Policing, Protesting, and Patriotism: Navigating Kaepernick, Crutcher, and Charlotte
While his play on the field has suffered considerably over the past two seasons, causing him to lose his starting position, Colin Kaepernick, the once revered quarterback, famous for his flamboyant touchdown celebrations, has managed to remain a fixture in the media spotlight.
During the pre-game ceremony of the singing the national anthem, the quarterback remained seated, and in the post-game interview, he spoke candidly about not standing “… up to show pride in a flag of a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
He was silently protesting what he deemed as unfair treatment and wrongdoings committed against African-Americans and other minorities in this country, stating that he would continue to do so until issues of systemic racism, economic inequalities, mass incarcerations, and the murder of unarmed blacks at the hands of police were addressed.
His protest was met with mixed sentiments. On one hand, NFL personnel, as well as coaches and players from the collegiate and high school level, have followed suit by kneeling or raising fists of solidarity during the Star-Spangled Banner at sporting events. On the other hand, his protest has been met with vitriol, with some critics challenging his patriotism, claiming that kneeling during the national anthem is both unpatriotic and an affront to the troops who’ve served our nation.
But is this a fair critique of his of his peaceful protest? This nation, while grappling with its hypocrisy of slavery, was founded on a protest. Was the Boston Tea Party unpatriotic in their protest of Mother England? Were the 200,000 men and women that descended on Washington on August 28, 1963, to hear Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech unpatriotic? What about the woman’s suffrage movement that fought to grant women rights to vote?
No, these groups are revered for protesting the indignities of oppressed people groups. More than anything else, Kaepernick is exercising a constitutional right that many of his ancestors weren’t afforded; rarely are social protests welcome by the dominant culture.
Without a doubt, we, who enjoy the freedoms of America, owe a debt of gratitude to those who fought, sustained injury and died serving this country. Sadly, since the founding of this nation, millions of Americans have lost their lives to preserve the freedoms of the U.S.
While some may not like the manner of his protest, those who served our country did so for people like Kaepernick to enjoy the privilege of protesting against what they feel to be unjust. While some may not like his methodology, we must respect that his rights have been insured by the courageous men and women that served this country.
The Lapel-Grabbing Truth
While some will continue to challenge his patriotism and the sincerity of his motives, we cannot ignore the lapel-grabbing truthfulness of his message – vulnerable people of color are systemically oppressed in the United States through, what the Princeton scholar Dr. Imani Perry calls, “post-intentional racism.”
It’s a contemporary understanding of racism that isn’t reduced to intentional acts of bigotry, subconscious prejudice, or the faulty belief of human determinism, but it’s a bird’s eye view of racism through a structural, institutional, and psychological lens. This form of systemic racism is based upon a particular set of assumptions and narratives that are socially constructed.
From an institutional perspective, consider Nixon and Regan’s failed War on Drugs campaign that disproportionally targeted men of color. Because of their failed efforts, drug use has remained relatively the same since it’s inception, but the likelihood of men of color spending time behind bars is exponentially higher than whites.
While blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate, blacks are 3 times more likely to be arrested for possession. Economically speaking, black people have the highest rate of poverty among any people group in the United States, and black families possess 2.7 percent of the wealth of the typical white family. This disparity can be seen in housing, employment, and most glaringly, in the disproportionate number of unarmed African-Americans killed by police.
In 2015 alone, policed killed 102 unarmed black people, and despite comprising only 13 percent of the population, unarmed blacks represented 37 percent of the total number of people killed by police. Unarmed blacks are killed at 5 times the rate of unarmed whites.
One of the most disturbing findings of the studies discovered that only 10 of the 102 cases of unarmed blacks killed resulted in an indictment of police officer, and of those 10, only 2 of those cases resulted in convictions of the officers involved. 1 of those officers received jail time for their conviction and was allowed to serve the one-year sentence exclusively on the weekends.
