Recently, someone I know forwarded me an email titled “Kaepernick’s Oppression…” This friend of mine sends me lots of emails with jokes, news stories, riddles and often some about politics. This particular email read “Just so you know and understand where he’s coming from…this is the oppression that mediocre ex-NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been forced to endure…” above pictures of his large home, luxury car and collection of shoes.
I felt the need to help this person “know and understand” where Colin is actually coming from. I decided to share the letter I wrote to them as a way to help others understand why this protest is necessary and how it affects all of us.
I appreciate the things you send about Colin Kaepernick and National Anthem protests because I love to hear from people whose perspectives differ from mine on this issue.
With this specific email, however, I feel like you do not understand the cause behind Colin Kaepernick’s protest. To say the luxury lifestyle Colin Kaepernick lives in some way delegitimizes the causes he is fighting for misses the point of the protest completely. In fact, to me, for him to put his career and his income as an NFL quarterback on the line to stand up for injustice and fight for a cause he believes in is extremely courageous and should be something we all admire.
In the words of Muhammad Ali, “When one man of popularity can let the world know the problem, he might lose a few dollars himself telling the truth. Might lose his life. But he’s helping millions.”
As for the oppression Colin Kaepernick is fighting for, it is narrow minded and dismissive to say that Colin Kaepernick himself does not qualify to speak on oppression simply because he lives in a big house and has a lot of shoes. The fight for social justice, racial equality and the end of police brutality is far bigger and more important than that.
To be clear, Colin Kaepernick did not kneel during the National Anthem to protest his own oppression but rather to protest the systematic injustices and dangerous inequalities that affect people of color in this country no matter how much money they have.
There have been countless examples of successful, wealthy Black people, from politicians to college professors to many Black police officers out of uniform, who have been victims of unfair treatment and harassment at the hands of police. There is nothing that makes a Black person in America safe from the possibility of being stopped, harassed or even killed by police because at the end of the day, they are still Black in a country where police are, as Ta Nehisi Coates says, “endowed with the authority to destroy Black bodies.”
Even more troublesome than that is the fact that it is so rare that police officers are held accountable for stealing Black lives. Police violence is an epidemic in our country but all too often (over 99% of the time) police officers are not convicted in cases regarding their murders of Black people.
Colin took a knee during the National Anthem as a way to use his platform as an NFL quarterback to force the millions of people who watch the NFL every Sunday to think about the injustice and institutional racism that still plague our country. This needed to be done.
You watched on your TV or computer screen as Eric Garner was choked to death by police on Staten Island. You watched Philando Castile breathe his last breath while his wife and child watched the police officer keep his gun pointed inside the car without making any effort to keep the innocent law abiding citizen, that he just shot, alive.
This was not enough for our country to do something about police brutality. This was not enough for our country to bring justice to the families who were affected.
But it was enough for Colin to do something. He decided to take a knee so that he can help raise awareness and lead the way in trying to create solutions to this problem. Since he first decided he would not stand for the National Anthem in August of 2016, he has donated $900,000 of his own money to 4 charities; DREAM, which provides New York City youth with athletics and after school programs; Coalition for the Homeless; The Gathering for Justice’s War on Children, which strives to reduce childhood incarceration; and United We Dream, an organization advocating for the rights of young immigrants. He has also traveled around the country hosting Know Your Rights Camps to empower children and help them to safely and properly interact with law enforcement.
The reason I wanted to share this with you and the reason it is so important for everyone to understand this is because this affects us all!
Someone you know or love can be a victim of police brutality.
I could have been Trayvon Martin.
My father could have been Eric Garner.
My two sisters could have been Sandra Bland.
By kneeling, Colin Kaepernick is standing up for me, and for Jennifer, and for Samantha, and for my dad, and for my mom.
By kneeling, Colin Kaepernick is standing up for you.
He is fighting so that you don’t have to live in a world where people you know and love have to fear for their lives every time they are stopped by the police. He is fighting so that all of your loved ones can feel safe regardless of their skin color.
He is kneeling because everyone has the right to be free, safe and ALIVE.