For those of us who truly know American history, we would know that grassroots advocacy – such as protests, boycotts and marches – are not new forms of advocacy. These methods of advocacy have been used for a long time, and have been the catalyst for most of the changes we have seen in this country.
Many people like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Muhammad Ali, Ida B. Wells, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others have led protests, boycotts and marches to speak out against injustice. These civil rights soldiers used their influence and voices to stand up against, what they believed, were threats that stifled their ability to live fruitful and productive lives here in the United States.
This brings me to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been receiving tons of backlash and criticism for his recent decision not to stand for the Star-Spangled Banner during an NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. Kaepernick said that while he has great respect for the men and women in the U.S. military, which he said included members of his family and some friends, he felt like he could no longer stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that continues to oppress Black people and people of color.
Wow, did you hear that? Many people criticize athletes and entertainers for not speaking up on critical issues that impact Black people, and here you have a high-paid sports figure doing that.
“I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard and effect change. So I’m in a position where I can do that, and I’m going to do that for people that can’t,” said Kaepernick. “Ultimately it’s to bring awareness and make people realize what’s really going on in this country. There are a lot of things that are going on that are unjust, people aren’t being held accountable for, that’s something that needs to change…this country stands for liberty, freedom, justice for all. And it’s not happening for all right now.”
Many people have responded with anger, burning his jersey and calling him derogatory names. He has chosen to continue his protest moving forward, despite the criticism.
I completely stand behind Kaepernick, who said that police brutality was one of the primary reasons he chose to do what he did. It is always interesting to me, just how hypocritical many people in this country can be. Take the issue of war for instance.
As American citizens, we pledge allegiance to the United States of America and salute the flag, but isn’t war a form of protest? When a country goes to war, they are in protest with how another country is handling things on the world stage, and they use force to deal with their displeasure.
Why can’t Kaepernick get that same respect?
I would be the first person to admit that there have been a tremendous number of advances made by Blacks in this country since its inception.
With that being said, I’d also be the first person to acknowledge that those advances made by Blacks have not come without the unmerited sacrifices and dedicated advocacy of people who were committed to seeing those advances come to fruition, by any means necessary.
As I look back on American history, we all must acknowledge that Black people have faced some extremely difficult challenges, and have constantly expressed their desire to be treated fairly and equally here in America. That has not fully been the case, however.
Black people have had to endure disparate treatment and have been victims of unfair practices since the founding of this country, and many of their cries for justice and fairness have often fallen on the deaf ears of many Americans who had the power to change things for centuries.
For years, Black people were challenged with the heinous practice of lynching, to which many advocacy groups like the NAACP, got engaged and mobilized to bring about change.
Police brutality and police killings have become the modern day civil rights challenge of our time, and these heinous practices are just as bad, if not worse, than lynching was decades prior.
Kaepernick isn’t the first Black man to be vilified in America, after having taken a stance against what they believed was wrong with this country’s handling of select issues.
When Black people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Muhammad Ali, spoke up and out against the Vietnam War, they were deemed traitors to their country and communists. Yet, doesn’t the United States go to war with its “alleged” enemies when America believes that “alleged” enemy poses a threat to our nation?
We did it with Iraq and Afghanistan right? Is the U.S. wrong for this form of protest?
I respect Kaepernick and refuse to dismiss or demean him because he has chosen to handle business in a different way than another person would. Just because things don’t make sense, doesn’t mean they aren’t effective.
Listen, if he chooses not to stand, that’s his thing.
It is my hope that his commitment to this action, even as he is being vilified by many people, brings attention to the issues of police brutality and police killings in this country.
Lord knows that I’m interested in working with ANYONE who is committed to bringing about change in that area, in order to heal our nation and save Black lives.
Jeffrey L. Boney serves as Associate Editor and is an award-winning journalist for the Houston Forward Times newspaper. Jeffrey is a frequent contributor on the Nancy Grace Show and has a daily radio talk show called Real Talk with Jeffrey L. Boney. He is a Next Generation Project Fellow, dynamic, international speaker, experienced entrepreneur, business development strategist and Founder/CEO of the Texas Business Alliance. If you would like to request Jeffrey as a speaker, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org