The media has gravitated around Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, who sat during the national anthem at a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” said Kaepernick after the Packers 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.”
When I first heard about what Kaepernick did, all I saw was disrespect.
I thought it was not fair to make such a general statement about the country as a whole; he was essentially calling every white American a racist.
Obviously racism is still alive in America, you can see it in the existence of the KKK and other racial supremacy groups, in police shootings, in words people use, in social media, and much more.
What I still believe is that Kaepernick made the wrong decision using the national anthem as his platform, but he was within his rights as an American and I respect the purpose of his actions.
I just hope that it wasn’t misplaced.
I was only frustrated at first, but frustration turned into anger when Kaepernick wore socks with cartoon pigs with police hats on.
Kaepernick has also grown out his hair into an afro, which originated in the 1960s as a symbol of black pride.
We talked about Kaepernick in AP Government the day after this all happened, where we wrote down our opinions about the issue.
The class read a letter posted on Facebook that was written by a former police officer addressed to Kaepernick.
The letter seemed to reflect exactly what I was thinking: yes, there are corrupt police officers and they need to be punished.
But there are also officers who genuinely care about the safety of their community and would sacrifice their lives for their jobs, and it is not fair to pool all police officers together as racist “pigs”.
Racial tension has escalated dramatically in the past few years with riots in Baltimore, Ferguson, Dallas, Baton Rouge, and Milwaukee – only to name a few.
In the time that we live in people have to tread lightly in order to not offend someone, and I am doing this right now while writing this article.
Why identify as a supporter of “Black Lives Matter”, or “Blue Lives Matter”, or “All Lives Matter” when there is always somebody who will be there to call you ignorant and wrong.
People who are trying to make a change don’t always care what other people think, which sometimes is a necessary evil in order to catalyze change and reform.
On the opposite side of the backlash, Kaepernick has received support from a few other football players, and even President Obama, who remained impartial on the issue specifically but reinforced Kaepernick’s constitutional right.
The sale of Kaepernick’s jersey has skyrocketed in the past couple weeks, and even the rapper J. Cole wore his jersey to one of his recent concerts.
The only way to destroy racism is for people to simply understand that nobody is the same, and that includes the color of your skin, your sexuality, your gender, and your culture.
Everybody comes from different backgrounds, and each person has a personalized set of beliefs, but it is not fair to civilization to push aside anything that is unusual or different.
It is our differences that let us learn from each other, and become better as a whole.
Everybody has preconceived notions of what is “normal”, the best examples of this are in sexuality and in race.
Think as a person who grows up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and everybody you know, everything you read, and everything you watch growing up is heterosexual.
Out of that upbringing will come some sort of prejudice, no matter how miniscule, that will always cross your mind.
It is up to each person to get past their prejudices to be able to help and understand others without bias.
In order to understand the actions of others, you have to put yourself in their place; that is the closest you can get to thinking like them without actually experiencing what they do.
You can say that you wouldn’t shoot a black man if you were a cop, but imagine yourself thinking that you’re in danger and all you have is a gun to defend yourself. You have a wife and two kids who are in elementary school and you don’t want them to grow up with only one parent.
You can say that racism and the Black Lives Matter movement is being blown out of proportion, but imagine yourself with friends and family who have been subject to discrimination or punishment because of the color of their skin. You would have spite for anybody who has hurt you or somebody you know.
I firmly believe that nobody can be judged unless you have “taken a walk in their shoes”, as cliché as it sounds.
Especially as a privileged white male, I have to try my best to realize that there are people who have issues and face obstacles that I may never experience in my life.
People may think that Kaepernick made the wrong decision, but now he has everybody talking.
Isn’t that what he wanted?