Cult of personality: Colin Kaepernick, July 4, and the ‘celebration of white supremacy’

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Colin Kaepernick tweeted over the weekend about July 4 being a “celebration of white supremacy,” which, OK, hate to admit it, his detractors were right, he really is all about himself.

I’m not sure how else to frame this latest salvo from Kaepernick, which was rather Trumpian in how it was an instance of Kaep not being able to revel in having been proven right.

The world is largely coming around to where the former NFL quarterback has been since he first took a knee during the national anthem back in 2016 to bring attention to racial injustice.

You might remember that he only had the backing of a handful of African-American players for what he was trying to do to that end back in 2016, and after he was effectively blackballed from the league a year later, it was made pretty clear from on high that protests of any kind from athletes would make you a persona non grata.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day, and protests that have drawn millions to the streets across the country in the weeks since, you’re now persona non grata in the sports world if you don’t make it clear that you’re on the side of the racial justice movement.

Which, OK, that and four bucks will get you an overpriced cup of coffee, but it’s a start.

Four years ago, you had a guy protesting injustice lose his job; now we’re falling over ourselves trying to signal support for doing the right thing.

This is a moment, and it could prove fleeting, if we don’t build from the momentum and turn the energy of the past several weeks into concrete action.

One way to slow down the momentum is to divide, which the president is doing today, with his tweets about NASCAR, Bubba Wallace, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians.

Kaepernick, I hope unwittingly, is playing at Trump’s level now.

There is nothing to be gained from calling out July 4 as a “celebration of white supremacy,” unless you actively don’t want people who aren’t white supremacists, do support the racial justice movement, and also believe that America, for all its flaws, is a beacon of freedom, liberty, democracy, to be on your side.

This is what Trump does, reducing everything to being us vs. them, one extreme vs. the other, and while it worked for Trump, cult of personality politics is at its core reductive, unproductive, ultimately destructive.

Kaepernick appears to want to make himself an alternative power center to the likes of Donald Trump, which, fine, but countering one source of racist ideology with another is going to do more harm to the greater cause than it could ever do any good.

Story by Chris Graham


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