Colin Kaepernick’s Protest Makes Me Uncomfortable – And That’s Exactly Why It’s Important


By Jillian Stacia

I’ve been thinking about the Colin Kaepernick protest. I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the situation, processing my thoughts, and trying to come to terms with where I fall on this issue. Usually I know very quickly where I stand on things, but this one took some time to figure out.

On one hand, I fully support the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve written about it before, and I truly believe that we need to do something to stop police brutality.

On the other hand, I can also see why boycotting the national anthem could be viewed as disrespectful to our military. I think about the military mom whose son was killed in the line of duty. She was so angry and distraught over Kaepernick’s actions, and I understand her pain.

Until yesterday, I thought that Kaepernick’s protest in itself was admirable and important, but I found the manner in which he did it to be somewhat insensitive and abrasive. I fully supported his message, but I wished he would’ve chosen a different avenue to express it. Kaepernick claims that kneeling was never meant to be an insult to the military, but I can certainly see how it could be construed that way.

And then Terence Crutcher was shot and killed by police. And days later, there was Keith Lamont Scott. And I remembered.

I remembered why Colin Kaepernick is protesting in the first place. And I remembered why he chose to do it the way he did – on a national stage, on a weekly basis, in front of our military, regardless of the backlash he’d inevitably receive.

Because this is a matter of life and death.

I didn’t see it before. Even though I desperately wanted to see it, believed I should see, and advocated for others to see it, before Terence Crutcher, I had forgotten. I viewed the situation through my own lens of privilege, and I didn’t see it.

Or maybe, on some level, I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to feel so uncomfortable when I was watching football. I didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of police brutality every Sunday morning. I wanted to stay safe in my place of privilege where we salute the flag and sing about the rockets’ red glare and don’t remind each other about how police are killing our own citizens in the streets.

I was critical of Kaepernick for using the national anthem as a way to protest – but maybe my criticism wasn’t so much out of respect for the military (many of whom support his actions), as much as it was out of self-preservation. Seeing those NFL players kneel on Sunday? It was jarring. It took me to a place I didn’t want to go, made me think about things I didn’t want to think about. It broke me out of my cocoon of privilege. And I didn’t like it.

It’s always intimidating and unsettling when people refuse to play by the rules. And Colin Kaepernick isn’t going along with them anymore. He’s shining a light on an issue that many of us, even the people who care deeply, are tempted to sweep under the rug.

It’s easy to pretend like police brutality isn’t an issue. It’s easy to get up on Sunday and eat chili and cheer on our favorite team. We don’t want to be reminded of the death, the broken justice system, the systemic racism. We don’t want to think about how our country is failing to protect its own citizens. Seeing Colin Kaepernick refuse to stand for the national anthem is a glaring, visceral reminder that we still have work to do. It’s a wakeup call to address the problem. It’s an invitation to look at things differently, to remember that there are things way more important than football.

Seeing players kneel during the anthem stirs up a flurry of emotions. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us mad. It makes us feel icky. It makes us want to point fingers and argue and debate the issues and maybe that is the whole damn point.

Could Kaepernick have protested in an easier, more socially acceptable way? Sure. Absolutely. Would it have garnered the same national attention? Not a chance.

And this deserves our full attention. This deserves media coverage, not just on Sunday, but every day of the week until we do something to solve this problem. This brand of fatal injustice deserves the kind of protest that gets up in our face and makes us angry and uncomfortable. We are not protecting our people.

I don’t want to live in a country where that is acceptable. I also don’t want to be the kind of person who finds that acceptable – who forgets about what is really going on in the world. And that’s an urge most of us coming from privilege have to actively resist. It’s easy to ignore and forget and want to stay in your comfort zone. That’s why this protest is so important.

If members of our military were being shot and killed in the streets, we would protest. We would protest in the most obvious, most public way possible. We would demand change. We sure as hell wouldn’t protest quietly and try not ruffle any feathers.

This isn’t about our military. It never was. This is about Terence Crutcher. It’s about Alton Sterling. It’s about Philando Castile and Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice. And it’s about countless other black lives that will be lost at the hands of the police until we finally come together and decide that enough is enough.

So, Colin Kaepernick? I’m sorry it took so long, but I’m in. I am all the way in, even if I have to keep reminding myself along the way.

Jillian is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty On Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click HERE.

{photo via cbc sports}

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