Edwards supports Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem before a preseason game, and his willingness to face the consequences for doing so. But people who voice opinions on police killings of minorities also must be no less vocal on the madness of killing police.
Editor’s note: While reporting for his column on 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent decision to sit during the national anthem before a preseason game, Seattle Times columnist Matt Calkins contacted Dr. Harry Edwards, a sociologist and longtime advocate for human and civil rights, for comment. Kaepernick was protesting because he believes the U.S. oppresses African Americans and other minorities. Dr. Edwards, who also is a 49ers consultant, submitted the following:
My position on Kaep is that he absolutely has a constitutional right to express his opinion on the politics of diversity in America today. He is courageous, well informed and steadfast in his position. He is evolving through an “awakening” and ( perhaps) really understanding for the first time — given his background — the true depth and scope of the history of anti-black racial hatred and injustice in America.
And because it appears to have “come to him” through self-education, suddenly as a stark, jarring awareness and reality (rather than over time through growing up from Day 1 being socialized in the “racial truths” in this “land of the free”), his response seems from afar more akin to that of a man startled awake to his house on fire than the result of a deliberately crafted articulation of a considered political position.
As to those outside of the “sports fraternity” who are critical of Kaep, that’s their opinion (for what ever it’s worth) and they are entitled to it. With regard to former/current players who are publicly critical of Kaep (such as Giants receiver Victor Cruz and Vikings offensive lineman Alex Boone), I have much respect for them and they, too, are entitled to their opinion.
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But given that they, too, are taking advantage of their forums as NFL players to oppose Kaep, I would take their opinion on what Kaep is doing more seriously if I could see their protest statements regarding Eric Garner being choked to death (only a few miles from where Cruz practices and plays football) or on the killing of Philando Castile (just outside St Paul, Minn., and minutes from where Boone lines up to play football).
I would really like to see their expressed opinions of outrage regarding the killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., or 12-year old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, or 7-year old Aiyana Jones in Detroit, or Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and the scores of others who have died at the hands of police since 2012, and the senseless death of Oscar Grant on the BART platform in Oakland.
I’d love to see their protest statements on the systematic economic underdevelopment of black communities for generations by both government and private mainstream corporate interests, underdevelopment that has so devastated the institutional viability of most of these communities that crime and violence exist on the scale of pandemic public-heath issues. I eagerly await their records of protest over systematic anti-black job and educational discrimination, or over the institution of unconscionable rates of black male prison incarceration.
And as to those who have the arrogance and audacity to bring up the old “honoring the flag is honoring our soldiers” trope, black soldiers have fought and died in every war that this nation has ever waged. And those who returned home typically were confronted with the same old institutionalized abysmal levels of racism and radical discrimination, and at times with race-based hatred that was so virulent, so rapacious that some were lynched or otherwise killed in the very uniforms they had worn risking their lives and fighting for freedom abroad. And today the numbers of military veterans who are jobless, homeless and in need of critical social and medical services — a disproportional number of them are African Americans — constitutes a morally and politically unconscionable outrage.
I would be very interested in their records of protest about these circumstances, since they are so dedicated to “honoring our soldiers” that they would caustically criticized Kaepernick for sitting during the national anthem.
If they have no such record of equally vehement protest, no less critical than what they have waged against Kaep — well , perhaps it’s time for them to sit down as well. Talk is cheap, especially when it is expediently wrapped in patriotism and the flag. In any case, no one has the moral, much less the political, standing to preach to black people about any obligation to “honor our soldiers” by way of adhering to some arbitrarily arrived at (typically conservative mainstream-defined) mode of “patriotic” behavior deemed mandatory during the playing of the national anthem at sports-entertainment venues. (It became a tradition between World War I and World War II as a way of sports organizations demonstrating their “patriotism” in the face of widespread criticism of strong, healthy young men at home playing games while other men of their ages were laying their lives on the line at war.)
Still, having said all this, it is nonetheless necessary that there should be due focus upon other, more patently subjective considerations: though Kaep is right, the argument indeed can be levied that what is right is not always appropriate, what is appropriate is not always best, and what is best is not always timely and wise. These subjective concerns also must inform this discourse and frame the questions germane here.
Consequently, the discussion legitimately cannot be limited only to the substance and immediate visuals of what Kaep is saying/doing — as if his words and actions are occurring in a vacuum, in isolation. The interrogation of Kaep’s words and actions must take into consideration the context and background developments cited, compounded by the challenges of this historical era (with one presidential candidate openly mocking Gold Star parents and declaring that a U.S. senator and former prisoner of war is “no military hero because heroes don’t get captured,” and both candidates/parties openly accusing each other of being racist/catering to — among other things — racial-interest groups and movements. Meaning that whoever wins, black people at a minimum have reason for continued heightened vigilance).
We must all consider as well that while black parents are having “the conversation” with their sons and daughters about what to do when stopped by a cop, the sons and daughters of cops are having “the conversation” with their parents every day they walk out of the house wearing that badge — “Be careful, we want you to be safe out there and come home tonight.” While we are voicing our opinions on police killings, we must be no less vocal on the madness of killing police.
Under the circumstances, again, I support Kaep in stating his opinions, the method and vehicle that he has chosen to employ toward those ends, and his willingness to face the consequences for doing so. I do now and have all my life more than anything else abhorred silence in the face of injustice. In this regard, silence is evil’s greatest and most consistently dependable ally.
So I have no problem with Colin Kaepernick also breaking his silence, standing up and declaring — “Silence on injustice? No! Not so long as I have this platform and anything to say about it!”
His problem is that he isn’t saying enough.