Colin Kaepernick Needs a History Lesson in the Art of The American Protest
San Francisco quarterback, Colin Kaepernick may not have been a household name last year but this year he is standing out for his alleged stance of not standing during the performance of the U.S. National Anthem as a form of protesting police brutality in America. Originally, he was a chorus of one but as time marched on, other athletes joined in on the protest by not standing as well. His actions have outraged many and there is the divide of questioning his patriotism versus his right to protest. His right to protest is guaranteed but it is the methodology that many are perturbed by.
And while this notoriety is overshadowing his talents as a NFL quarterback, has Mr. Kaepernick fully explored what it is to be the new face of protesting a cause? America is known for its protest. WE have thrived on them for hundreds of years starting with the original American protest, the Boston Tea Party back in 1773. There was a long dry spell until the Women's Suffrage Movement came into existence during the mid 1800's. Women protested for the right to vote just like their counterparts. It took them 41 years to reach that goal but it was done. For many in the latter century starting in the 1960's, protests became the norm. We had the Civil Rights Movement if 1963; we had the Vietnam Anti-War Movement that saw a president not seek nor accept the Democratic Party nomination for a second term in office and we had the Black Panther Party Movement which was a movement for equality in basic rights and services. You also had the National Farm Workers Association founded and headed by Cesar Chavez who fought for labor rights and pay equality for the farm laborers who tolled under the hot sun for pennies on the dollar while the agribusiness execs reaped in the fortune from their air conditioned suites.
These protests brought about significant change to the millions not just the one. So what is Mr. Kaepernick's goals? He's led a privileged life. He gets paid more that a comfortable income where is is afforded perks the average citizen will never see in his lifetime. The Black Lives matter protest has been going on for quite some time. Was he a part of this movement? He wasn't vocal in the Furgenson, Missouri protest. He wasn't vocal in the Sandra Bland suicide by cop case in Texas. He wasn't vocal in the Philando Castille case either. So why now? It's not like these cases and the hundreds before and after them went unnoticed. It's an unfortunate reality in America that police brutality imposed on people of color has been around for decades.
Jose Campos Torres was a 23 year old American Vietnam veteran who was handcuffed, beaten up and tossed into a bayou where he drowned back in 1977. Six Houston, Texas police officers were involved in this killing. Two stood trial for his murder. For their sentencing, they received a one year probation and a $1 fine for negligent homicide. The other four were tried in federal court and received nine months each. What followed were the infamous Moody Park riots, a drastic form of protest.
We saw this type of police brutality in its full glory 1n 1991, Rodney King became a victim of perhaps one of the worst police beaten ever witnessed on camera. Shot from his apartment, George Holliday recorded this incident that was seen around the world and had reached the same status as the Zapruder film Kennedy Assassination. We watched as King was pummeled over and over again. We were yelling at the television for King to just stay down and not move. We recognized our own selves in these images. It resonated an anger that once again what we knew in a community had leaked out into the American consciousness for the entire world to view. Subsequently, the officers were acquitted of the charges on the state level and the LA riots would soon be the aftermath that led to other innocents being harmed. This drastic form of protest, while severe in nature, appears as the only outcome after years of the community feeling subjected and brutalized by the LA County police force. Two wrongs doesn’t make a right.
You would thing that lessons would have been learned in the Torres case and in the King case. Sadly, Kaepernick is sitting on the sidelines not studying his history. He needs to stand up and become involved if what he believes to be true. Rosa Parks got arrested for her stand on not moving from a bus seat. I'm not suggesting that Laepernick be arrested for what he believes in, I would prefer for him to be more progressive in his actions. What is sitting or kneeling doing in the grand scheme of stopping police brutality? Is he speaking to law enforcement about the perception of police brutality? Does he have any friends in law enforcement? As he attended any meetings with law enforcement personnel about what they experience everyday dealing with the community? Has he gone on any ride alongs just to see what the police officers face when they roll up on a traffic stop situation?
In this new territory of social media, a cause can burn brightly real fast in the breakfast hour and by the time dinner rolls around, it can quickly be extinguished. Kaepernick's cause is slowly losing fuel. He he wishes to stay invested in his cause, he needs to ask himself what is the goal, what is the objective, what will the end results will be. If ending police brutality is the objective, speaking to your police commissioners and sheriffs may be a way of breaking ground and making your point a just and valid argument. Otherwise, Kaepernick is just fumbling the ball and losing yardage and then you start to lose the people.