Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Takeaways From The Kaepernick Affair

I don't want to write yet another hot take on a subject that a lot of other people are hot taking. Instead, I'd like to analyze Colin Kaepernick's protest and the reactions to it, and what they say. Here are some simple observations.

The Inability Of White America To Acknowledge Racism Is On Display (again)
I mean, we already knew this, but the reaction to Kaepernick's very silent, unobtrusive protest has touched off a firestorm among white people. The folks upset about his refusal to stand for the national anthem are also the type who never seemed to have a problem with the police murder of African Americans. His protest is meant to address systemic injustice, a thing that the vast majority of white Americans actively or tacitly or implicitly support. The fact is, a very large chunk of white America, probably the majority, cares more about the national anthem than it does about the lives of black people.

Nationalism Is A Very Powerful Force In American Life
This is a drum I keep beating, and I am going to keep banging on it until people listen. In America we coerce children to say a secular prayer to the flag in school every morning with words they don't even understand. At every sporting event we play the national anthem. The flag saturates our clothing, and politicians are expected to wear flag pins on their clothing. Hell, even many sportscasters do it. This behavior is highly unusual in a country that purports to be a democracy. When someone challenges these practices, just watch the lizard brains of so many people in this country go into rage spasms, as we're seeing now.

It's Okay For Athletes To Beat Their Spouses But Not To Engage In Critical Politics
One of the times this year that I've felt the sickest happened at a Mets game. The team had brought back Jose Reyes, who in the off season brutally battered his spouse. While Reyes served out a suspension, the crowd cheered him lustily. If Kaepernick showed up to CitiField, however, I would fear for his safety. Other players have also abused women, such as Aroldis Chapman, and their careers are going just fine. Contrast this to Kaepernick, or even Michael Vick. In our misogynistic society flags and dogs rate higher than women for some people. Athletes are allowed to do a great many terrible things, but for them to be politically critical of this country opens them up for attack. Little has changed since the days of Muhammad Ali.

American Nationalism Is Militarist In Nature
Those who are critical of Kaepernick often say that he is somehow disrespecting veterans and "the troops" who fought and are fighting for "freedom." I find this disturbing on many levels. That so many so easily conflate the nation's symbols with the military's symbols makes me think a military coup could be successful in this country. It also shows tremendous ignorance about what Kaepernick his doing. His protest has fuck all to do with the military; it's about the police and the justice system. Some seem to see the conflate the police with the military, which says a lot about the militarization of the police, and how they are perceived as fighting an internal enemy. (That might explain the willingness in white America to let the murder of black people at the hands of the police slide.) The stuff about the flag being connected to the military as a freedom fighting force not only shows a lack of understanding of American history, but a disturbing tendency to view the military as infallible. Most American wars have had little to do with freedom, from the empire building of the Spanish-American War to the empire building of the Mexican-American War to the empire building of the war in Iraq, and many other in between.

The farcical view of American history as a story of freedom also contributes to the inability of white Americans to see how they have and continue to profit from racism. I salute Colin Kaepernick for jolting those people.

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