In the latest race relations’ protest to gain national attention, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick refuses to stand as the national anthem is played at games.
The rational he gave is, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
Enjoying a high-profile platform from which the highly paid ($114 million over six years) professional football player can focus the spotlight on his perception, it is important to reflect upon his claim from a perspective of contextual fairness.
To some extent, what Kaepernick has done is reminiscent of what black activists did seven years ago. After a white reporter for MSNBC mistook Reverend Jesse Jackson for Reverend Al Sharpton, outraged activists eagerly promoted a politically convenient but incorrect perception: as far as whites were concerned, "all blacks look alike."
Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after losing against the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Credit: Getty Images
But a study conducted years earlier addressing this specific issue should have given these activists pause for reflection.
Interestingly, the study found people are notoriously bad—all across the racial spectrum—in recognizing faces from other races. An article on the study’s results reported, “It’s not that people can’t perceive subtle differences among those who belong to other racial groups. Rather, they code race first, then don’t explore a person’s more distinguishing features.”
The article went on to state, all “people place inordinate emphasis on race categories—whether someone is white, black or Asian—ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals.”
But despite authority such as this study suggesting otherwise, the perception continues to linger among blacks that whites perceive them all to look alike. Such black critics seize the perception as a purely white flaw, ignoring the fact it is, in reality, a human one. These critics do so simply to promote their status as victims of racial prejudice by whites.
Kaepernick’s protest is unfair based upon his personal life experience as well. It simply does not reflect the way he was raised. The product of mixed parentage, his biological mother never revealed the identity of his black father. As a single mother, she surrendered custody of the future Super Bowl star in 1987, over her own parents’ objections. Upon Colin’s birth, he was adopted by white parents, Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, who already had two children of their own.
It is important Colin’s childhood background be understood. Obviously, he was nurtured by loving and racially color-blind parents who raised him in that same vein.
The understanding, as the study above revealed, that there is a tendency by all races to perceive others as racist when all races are guilty of the same human flaws, aided by the loving child-rearing, non-racist environment in which Kaepernick was raised, should have instilled in him a realization recently made very clear by Reverend Martin Luther King’s niece. Asked during a Sunday morning television interview about the quarterback’s refusal to stand for the national anthem, Dr. Angela Watkins offered, “America is not racist. There is racism in America.”
While she makes a very important distinction, it is one Kaepernick fails to grasp. He sadly chooses to condemn an entire nation as racist, when it is not. Yes, as Watkins explains, there is racism in America but such racism comes in all colors. We saw this recently in Milwaukee where, after a black police officer killed an armed black suspect, innocent whites were beaten or had their businesses destroyed.
In fact, the same week of Colin’s protest, the murder by a black man of two elderly white nuns—who had unselfishly been providing medical services to a predominantly poor black community—made national news.
Sadly too, Colin’s national anthem sit-down protest is a slap in the face to others of all ethnicities who only wish they could, once again, stand as it is played—our courageous veterans whose battlefield wounds have left them legless to do so.
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