Thoughts on Kaepernick, Patriotism, Law Enforcement, and Race in the US

I don’t generally post things of a polarizing or contraversay-esque nature on my boards. I tend to focus more on internal development, progress and stay away from opinion editorials; especially on subjects that may ellicit a lot of negative push-back. But something that has come up a lot lately is Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s, and he has certainly caused a ruckus.

If, for some reason, you’ve been under a rock and haven’t seen the plethora of reports lately on the subject, Kaepernick refused to stand during the regulatory playing of our nation’s Anthem during the team’s pre-season games. I don’t watch football, and even I have heard about, followed and read into this particular news nugget.

His reasoning is “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this 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.” (source: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem)

His comments referenced the shooting and subsequent killing of various African-American individuals by law enforcement – something which some feel is murder and others view as law enforcement either protecting themselves, others or following approved levels of protocol for actual/potentially violent situations. My opinion on which it is for the sake of this discussion is irrelevant.  His action, or lack of as the case may be, is his form of protest.

Now, there has been plenty of discussion surrounding this, as well as recently his choice to wear socks depicting cartoon styled pig wearing police hats during practices. (source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/49ers/2016/09/01/police-reaction-colin-kaepernick-pig-socks-san-francisco/89715672/) The socks, he’s explained on his personal Instagram, are something he’s been doing for a while and are worn during practice – not during the playing of the game itself – though it’s called into question the NFL’s stance over all on law enforcement when the Dallas Cowboys were denied the ability to wear decals on their helmets in honor of fallen officers and their support of Beyoncé’s Half-Time Performance during last year’s Super Bowl which appeared to be a sort of homage to the Black Panther Movement. Honestly however, if it’s practice than the NFL doesn’t truly have any legs to stand on, as they can wear what they like for practice rounds be it on or off the field. If he tries to wear them during a game, where uniforms are regulated – then it would be comparing apples to apples with the Dallas Cowboys (which, in my opinion, should have been allowed to do what they wished – though I also see the NFL’s stance of being consistent with their requirements for game day rules.)

There have been numerous posts on social media of prior fans, or rival teams fans, burning his jersey in counter-protest to his comments and actions. His patriotism as an American has been called into question. Comments akin to him leaving the country have been rampant in reply.

Which, I understand. But will also rather bother people I think is that I also understand where he is coming from as well. To clarify – I don’t agree with his beliefs or opinions and there are some aspects of things that make me stop and think for a moment about his comments and their similarities to things that all of this racial tension is stirring up – but I understand WHY he’s doing it and in all honestly, more power to him for doing so. He is, though many would hate to agree with this, exercising his right and privilege as a citizen of this country to voice his opinion, protest an injustice he feels is taking place and while using his celebrity and position – do it PEACEFULLY on a national scale to illicit conversation, debate and hopefully POSITIVE change for this country.

There were those that were claiming he was being disrespectful of our country, our flag and those that serve. Sure, I understand and see that point. But I myself never state the words “under God” when I recite our Pledge of Allegiance because I don’t agree with it; it wasn’t how the pledge was originally written and I whole heartedly feel there needs to be separation of church and state as the original Founding Fathers intended. (That is obviously a whole other discussion for another time) but that’s in itself a sort of silent protest – and one that many would claim was disrespectful of our country, and those that serve.

Kaepernick has clarified his stance – in particular surrounding those that serve in our military – during this past weekends game where instead of sitting, he took a knee. (source: http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/01/sport/nfl-preseason-49ers-chargers-colin-kaepernick-national-anthem/index.html) He means no disrespect to those that have fought and died for his very right to do exactly what he’s doing – and I commend him for that as much as I do his realization that needed to be clarified. Now, the comments I think are interesting are the ones where he states he has two uncles and various friends that are in law enforcement – which to me somewhat harkens to those that get riled up when someone states that they have family/friends who are black. To me, it simply shows how EVERYONE attempts to justify their actions against those that disagree with them and we ALL need to learn something through that.

But, this whole controversy does bring up some excellent and thought provoking points. In addition, I believe more and more of those that agree with Kaepernick will start to do the same as he has – and you can agree or not with their reasons. That is the glory that IS our country.

He can, and should, do exactly what he’s doing. More to the point, he’s literally doing it in a way that is beneficial – it’s peaceful, it’s obviously bringing attention nationally to the issues he wants to shed more light on, and he’s also doing it in part to protect the same said friends and family of his that are in law enforcement from those that would ultimately tarnish and disrespect the profession while hopefully fostering more equal and civil race relations in a country which OBVIOUSLY hasn’t disintegrated racial boundaries are well as it thought it may have through previous generations. There is far too much finger-pointing and lack of responsiblity on BOTH sides of the coin for it to be any one issue or reason – but again, that’s a conversation best left for another topic.

Those yelling for him to be fired – well, you have every right to that opinion, but you certainly don’t have the place to call for it nor should you. In all honesty, by his very action, he’s honoring the ideals that our men and women over the years have fought for – and indeed is doing it in a far greater way then any riots or violent protests would. He shouldn’t lose his job for his beliefs, as he’s not in a position which warrants being impartial. Sure, he may be a role model – but honestly I would FAR rather a children look up to someone willing to do something like this instead of the alternatives we’ve witnessed.

My thoughts are this – there are LEO’s who make mistakes and, given the nature of their profession, the outcomes of those mistakes can be deadly – lest I remind you that can go in EITHER direction. They know this. They accept this. They still go out there and do what we civilians expect of them. There are, as with any profession, a miniscule percentage of officers that are ‘bad’, ‘crooked’, ‘power hungry’. But of the roughly 700,000 officers in this country, we’re talking literally about a handful numerically and again, in this profession the unfortunate side of that is that the other 99.5% of officers, like Kaepernick’s uncles, who ARE doing this job for the right reasons, get painted with a broad and disastrous brush. One that they (the 99.5%) as well would like to eradicate.

We all, regardless race, gender, orientation or religion, have the right to voice our displeasure with the system and we all have the ability and resources to affect change – in either a positive or negative direction. We all can agree that there are aspects within both law enforcement, our racial issues and within certain subcultures that need to be addressed and corrected in a way that will be BENEFICIAL to everyone in question – not one person or group over another. We can also all agree that no one person or group has all the answers. If we did than we wouldn’t continue to be here. But we all need to LISTEN to BOTH sides of the equation before any resolution can be had. Until we do that, no progress can be made in EITHER direction.

I certainly don’t have all the answers either. But what I can say for certain is that the next few years, or even decades, will be a roller coaster and that in many ways, we’re going through a sort of renaissance in this country. One that I can only hope will bring about a more empathetic, positive and genuinely even country – both for those in law enforcement and how they are able to properly do their required jobs with all of its ugliness, trauma and stress, and for race relations so that we can be the nation we espouse ourselves to be. The USA is still the greatest nation in the world, I truly believe that. We have the resources available to make it better – if we take the time to listen.