Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem is about as peaceful as they come which is more than can be said about the reactions that soon followed.
The San Francisco 49ers football player decided to protest the national anthem by taking a seat during the song that played at the start of a preseason game on Friday. Kaepernick told reporters, both immediately following the game and days after, that his demonstration was his response to the mistreatment of black lives in America, especially at the hands of state agents, and that he would continue to stage this act of protest until “significant change” has been made in regards to race relations in America.
Kaepernick’s protest, as unexpected as it was, prompted swift responses from fans across the country. Praise poured in from many black athletes and activists ― even veterans themselves ― who saluted his efforts and applauded his refusal to honor an anthem supporters say is symbolic of America’s systemic oppression against black people.
However, white fans, who largely harbor little, if any, personal resentment to the anthem, have lambasted Kaepernick for being so daring and disrespectful in his peaceful demonstration. The response also reflects the familiar vicious reactions often lobbed against black protesters during uprisings that aren’t always as peaceful ― like those in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland ― over issues related to police brutality.
The hypocrisy here was perfectly highlighted by one user on Twitter who wrote this well-articulated tweet on Tuesday:
White people: “Black people should protest peacefully!”
*Black person sits quietly during national anthem*
White people: “No not like that.”
— Charlotte. (@charlotteirene8) August 31, 2016
Yes, some black athletes have rebuked Kaepernick’s stance but the reactions to his peaceful act of protest from white fans range from hateful insults to public burnings of his jersey. It goes to show that no matter the act of protest black people pursue ― peaceful or violent ― white people often react with opposition and criticism over an issue that mostly impacts African Americans.
However, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. Bree Newsome, the black activist who scaled the South Carolina flag pole last year to remove the Confederate flag, wrote a tweet on Monday that highlighted how some people are more outraged over Kaepernick’s protest than the important reason why he’s protesting in the first place.
If someone refusing to salute the US flag offends you more than the US refusing to protect the rights of oppressed people… 🙃
— Bree Newsome (@BreeNewsome) August 29, 2016
But leave it to legendary civil rights activist Harry Belafonte to sum up the hypocrisy best.
Belafonte spoke with Interactive One’s Roland Martin on Wednesday and brilliantly broke down why black protesters don’t receive the respect they deserve. He told Martin:
“When a black voice is raised in protest to oppression, those who are comfortable with our oppression are the first to criticize us for daring to speak out against it.”