• author
    • Terri Connett

    • September 22, 2016 in Columnists

    Taking a knee with Kaepernick

    When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick bravely took a stand by sitting down and later taking a knee during our national anthem – I stood up and cheered.

    Could this be it? Are we finally ready to admit racism exists and conduct this critically important national dialogue? Is the long-awaited follow up to then-presidential candidate, Barack Obama’s eloquent speech on race going to materialize? It was shocking, after all, when Barack revealed how his white grandmother feared black men on the street. Never before had we heard such honesty from someone at that level. Surely after he won the presidency, twice, this nation could admit to and then begin to heal its racial divide. So now, finally, would a 27-year-old, bi-racial football player effectively bring ebony and ivory together during President Obama’s concluding days in the White House?

    Oh hells no.

    Kaepernick has been slammed for being unpatriotic, anti-American, disdainful of the military, lousy at his quarterbacking job, ungrateful of his millionaire status and for not being black enough. Sound familiar? Oh, and Allah forbid, he has a Muslim girlfriend. Colin Kaepernick took a virtual knee to the nuts in social media.

    Mothers of dead soldiers wagged their fingers. Facebook fools set Kaepernick jerseys aflame. Most have brutally chastised him and his motives. But some, like former Green Beret and Seahawks player, Nate Boyer, actually had a conversation with Kap and concluded he is exercising his right as a citizen to speak his mind. Boyer said that freedom, afforded to us all by the First Amendment, is what he fought for in Iraq and Afghanistan. A handful of fellow ballers and one lesbian soccer star have genuflected in support of the cause.

    Oh right, the cause! Kaepernick couldn’t have been any clearer. He said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

    Stunningly, less than three weeks after Kaepernick’s protests gained national attention, a 13-year-old black boy with a toy BB gun was shot in the back and killed by police in Columbus. A short week later a 43-year-old disabled black man sitting in a parking lot was shot and killed by police in Charlotte. This same week a 40-year-old black man, who was cooperating with his hands up against his disabled vehicle, was shot and killed by police in Tulsa.

    African Americans have been telling us for decades they were being treated unfairly by police. For every cell phone or sky video we have as proof, how many incidents are there we don’t see? Two? Two hundred? We have no choice but to believe they have been telling the truth. This is racism.

    Nineteen months after Flint’s drinking water tested at dangerously high levels for lead, the town’s water is still undrinkable. Does anyone really think if this were a city with a white majority population the water would still be brown?

    In July of this year, African Americans in North Carolina were found, by the federal appeals court, to be “targeted with almost surgical precision” to restrict their voting and registration rights in that state’s strict 2013 voting law. Since the Civil War ended and blacks were given the right to vote, practices like literacy tests and poll taxes were enacted to disenfranchise the black voter. North Carolina’s voting law is no different. This is racism.

    And speaking of racists, yes it’s time to talk about the orange one, Donald Trump’s eight-second proclamation did not erase five years of calling for our first black President to release his birth certificate. The King of the Birther Movement’s relentless attempts to delegitimize our President, even after Obama actually did present his “papers” were racist. Period.

    Donald Trump’s vow to abolish political correctness is code for ending social justice and human decency. If Trump is elected, I fear all the closet racists will crawl out like cockroaches onto the bathroom floor of a Florida motel. Bigoted mouth breathers will feel free to use the ‘N’ word in public. Confederate flags will flap along the highways from the beds of pickup trucks. The Washington Redskins controversy may finally end, but the new Washington Skinheads will just open another can of worms.

    There are countless reasons a Trump presidency would be terrible for this country. But at this fragile moment in time, we simply can’t have a racist in the White House. It’s highly unlikely we will have the national discussion Colin Kaepernick and so many others hope for before the election. So if you really can’t stand with Hillary, how about standing with the Mothers of the Movement? A vote for Hillary Clinton gives these women hope that Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Prince Jones, Freddie Gray, John Crawford, Ernest Satterwhite, Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, Dontré Hamilton, Hadiya Pendleton, Blair Hold, Oscar Grant, Sam DuBose, Laquan McDonald, Philando Castile, Tyre King, Keith Scott and Terence Crutcher did not die in vain.

      • Sandra McPherson

      • September 22, 2016 at 1:21 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you SO much for saying this–again and again and again it must be declared. Or exemplified, as fellow-adoptee Colin Kaepernick embodies the hope that justice will be found. Ever since my dad, a San Jose State coach, knew Tommie Smith and John Carlos, those two have been my heroes. There is now a great statue to them on the SJSU campus. Now all these years later, a young man exhibits terrific courage. And others follow. BLM!! –Sandra McPherson, Professor Emerita, UCDavis

        • Terri Connett

        • September 22, 2016 at 3:56 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks so much, Sandra! Wow… Tommie and John are heroes of mine as well. I featured them in a 2015 column entitled “Black Lives Don’t Matter.” It’s so cool you mentioned them in comparison to Kaepernick! They were going to be in this column, along with Muhammad Ali, but I had to slim down my word count. 🙂

          • Sandra McPherson

          • September 23, 2016 at 8:50 am

          In 1968 I don’t think my father knew what to do with the Great Humanitarian Salute, though he was always vehement about his players being treated equally when the team was on the road and in places that wanted to segregate them, which he wouldn’t countenance; my best friend’s dad was the SJS football coach, & I think that family got death threats. But, when my dad moved into a retirement home he got a well-wishing card from John Carlos. So caring! / I wear my Kaepernick jersey around my own senior living facility: at first people bridled, then I said, “We adoptees have to stick together,” which allowed an entry to the Real Conversation that Kaepernick says so directly and clearly and irrefutably.

          • Terri Connett

          • September 23, 2016 at 4:01 pm

          Have you ever written about your father’s experience? You’ve got a real story there! I love how you’ve found a way to connect with Kaepernick’s adoption to open the door for, as you say, the REAL conversation. Thank you again for reading!

          • Sandra McPherson

          • September 23, 2016 at 4:17 pm

          My dad wrote a memoir & I’m trying to get a copy of it to excerpt from. Here’s his name being installed on the SJSU basketball court:

    • Even if he isn’t elected, the current outpouring of racism will need to be fought. I was glad to see that high school students are starting to kneel against racism too. Thanks for writing about this.

        • Terri Connett

        • October 4, 2016 at 4:48 pm
        • Reply

        I agree, Judith. Thanks for reading!

    Leave a Reply to Terri Connett Cancel reply