Social Media, Kaepernick, and You

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kapMillions of people are talking about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem. But what exactly does his protest prove?

On social media, two basic opinions abound. One opinion is that Kaepernick’s actions are justified; that his protest somehow helps people who are oppressed by systemic, institutional racism and white supremacy. The other dominant opinion is that it’s ridiculous for a professional athlete and millionaire to identify with either the actual or perceived oppression of blacks in America.

Regardless of your opinion, once you log off social media and return to actuality, (if you ever do) you’re left with yourself alone. And what does Kaepernick have to do with YOU?

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who follow sports religiously, you might feel justified in being outraged and  outspoken against the athlete. Whether you believe Kaepernick’s protest is outrageous or outstanding, you have something in common with the opposing side in this debate: You’re discussing the NFL.

You might say, “I’m discussing racism” or “entitlement”–not football. But a discussion about Kaepernick is a discussion about celebrity, wealth, popularity, and yes, football.

How many times, in your ACTUAL LIFE,  have you glanced around the room during the national anthem or the pledge of allegiance to see how many dissenters were present? And when you caught someone “protesting,” did you take a stand and publicly denounce his or her actions? Did you applaud the person and stand in unity and defiance against the corruption that is “AmeriKKKa”? Furthermore, when was the last time you saw or heard racism in an offline environment? Were you the victim or the perpetrator? A bystander? What did you do? Oh. That’s right: You vented about it on social media.

The average reader will be tempted to turn the discussion back to Kaepernick, but let’s focus on YOU for a moment. Do you use racial slurs in private? Do you secretly hate America for its history of colonialism? Do you wish black people would shut up about being “oppressed?” Do you wish white people would shut up about black people needing to shut up about being “oppressed?”

As people engage in virtual arguments about whether racism exists or not, the greater argument is internal and secretive: “Am I a racist? Am I a victim of racism? Am I both? Will racism ever end? Do I care? Should I care?”

Whether you believe Kaepernick’s protest is appropriate or ignorant, arguing with your friends and associates is “taking the easy way out.” (Posting memes supporting either opinion qualifies as arguing.) Very few people acknowledge that the most important argument is against the self: “Am I oppressed? Am I an oppressor? Am I good? Am I bad? Who am I?”

The nationwide outcry about Kaepernick’s protest proves that sports matter. Football matters. Celebrities matter. Whether or not black lives, blue lives, white lives, or “all” lives matter–and to what degree, and in what order, has yet to be determined. In the meantime, football continues to trend.

 

 

 

Ferguson, Mike Brown and the Fear of Angry Blacks

Tensions surrounding the officer-involved shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have caused racial issues to come to the forefront of collective thought and discussion. Red and yellow, black and white; all types of Americans are discussing multiple topics from civil liberties to racism in response to the August 9 killing of unarmed, 18-year-old Mike Brown.

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Who’s afraid of angry blacks? (Instagram photo)

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Do you feel threatened by this peaceful demonstrator? (Instagram photo)

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This peaceful protestor enjoyed a bag of chips (left hand) while returning tear-gas to a group of state troopers in fatigues with automatic weapons and (gasp) dogs. (Instagram photo)

Immediately following the killing, the world’s attention was diverted to Saint Louis County’s militarized police force as they employed armored tanks, threw tear gas and instructed snipers to take aim at peaceful protestors; local government officials, Ferguson residents, activists, concerned citizens and journalists. Clearly there is an undiscussed fear of black unrest; hence the shoot-first antics of police officers in urban communities nationwide and the over zealous show of force as a preventative measure against mounting anger.

What aren’t we saying about Ferguson? Following State Patrol Captain Ron Johnson’s show of good-will; his appointment as safety-chief for the duration of the protests, and the peaceful atmosphere that persisted after he marched among demonstrators; passing out hugs and handshakes while promising to protect the people, the infamous robbery video emerged and seemingly undid the peaceful progress in an instant. In the aftermath of viewing Mike’s alleged shoplifting shenanigans, what have we subconsciously learned?

What does the video prove? Although the alleged theft is not a justification for the shooting officer’s actions, the video proves that Mike Brown was big, strong and scary. Stereotypes or facts?

Black people, both male and female, are often characterized as being aggressive, volatile and downright dangerous. Is this a true assessment of oppressed, frustrated black America? Could it be true that black people are angry? Could it be more than a stereotype that black people are violent? Call it a stereotype, or call it a justifiable attitude in the face of generational racist trauma; but call it something. Until we do, it is an elephant in the room.

Obviously it was wrong to execute Mike Brown in the middle of the street on a Saturday afternoon; regardless of what he stole. But will the shooting officer admit to being afraid of rebellious and volatile black teens and young adults? Will he admit that he was frightened because a large and aggressive black man did not immediately cower at the sight of his police cruiser?

Will the cop admit that he’s afraid of aggressive blacks and views them as an unmanageable, irrational and unreasonable bunch who threaten the well-being of communities by virtue of their very existence? Will he admit that he should never have been employed in law enforcement because when it comes to a strong and angry black man, his only defense is a pistol?

Will the officer face the public and admit that he believes the community is better off without men like Mike? Will he admit that saying, “Get the fuck out of the street,” was an assertion of his bravado; that he thought vocal aggression, his cop car and badge were sufficient to intimidate the two youths into submission. Will he admit that he felt helpless after realizing that between himself and the two youths, he was the only one who was afraid?

Will the officer admit that he became enraged and frightened by the audacity of Mike Brown to not back down? Will he admit that he was red-faced and sweaty-palmed with veins enlarged and adrenaline pumping, as he reached for his pistol? Or will he just describe the imminent danger he imagined and predicted for himself and the community; and the imaginary weapon Mike could have had?

What’s the appropriate response when you’ve got an angry black who won’t back down? We don’t know Mike’s state of mind. We don’t know what he said to the officer. However the video footage shows his aggression. It shows his fearlessness. The video shows his towering and bulky physical stature. It shows his lack of regard for the convenience store’s self-appointed loss control agent.

So what’s the procedure when a race of oppressed, yet strong black people decide to say, “Fuck the police,” whether in word or in deed? What’s the procedure when the guns and badges no longer scare young black America? Apparently the procedure is to kill.