Thursday, September 01, 2016

Sitting is the New Politically Pointless

I pay close attention to actual news but none whatsoever to sports, especially football, because I find it incomprehensible and dull as a box of rocks. It therefore took me a while to notice that one Colin Kaepernick, an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was causing quite a stir because he didn’t stand up for the national anthem before a game last week, and is now being criticized for wearing socks with images of cartoon pigs wearing police hats during team practice sessions.

It took a little research to discover that this white-looking young man is in fact biracial; was adopted and raised by white parents; has friends and relatives on assorted police forces; and professes genuine respect for proper law enforcement. But he has become so increasingly outraged by the violence against blacks by some cops that he felt he “had to do something” to express his distress, as well as contribute to general awareness of the problem.

Being a paleface biracial person myself, as well as equally disgusted by the systemic racism that is an undeniable element in the majority of American police/sheriff departments, I understand the quasi-guilt and sense of responsibility to “do something” that Colin feels.  However, as someone who spent decades employing non-violent efforts to effect social change, I have to say I think his action is lame, ineffectual, and lazy.

I don’t know why all major sports events begin with a patriotic ritual, and I can see why Colin felt, given his stature, that he was making a statement. I hear there’s another “big game” tonight and he may do it again. Big deal. To those who’ll cheer, he’s just preaching to the converted. To those who boo, he’s not getting through, he’s not making a whit of difference.

Colin, you’re no Rosa Parks. When she refused to stand up on a bus in the deeply segregated south in the 1950s, that was a political act. And, what most people didn’t know then and still don’t know now, is that she wasn’t just some tired, anonymous little black lady who spontaneously decided she was equally tired of the racist status quo. She was a schooled, committed activist who had agreed to keep her seat in order to get arrested and help launch the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.

What you’re doing is essentially performance art. What you should be doing, Mr. Many-Multi-Millionaire football player, is using some of those millions to make a real difference: help support re-training and community policing programs; pay for a bunch of police body cameras; pay the medical bills of some victims of police violence who didn’t die, or give some meaningful money to families of the deceased.

You might also want to put up a few billboards in major cities, make a TV commercial, or write an op-ed for a major publication to get your message across. (If you need a ghostwriter, I can recommend someone… .) Contribute to organizations that are already working on this problem; visit the unfairly incarcerated in a few prisons; put a few black kids through college, kids who don’t have the skill to get a sports scholarship. Think outside the box and do your part to make a statement and help make a difference in a meaningful way.

But when you’re on the field, stand up (thereby encouraging people to hear and respect you, rather than jeer and reject you) and play the game you are being paid an obscene, ridiculous, amount of money to play. When you’re doing whatever it is a quarterback does, nobody gives a damn about your politics.

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