By Rob Carpenter
He comes out of a great tradition of black American prophets who were willing to become controversial - even hated - for standing up to injustice. He comes out of a great tradition of people who were willing to lose what they loved the most - comfort, jobs, families, and at times even their lives - to do what is right. All in the name of love.
Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, and so many other great black prophets were despised, opposed, and sometimes even deposed for telling America it could no longer spit in the eyes of its young black men and women. These past prophets’ generations told them they were un-American and that they should ignore the vicious terrorizing of their people.
But what these past prophets’ opponents could not understand was the pain blacks felt living as a minority in a country that rejected them as human beings.
These past prophets’ opponents could not understand the collective PTSD blacks felt from being lynched by little men in white hoods.
These past prophets’ opponents could not understand the trauma blacks felt after hundreds of years of being treated as if they were inferior morally, intellectually, socially, economically, and politically.
And what these past prophets’ opponents just could not understand is that they had no ability to empathize with or see the perspective of their black brothers and sisters because neither they nor their family or friends had ever experienced anything like the continuous terror black people endured.
Likewise today, the opponents of Colin Kaepernick cannot understand why he would want to take a knee when he sees innocent black man after innocent black man being viciously murdered in cold blood by police officers.
Kaepernick’s opponents cannot understand why he would want to take a knee when guilty police officers are being set free.
Kaepernick’s opponents just cannot understand why he would want to take a knee to protest the obvious because police brutality is often not obvious to those who have never had to suffer through it themselves.
Colin Kaepernick did not sacrifice his lucrative career because he hates America or hates the police or is being disrespectful to the military or the flag. He did not sacrifice his reputation and popularity because he is delusional or has a master plan to gain something out of it. He sacrificed his career because he could no longer be be silenced. He sacrificed his career because he acknowledged that, for this moment at least, he was called to join the tradition of great black prophets who have stood up for an oppressed and despised people who have always asked the question, “why do you hate and devalue us so much?”
Just because Kaepernick was an NFL football player does not mean he has no right to an opinion. Just because he made millions of dollars does not mean he cannot exercise his first amendment rights. Just because his opponents disagree with him does not mean he has to sit down and shut up. He can - as a free black man - exercise his rights anywhere and anytime he chooses just as you and I can, even if he exercises them on a football field in front of millions.
Nike was right to join Kaepernick in his cause and to make him the face of their “Just Do It” media campaign. Whether some investors or customers are angry or elated - and whether their sales and stock go up or down - is besides the point. The point is Nike and Kaepernick are on the right side of this issue and on the right side of history.
And just as the opponents of the black prophets of the past like Dr. King and Harriet Tubman eventually acknowledged their greatness, so too will Kaepernick’s opponents one day acknowledge his greatness. It may not be today, tomorrow, or even next year; but they will see that principle always trumps economics, that right always trumps might, and that justice will always outroar injustice in the long run.They will see that Kaepernick’s love of America, his love of flag, his love of his people, and yes - even his love of police officers and the military - are what really helped make America greater than it ever was before because he knew she was better than how she was behaving.
Colin Kaepernick loves America. Even if you disagree with him, it does not mean he hates this country or is disrespecting those who have sacrificed for her. It simply means he is honestly admitting that America has more work to do. Whether you agree with him and his approach or not, you should admire his courage and tenacity to risk everything he has for love. If you had millions of dollars and the eyes of the world watching you, would you be like Kaepernick and sacrifice it all for something you believed in? Would you, really?