last week, i became a colin kaepernick fan. before last week, i’m pretty sure i didn’t know who he was. then he sat down during the national anthem at a football game (actually, he did similar at all the 49rs preseason games, the game against the packers was the one where a reporter noticed him and asked him about what he was doing). and then, as most everyone probably knows by now, the internet was engulfed by a shit storm of boiling, self-righteous outrage directed at kaepernick and his blatant disregard for everything decent and upright in america.
hateful memes found their way onto my FB feed, each with its requisite contrail of spittle-flecked commentary spewed forth by blustering, spleen-venting keyboard hammerers who seemed to take a sort of perverse pleasure in being offended by what they alleged to be kaepernick’s lack of patriotism, lack of talent on the field, lack of personal exposure to oppression (because he’s a rich, privileged, mixed-race athlete raised by white parents so what would he know about it, how dare he), naivete, thoughtlessness, disrespect, etc. reading that stuff makes me really tired, but i confess, i often can’t help myself.
i inched away from the meme-ranting and started reading actual articles and blogs with actual words and sentences, but a lot of them haven’t been much better. Prejudice and racism don’t look any less pernicious, even when they’re dressed up with fancy writing and ostensibly reasoned arguments. Luckily, I finally started to tap into the wealth of support that Kaepernick has received, and as a result i have, over the past week, read a lot of fantastic work by thoughtful, sensitive people who’ve brought – in addition to support for kaepernick and his decision to protest – nuance, perspective and humour to the discussion.
man oh man, i feel like i haven’t done anything for a week except read about colin kaepernick (i have done other stuff, my next post is going to be a wee painting i made of a grumpy owl), and i’m exhausted. for 24 hours i’ve been trying to figure out how to articulate my feelings about kaepernick, his protest and the reactions to it. about a half an hour ago i finally figured out a good place to start.
i don’t support kaepernick because of his bravery or patriotism. i don’t support him because of the first amendment. i don’t support him because his protest has allowed legions of braying racist hotheads make themselves look like assholes in print (although i’d be lying if i didn’t admit to deriving a wee bit of pleasure from that part of it). i support colin kaepernick because i agree with him. i agree with him that systemic racism and the oppression of black people and police brutality are serious problems in america that are not yet being adequately confronted, discussed and dealt with. i hope that he continues his efforts. i hope that more athletes join him. this week i can add eric reid and jeremy lane and nate boyer to the list of american football players i can actually name, and i hope that in the coming weeks that list’ll grow. frankly, i hope the 49rs front office will call the santa clara police dept’s bluff about threatening to pull their officers off the game detail. and this may be one too far, but i also hope that segment of the american population that continues to center this discussion on ridiculous assertions of kaepernick’s lack of patriotism etc., will come to its senses and join in the real discussion of how we as a society do the hard work needed to get past all the bullshit and be right with each other.