to be played in the house if that occurs.”

          “My TVs.  My satellite TV service.  My freedom of speech.”

          Ooh!  Ooh! Is the book burning, next?

          “It is good for him… he can decide where he stands instead of ignoring it and thinking it is just a “stupid protest”.”

          Kinda hope he does and that comes back to bite you on the @$$.

  9. Biddlin

    “My point here is that CKs stunt was insensitive to a lot of people.”

    “You see, if we are not going to demand a global basis for morality, then each individual or group can justify their behavior even as they demand others play by higher rules of hyper-sensitivity.”

    “. There are many more people on this blog and probably reading this blog that tend to be more sensitive to the impact of words, and prone to taking things personal that really should not be taken personal”

    Anyone else notice hypocrite rhymes with sack o’ ****?

     

  10. Biddlin

    “Growing up, around my family dinner table there was often heated debate about local and world events. My poor mother would end up with some anxiety over the conflicts that would ensue.

    Frankly, Mr. Sensitivity.

        1. Frankly

          My TVs.  My satellite TV service.  My freedom of speech.

          It is good for him… he can decide where he stands instead of ignoring it and thinking it is just a “stupid protest”.

  11. hpierce

    This whole CK thing is ridiculous… I stand for the anthem… I sing along… if I was the only one in the stadium doing so, that’d be OK with me…

    Those who “fake” respect bug me… I’d rather they just sit tight and don’t interrupt… CK doesn’t interfere with anyone other than those jerks who insist on everyone believing as they do… the league and the team are acting correctly as to not “sanction”… doesn’t mean I’ll join CK in his drama-protest…

    By ‘taking a knee’, a Catholic might interpret that as “genuflecting”, a very respectful act, but not appropriate for either flag or anthem…

    I remember the old knee jerk conservative phrase/mantra, “my country right or wrong!”… the pertinent quote is, to me, “Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.”  [source:  http://www.bartleby.com/73/1641.html]

    That would be true patriotism.

        1. Biddlin

          No intent beyond an observation about hypocrisy , hpierce. It just got linked that way at whatever time I typed it. I’m in the twilight zone time/space between Greenwich and Sacto. I find it hilarious that the tea party trolls can’t stop feeding the fire that CK started.

  12. MamaBear

    There’s something really off with people being more upset with his not standing for the anthem than they are with innocent people being murdered…

    Do you know the history of the anthem? Pick a page from the history of almost anything and some group will be entitled to take offense to what you do/dont do. Everything patriotic with historical American roots is inevitably offensive to blacks and natives if we want it to be. Most the time we take the high road as is wise.

    He kneeled. It was peaceful. Some would say it shows respect for the current value of patriotism. Our values, as we’d want them to be, aren’t being honored in our present state of affairs. So to kneel COULD be seen as a means of saying “America is not living what (I feel) this song is about.” That IS respect for the flag. Moreso by far than people who salute a symbol that is being degraded by the behaviors of people representing it. He did nothing wrong.

    More people should have joined him. The song is about what America is supposed to be, right now we are falling short in a major way. Why not kneel?

        1. Frankly

          Sorry hpierce but I don’t think you get it.

          The point that you failed to respond to in a thinking manner is the decision for what is acceptable and “harmless” protest.

          That is a recurring flaw I see in much of this debate.  Do you think YOU know what that line is?  If you do, they what makes you the voice of reason?  Seems a bit egotistical to draw your line and then say that everyone else should agree, don’t you think?

          Kneeling and not standing.  Standing with hand over heart, or standing with a two-fingered solute.  What is the difference?

          If you are going to make the point that this is absurd, well in my generation or two of living nobody would have every thought that any NFL player would be able to decide to kneel and not to stand in honor of the national anthem and the flying of the national flag.  It would have been considered absurd.

          Here is another example: http://www.wcvb.com/news/town-leaders-decide-blue-ribbons-must-come-down/41582458

          Somebody is offended by these blue ribbons.  Crossed “their” line.

          So the hypersensitive victim class get to draw their line underground, and everyone else has to bend over and take whatever line is drawn for them.

          This reminds me of that line: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”   Tyranny starts to form from the bottom.

          1. Don Shor

            … in my generation or two of living nobody would have every thought that any NFL player would be able to decide to kneel and not to stand in honor of the national anthem and the flying of the national flag. It would have been considered absurd.

            In my generation of living, which is almost exactly the same as yours, a bunch of us made the decision, in 8th grade, that we would not stand and participate in the pledge of allegiance precisely because iit was mandatory. Seemed more than “a bit egotistical” for the school administration “to draw your line and then say that everyone else should agree.” We didn’t agree with the content, the context (Vietnam war was raging), or the mandate. And our protest was effective.

            I’d never heard of Colin Kaepernick before this, but I’ve certainly heard of him now. His protest is remarkably effective because it is passive and peaceful. It’s going to spread, and it is working precisely because it is sparking howls of indignation from those who feel they have a monopoly on patriotism, who feel they can define “American values,” and who feel they can dictate how others ‘may’ make their views known.

            Maybe the NFL will do what our school administration did. They stopped requiring the pledge of allegiance. Perhaps it’s time to retire the Star Spangled Banner from football games. If they want to go back to the original intent — respect for those who served and died — then they could scroll the faces of those killed in our wars across the giant screen while the fans hold a moment of silence.

        2. hpierce

          Frankly, it is you who appear not to think… at least using the brain… maybe another organ?

          I get “it”, but reject it as sophomoric and stupid (your “point”)…

          what makes you the voice of reason?  Seems a bit egotistical to draw your line and then say that everyone else should agree, don’t you think?

          Mirror time?  Where is your “reason”?  Egotistical?  Mirror time?

          I decried the idea that everyone else should agree… you illiterate?  Or just suffering from a RCI?  In the latter case, I sympathise and hope you can find a good proctologist to perform corrective surgery…

          I wrote, “… CK doesn’t interfere with anyone other than those jerks who insist on everyone believing as they do…”

           

        3. Biddlin

          “Frankly, it is you who appear not to think… at least using the brain… maybe another organ?…… you illiterate?  Or just suffering from a RCI? …”

          The current advances in imaging and neuro science can tell us what is (and isn’t) going on in that dark place.

          https://braindecoder.com/post/politics-neuroscience-1282982492

          I think you are too harsh, hpierce. Living in fear most of the time takes its toll on such simple thinkers, unable to process new information in anything but a fearful light. Conservatives rely on the primitive amygdala and the fight or flight impulse to “reason” their way through life, having diminished or negligible activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. I think now that so many researchers are beginning to recognize this as a physiological defect and mental disorder, we are well on the way to a cure.

  13. Keith O

    Just out, NFL ratings down another 13% from last year’s lower ratings.

    If they keep disrespecting the flag sooner or later they will see their pay go down or jobs disappear.

    1. Howard P

      Given their pay levels (which are way under-taxed as to SS/Medicare), fail to see a downside… as to the number of players, you only need 11, plus some to account for illness/injury… see no downside in “trimming the rolls”…

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