Don’t think about Kaepernick: Just watch your football
It’s three years and counting since Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem.
And … Kaepernick is still without an NFL job.
And … you probably think he doesn’t deserve one.
Because no matter what side of the political divide you’re on, you’ve allowed the terms of the debate over Kaepernick to be framed as a protest against police, against the troops, against the flag, against America.
It was – and since Kaep is still without a job because of this, still technically is – a protest against racial injustice.
And it’s been something that I learned from.
On the face, I’m a white guy from a 95 percent white, 75 percent Republican small town, but I grew up wanting to be a civil-rights attorney.
I think it was because I was cognizant at an early age that injustice exists.
Definitely felt it myself. When you grow up poor, it’s right there in your face, that life isn’t fair, that some people are treated more equally than others, and that I was one of the others.
As an adult, then, I’d hear people talking about white privilege, and I’d bristle.
White privilege? So, I had advantages because I’m white?
I had nothing growing up, had to work my way through college, never had a hand out, a hand up, anything resembling help in any way, shape or form.
Middle-class white kids, sure. Rich white kids, sure.
Me, no, I wasn’t privileged.
The Kaepernick protests made me examine the concept again.
And I came to realize over time, OK, so, no, growing up poor and white didn’t afford me privileges vis-à-vis the middle-class and rich white kids.
But one thing: I never had to worry about what would happen if, say, I’d get pulled over for speeding, as actually has happened … four times in my life.
As a white guy, when the officer taps on the window to ask for my license and registration, he’s not as likely to have his hand on his holster.
As a white guy, if my home-security alarm goes off accidentally, as happened to me a year ago, the cops aren’t going to beat the door down, guns drawn, and arrest me, as happened recently to a black homeowner in Raleigh.
As a white guy, if I try to have a cookout in the park, the police aren’t going to get called.
I’m not likely to be arrested when I load my car after a weekend in an AirBnB.
The cops aren’t going to be engaged if I’m running for office and knocking on doors asking people to vote for me.
Every interaction an African American has with police has the potential to end with peril, for no other reason than the color of the skin of the private citizen involved.
That’s white privilege.
It’s also white privilege to be able to raise these issues without fear of repercussion in terms of losing your job.
Think again about Kaepernick. And then think about Chris Long, UVA alum, won Super Bowls with New England and Philadelphia, doing great things building wells for communities in Africa without access to fresh water.
Long didn’t kneel during the anthem, but he did put his arm around the shoulder of teammate Malcolm Jenkins as Jenkins raised his fist in the air as a protest during the anthem.
I mean, yeah, it wasn’t kneeling, and Long even went to pains to distance himself from the idea that he would dare kneel, reinforcing the idea that what Kaepernick did was somehow wrong, which, see above, and my point about even the most liberal of you reading this have allowed the debate over Kaep to be framed in that manner.
Even so. He at least did something.
And didn’t lose his job.
Never faced anything in terms of repercussions, aside from having to deal with a handful of Twitter trolls.
That’s white privilege.
The fact that Long’s tepid show of quasi-support is the most that we saw from a white NFL player is itself evidence of white privilege.
And you reading this, thinking, this isn’t a big issue.
Not your fight. You just want to watch football. Whatever.
Hey, good for you, you don’t have to worry about being shot and killed because you forgot to signal a right turn, because you’re grilling burgers, because your home-security alarm shorted, because you were walking on a sidewalk on a public street and somebody thought you looked like the guy who robbed the liquor store across town last week.
Back to watching your ball.
Column by Chris Graham