The Killing of Unarmed People of Color Has Continued
This year bears striking similarities. In 2016, 780 people have been killed by police with 193 – or approximately 25 percent of them being African-American. Since Kaepernick’s protest began, 15 African-Americans have been killed by police, with one of the most recent being Terence Crutcher.
Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma released videos that showed the 40-year-old Crutcher, with his arms above his head when police shot and killed him in the street as he returned to his car. The video discredits the officer’s original claim that Crutcher ignored the officer’s warning to raise his hands, leading to the officer being charged with 1st degree manslaughter.
The recent incidences of Philado Castillo, Alton Sterling, Korryn Gaines, and Keith Lamont Scott, along with the statistics, demonstrate the deep need for police reform and accountability in America.
Kaepernick isn’t kneeling to the chagrin of the valiant troops that served our country heroically; he’s kneeling to protest and say that the freedoms the troops fought haven’t been actualized for certain people groups. While some may not agree with his means of protest, we have to commend him on continuing to keep these issues at the forefront of this nation’s conversation.
Next time, I’ll discuss police reform, and some actionable steps to see the change in our communities. Until then, let’s mourn with those who mourn, and weep with those who weep until justice is realized.
Grace and peace.
4 thoughts on “Policing, Protesting, and Patriotism: Navigating Kaepernick, Crutcher, and Charlotte”
Thank you pastor Grant for your insight. I too pledged allegiance to my flag with out knowing that the framers of the Constitution only intended “justice for” some. I too sang the Star Spangle Banner without knowing that the “land of the free” that the writer was writing about did not apply to the dark man; nor did I know he owned some or at least claimed 3/5 of some. I was ignorant of what the words I was saying meant to some of my fellow country men. But now that I am a Christian, I care what those words do to the hearts of some of my brothers and sisters. It is the empathy of Christ I think that has given me the true eyes of history. Some times I wish I didn’t know how some of the church considers or cares little about it’s own. I had hoped for better in the church than I have seen. But you know, it seems a paradox when the truth of Romans 13 becomes clear as God uses His secular government officials to corrected the church in it’s sin when the church will not obey scripture. I hope we don’t need it again. I pray God will open the eyes of the light man of God to share power and influence with the dark man of God before God takes it from us all. I think there is hope in some. I think there is hope in you. Praying for us now.
I appreciate the reply, Mr Grant. I went back and read Dr. Hill’s article. It seems, then, that by this definition of racism, there are no racists. Or are we are all racists? But if it’s everyone, then it’s no one. So odd: racism with no racists! You have to revert back to the more widely used definition of racism (intentional bigotry or racial favoritism) to find a meaningful way to say that someone is a racist.
Am I wrong? How would you define a racist person? Do you consider anyone to be a racist? If so, by what definition?
I’m not prevaricating, I just want to keep all the nuances straight and find some clarity. Thanks again!
Ernest Cleo Grant, II
Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Take some time to click the link. I think Dr. Marc Lamont Hill explains very clearly that “post-intentional racism” is less about individual acts of racism, such as the stigmatization of African-Americans and discrimination in housing, and more about subtle institutional processes that often reproduces segregation. Yes, individual acts of racism still occur, but systemic racism is more prevelant and wider reaching. So, its argued, that racism should be view from an institutional vantage point and not limited to an individual perspective. Furthermore, it’s hard for blacks to be racist when when majority culture is the ruling power. Black have been vicitmized by such social structures
more than they have been complict with them.
Honest question: If racism today (post-intentional racism) isn’t defined by “intentional acts of bigotry, subconscious prejudice, or the faulty belief of human determinism, but rather, is “a bird’s eye view of racism through a structural, institutional, and psychological lens,” then can there even be such a thing as a racist person anymore?
If yes, and if racist people are primarily defined as those maintaining systems of racism, then couldn’t people of color serving those social constructions now be considered racists as much as whites? Or is it just white people who maintain these systems?