At this point the most remarkable aspect of Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem is that it happened 3 days ago and there has been absolutely no progress in the debate about his action since immediately after it happened. Takes from NFL players, NFL coaches, members of the media, law enforcement and the general public keep steadily coming in but none of them offer anything new.
Commentary and debate about Kaepernick’s action generally fall into 1 of 4 categories:
- Support for his stance but not for his action.
- Support for his right to take his stance but not for his action.
- Support for his stance but criticizing his choice of method.
- Ignorance, willful or not, as to what he was trying to do and his right to do so.
Comments that fall into the last category include such statements as that from Rodney Harrison who declared that Kaepernick “isn’t black” and therefore doesn’t support what he did. Drew Brees who evidently can’t support Kaepernick because they don’t share the same view of the flag and of America. The San Francisco Police Union who believes Kaepernick’s action was disrespectful and misguided, and called for an apology from Kaepernick and the NFL, because of the murder of police officers and the “8,000 murders African-Americans inflicted on one another in 2015”. Jerry Rice who posted on Twitter that “All lives matter”. And the many who think the fact Kaepernick makes a lot of money and is a professional athlete means he has no right to criticize the country which allows him these opportunities.
Ignoring those who simply do not get it and are content to take issue with aspects of Colin Kaepernick and his action which have nothing to do with his actual action, most people agree on the situation. Most people agree that there is a societal issue of race and inequality in the United States. Most agree that Kaepernick is perfectly within his rights to not stand during the national anthem in order to protest what he sees as social injustice. And many agree that while Kaepernick may have been drawing attention to an important issue his method for doing so was ill-conceived.
What also seems clear is that this debate is going nowhere. Either the point of Kaepernick’s action is lost amongst a deluge of ignorant takes or most everyone can agree with what he believes but not what he did. The debate needs to move forward.
The problem with moving the conversation forward is that perhaps more so than almost any other issue racial politics and social inequality make people question the very foundation of their belief systems. If they choose to do so. Many of whom do not because they refuse to consider that their worldview is faulty in some manner. If there are institutional inequities in America it may make people question their place in America and question if the United States has structural issues which argue against people’s view of it. If America is the greatest country in the world, how can there be so many problems with it?
Acknowledging psychological constraints to the debate is crucial. If they are uncovered then perhaps the institutional issues which Kaepernick is protesting can also be acknowledged.