— deray mckesson (@deray) September 2, 2016
A national spotlight has been cast upon Colin Kaepernick for his protest of the national anthem. He’s been called anti-American. He’s been called anti-military. Kaepernick is neither and does not harbor resentment for America or its military. He’s not starting some mythical race war. What Kaepernick has done, which is particularly radical for a black athlete in America, is unapologetically challenge the societal structures that oppress people of color.
His silent protest of the flag has sparked an ongoing discourse on racial inequalities and Kaepernick does not intend to shy away from that discussion. He addressed the media about his message after the Niners final preseason game.
Kaepernick quickly put to rest any notion that he is anti-military or anti-American. In fact, veterans are some of the very people that Kaepernick is fighting for. Men and women in the military fight for our freedoms and Kaepernick wants to ensure that every American receives those freedoms equally.
“I think it’s a misunderstanding. The media painted this as I’m anti-American, anti men and women of the military, and that’s not the case at all. I realize that men and women of the military put themselves in harm’s way for my freedoms of speech and my freedom in this country and my freedom to take a seat or take a knee. I have the utmost respect for them. I think what I did was taken out of context and spun a different way.
“It’s something to make sure that I wasn’t just talking about something, but being involved and actively trying to make a change in these communities. I’ve been very blessed to be in this position and make the kind of money I do. I have to help these people. 22 military vets a day commit suicide, but this country will let the vets go and fight the war for them but when they come back they won’t do anything to try to help him. That’s another issue. These issues need to be addressed.”
Kaep is most likely referring to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is woefully understaffed and overwhelmed. Fixing a highly dysfunctional government organization may not be within the scope of a professional athlete, but Kaepernick wants to start a sharper discussion on the issue. Mending these broken structures requires pressure, and that pressure can only be applied if the general public has conversation that makes them uncomfortable.
“The message is we have a lot of issues in this country that we need to deal with. We have a lot of people that are oppressed. We have a lot of people that aren’t treated equally; that aren’t given equal opportunities. Police brutality is a huge thing that needs to be addressed. There are a lot of issues that need to be talked about that need to be brought to life. We need to fix those things.
“Something that’s hard to address is what the real issues are and coming to the point where we can admit that these are issues. Once we admit that we can deal with them, we can fix them and we can make this country, these communities a better place.”
Police brutality has been a sticking point in Kaepernick’s message. He wore socks in practice that depicted cops as pigs that predictably made people mad online. It’s easy, convenient rather, to reduce Kaepernick’s message to those socks and dismiss his entire message on equality. A large portion of people probably tuned Kaepernick out once they saw those pigs on his feet. Those same people probably never took the time to read about racist text messages circulating in the San Francisco Police Department. The same department that demanded an apology from Kaepernick after he protested the flag.
These issues, and Kaepernick’s protest, will not feather into the ether. Kaepernick does not have the look of someone who plans to shy away anytime soon.
“Yes, I am planning to take it a step further. I’m currently working with organizations to be involved. Making sure I’m actively in these communities. As well donating the first $1 million I make this year to help these communities and then help these people.”
Colin Kaepernick’s message reads crystal clear, even if blind nationalism attempts to muddy it.