San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has caused controversy the past week, beginning with his intentional sit-down protest through the playing of the National Anthem before a preseason NFL game. The American public has been branding him either disrespectful and pompous or a champion of revitalized civil rights sentiments, depending on their political views. Kaepernick claims he is trying to make a statement that police brutality, especially against African-Americans, will not be tolerated and that he will not stand for the anthem of a country that lets this happen. As noble as that sounds, Kaepernick is extremely wrong in his attempt to stand for justice, to say the least.
Let us look at two glaring statistics published by the FBI, just to define exactly what Colin says he is standing up – or sitting down – for. First, a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be shot and killed by an African-American than vice versa. Secondly, African-Americans are shot and killed by police less often than whites and Hispanics, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. Yet Colin Kaepernick believes African-Americans are suffering from institutionalized racism.
Is this to say that there are no racist police officers whatsoever? Of course not, that would be unbelievably naïve. Am I asserting that it is okay for anyone to be shot and killed by police? No, but I understand the need for lethal force in certain situations. However, to say that the United States “oppresses” African-Americans or other minorities is laughably false. I have never heard of a country that oppresses a race by allowing a member of that race to be paid $19 million a year to sit down on the bench most of the season.
We have been shocked by videos of altercations between police and black citizens, the two largest stories being Alton Sterling, a situation where we still do not have complete answers, and Philando Castile, an inexcusable act of incompetence by the officer involved.
What we must understand is that every altercation is independent of each other – the only reason they seem to be tied together is because the national media creates a controversy when a white police officer shoots and kills a black man. Why? Because the American people eat it up, and it gets better ratings. We love to be played for entertainment at the expense of heightened tensions between races. It is absolutely wrong.
What we need to do is stop drawing upon our differences and work together for a better future. Then we have people like Colin Kaepernick who believe it is right for him to act in such a way that reflects his misguided opinion that further divides the people of this country and insults the veterans that fought for his right to sit down.
Colin Kaepernick has a legal right to sit during the anthem. It does not make his ideals any less erroneous or his action any less deplorable. Colin Kaepernick’s actions are a misguided effort that only furthers racial division in our country. I suppose we can not blame him though. Sitting is what he does best, and he will be doing it all season.
Michael Lanagan is a political science and economics major from McKinney, Texas.
Here is an opposing column on this topic we previously published: