Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Colin Kaepernick is a brave man

Colin Kaepernick is a brave man. About that there can be little doubt.

His detractors, at least some of them, are not known for embracing subtlety or tolerating opposition. The American football-watching male has been trained to shout his views and belittle his opponents. Indeed, I have long felt that one of the responsible parties in the rise of Donald Trump has been sports-talk radio, with its endless bombast and argument-structure that celebrates winning at all cost and giving no quarter.

Colin Kaepernick is staging a protest. Protests should not be mildly inconvenient. They should shock the conscience to awaken the senses. A protest should raise hackles. A few weeks before his death in 1895, Frederick Douglass was asked what advice he would give to a young black American, "Agitate, Agitate, Agitate!" the old man answered. By calling into question the whole premise not only of our national anthem, but also the rituals surrounding our multi-billion dollar sports entertainment industry, Colin Kaepernick clearly is hearing Frederick Douglass.

In this simple action, or lack of action in this case, Kaepernick also points out the exploitative nature of professional sports, which use people to prop up this vast wealth-making machine only to discard them where they become too old or too damaged to thrill. Such a moment might arrive after 20 years of glory-filled plays or it could be after 20 minutes and a blown-out knee. That a professional football player can be lauded under the lights for 60 full minutes by 70,000 fans and then subject to dangerous interactions with the police on the way home when he pulls over with a flat tire is just one of the societal misconnections we Americans must address.

Much like the 1968 Mexico City Olympic protests that so indelibly seared a generational image into our national mind, Colin Kaepernick in his gesture has done something much braver and bigger than most. It certainly ridicules the white liberals who harangue other white liberals over their bona fides in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Colin Kaepernick has single-handedly ... and alone ... taken the fight to the lion's den. We wish him well.