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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Kaepernick's Protest Has Both Good And Bad Parts

Despite being named to the backup quarterback position for the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick has already caused some to forget the name of the team's starting quarterback. How did he do this? He did so by refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. And his action, or inaction, was not noticed by anyone until the 3rd preseason game when it was the first time when he protested in uniform. Since then, Kaepernick has changed from sitting to kneeling during the anthem and, during practice, has worn socks that depict a pig wearing a police hat.



The good in Kaepernick's protest is in his courageous attempt to draw attention to the plight of those Blacks who have suffered from race based police brutality. He started this venture by himself. Since then, individuals and even whole teams from the NFL have found ways to join his protest. In addition, a US woman's soccer star, Megan Rapinoe, has decided to side with Kaepernick. 


We should note that racism is involved in some of the law enforcement and court cases we've seen in this nation which ranges from police injuring a child in a crib to the killing of unarmed Black men on the street to the killing of Blacks in custody to a Black man being awarded $18 in damages by a jury after police broke into his house, punched and tasered him all because of mistaken identity. If our nation thinks that it has solved its problems with racism, it has become delusional to the point of being psychotic.

So that part of Kaepernick's protest is both good and honorable and should be celebrated. The problem is that his protest has stirred much anger especially by those who describe themselves as patriotic Americans. The degree of anger felt and expressed by some is difficult to understand. For such anger is usually due to people feeling threatened or being morally outraged. And the question becomes how could the refusing to stand by one person for the playing of the National Anthem cause so much anger in some. Certainly none of these people could legitimately feel threatened by one person refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. And since when has  refusing to stand for the playing for the National Anthem become a greater moral failure than the race based violence that has cost some innocent people their very lives?


Of course, the reason for such anger can be found in how patriotism is defined and experienced by those who are so angry. When one's anger results from seeing someone's failure to properly respect something or someone who has a special status, one is often responding as an authoritarian rather than a patriot. Thus, the anger could be an expressed desire to force submission on others to a person, office, or symbol. And there is the irony here for those who call themselves American patriots to be so angry at Kaepernick for his protest since America and its flag are suppose to stand for freedom.  For nothing contradicts freedom more than forced submission.

Thus, the patriotic anger being expressed at Kaepernick for his protest is grossly mislabeled. Rather, what is being directed Kaepernick's way in actuality is an authoritarian response by those who care more about getting people to conform to what they do than to protect freedom or promote moral standards. In the end, we just might discover that this patriotism is like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in that it is simply another religion. And for some, these religions, including patriotism, end up being more about self worship or the worship of one's own group than the worship of some external entity.

But not all of Kaepernicks' protest here is good. He has worn socks that display cops as pigs. And this is as wrong and reprehensible as what Kaepernick is protesting. That is because depicting cops in this manner is as much a demonstration of bigotry as the racism he is protesting. In addition, the job of being a police officer is one of the most difficult jobs I can think of. I know that I certainly could never hold such a position. 


But here we should note that perhaps both the bigotry against the police and the bigotry seen in racism have some other things in common. One common attribute that both share is that they are examples of tribalism. I've always defined tribalism as when loyalty to one's group trumps one's commitment to morals and principles. The result of tribalism is that what is right and wrong is determined by who does what to whom. And one thing that drives tribalism is when people feel threatened. Such is what we see in the covering and excusing of police brutality as well as the excusing of violence and threats made toward the police. The more police brutality is protected from the enforcement of our laws, the more people, especially Blacks who suffer from racial profiling than most other groups, legitimately feel threatened. And the more disrespect and even violence that is shown toward the police, the more the police realistically feel threatened. And the more each group feels threatened, the more they wrongfully but understandably embrace tribalism and thus the more they become as gangs who oppose each other.

Kaepernick's protest, outside of the cited socks he has sometimes worn, is both honorable and good. But his calling attention to the issue of race based police brutality, as good as it is, is not enough. We need to combat the tribalism that each group is involved in here and falls prey to. Thus, we need for both the Black community and the police to reach out to each other to combat racism and police brutality. For as long as we tolerate tribalism by any group, we will continue to see current status quo thrive.


 

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