Jim Wright said it better than I will. He’s a powerful writer, and a credible guy. He is retired military; I’m not. 54,000 people shared his post. And since Jim said it better, I needn’t bother. But I’m going to say it anyway. Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback who may currently be the most hated man in America, has every right to do what he did, and if you are a true patriot you know that. Colin Kaepernick has the right to disrespect the flag.
I’m probably going to take shit for this post, maybe lose friends and followers. I’m going running the risk of having you think that this is becoming a political blog instead of one that is more balanced and includes discussions of mental health, positive messages, inspiring stories. Oh well, I need to say it anyway.
He has a right to piss you off
Colin Kaepernick has every right to do what he did. Forget “true patriot.” If you are even a little patriotic, you know that.
You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to declare this country the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that. Defend that. Celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
– The character Andrew Shepard, in The American President
Yes, flag burning is protected free speech according to the Supreme Court (Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 1989). Not standing and putting your hand over your heart is technically illegal, as best I can determine (36 U.S. Code, sec. 301), but it seems incredibly unlikely that an arrest and conviction would withstand a court challenge, given the flag burning decision.
Why is Kaepernick protesting? Because, racism.
Because racism lives in the bones of the institutions and history of this nation. People of color experience violence, harassment, injustice, and imprisonment at alarming rates in comparison to white people. Do you really need me to tell you the statistics again?
Blacks are substantially more likely to be incarcerated than whites or hispanics. In 2010, the numbers were 2207 per 100,000 for blacks, 966 per 100,000 for hispanics, and 380 per 100,000 for whites (Correctional population in the US from the Department of Justice, and the US Census).
This despite the fact that 68.9% of all arrests are of whites, 28.3% of blacks. Even here, blacks are arrested in numbers disproportionate based on total population (FBI Uniform Crime Reporting). You could conceivably write that off as blacks committing crimes at a higher rate than whites, relative to population. But put the two sets of above numbers together and what you come out with is that even though whites commit more crimes, they are less likely to be in jail.
Why would that be, if not racism?
Hint: it’s not because the crimes of whites are less severe. In every category of violent crime other than murder, more whites commit the crime. Proportionately, the numbers for rape are overwhelmingly white. That’s another post.
Being stopped by police
As to how the police treat blacks, recently economist Roland Fryer published the preliminary findings of a paper that made huge headlines, because it found that, based on the methods of his study, police were not more likely to kill blacks than whites. There are some potential methodological issues with that study, but let’s take it at face value for the moment.
A lot of people, and “news” feeds, cited Fryer’s study as vindication of the police and as disproving the claims of the Black Lives Matter movement. Except for one pesky fact. Well, actually a lot of pesky facts. You see, if you read Fryer’s whole paper, the findings are that when considering all forms of physical contact and violence up to but not including killing, police are overwhelmingly more likely to use force against blacks.
Why would that be, if not racism?
And for the love of all that’s holy, I don’t mean that you, personally, are racist. That isn’t the point, as I, racist beautifully illustrates. The point is institutional racism. On the whole blacks are treated differently than whites, and have a very different experience of life in the U.S. Whites have higher levels of education, higher levels of income, higher levels of net worth by a factor of 13 times as measured in 2014 dollars.
I could go on, at length, but I won’t because I want to get back to the patriotic point.
Kaepernick has a constitutional right
Look, I don’t much like it. It irritates me. More to the point, I think it’s counterproductive and self-serving. He’s not helping himself, he’s not helping his cause, and he’s not helping the state of the dialogue. That’s seen from my comfortable position as a privileged white guy.
But Kaepernick has the right to do what he’s doing, and if anything makes this country great, it’s that freedom. That freedom is what our soldiers fight for, it’s what our police serve for, it’s what we should all be willing to lay ourselves on the line for. It’s why we have our constitution, which for all its flaws is a brilliant document. That freedom. The freedom to do things that piss other people off.
I don’t have to like it. But I damn sure will defend it. And I damn sure will fight to make it so no one has to do this any more.
Dr. Les Kertay, Awakened Moments
You should read Jim Wright’s version, which you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/Stonekettle/posts/1084172264951509.