Tahat Takes: Kaeperknickers in a twist and the milquetoast Seahawks

Full disclosure: up until a few weeks ago. I didn’t care for Colin Kaepernick. I hadn’t thought about him in a hot minute mostly. And at the height of his powers, I projected my dislike for the 49ers and Pleated-pants Jim “McHandshove” Harbaugh and thought Kapernick arrogant, overrated, and self-centered.

I was the guy who gleefully posted the differences between Kap and Dangeruss’ Instagram on your timeline.

I was a PETTY AF sports fan.

I made him a character acting out a role in the theatre of the NFL.1

I was wrong. Colin Kaepernick is a full person containing multitudes and deserves all the respect I can afford—and that’s before he sat down during the national anthem and demonstrated that he has a curious, working mind engaged in one of the most challenging national issues of our time.

I’ve never bought an NFL jersey in my life, but if I do it’s gonna be Kaepernick’s2.

Some would delegitimize Kap’s efforts by saying he’s rich and doesn’t “have a plan.” But his wealth doesn’t make him less Black nor are protests required to “have a plan” to be on the right side of history.

There’s also a notion floating around that Kap is doing some sort of activism lite, and that he hasn’t achieved much of anything. But he has created space for a conversation in a league that isn’t interested in having this conversation despite the fact that it’s good for business.3 That’s a BFD.4

Enter the Seahawks.

Last week, Doug Baldwin spoke up, promising that the whole team would do some sort of demonstration of solidarity. I, for one, got hella excited. Unleashing ANGRY DOUG BALDWIN on Black Lives Matter and police reform on opening day is an activist’s wet dream.

Giving Baldwin and the Seahawks the benefit of the doubt, I think they meant to do a really meaningful thing—to show solidarity for a movement that prioritizes the lives of black people, that ending racism and oppressive systems require the collective work of many people. The team-wide act, also worked to address the criticism that Kaepernick’s protest was an attention grab by eliminating the individual-ness of it. But at some point, the reality of their demonstration has to take precedent. And in the space of social movements, rhetoric and symbolism are everything.

On its face, a show of unity is an honorable, valuable thing. Who’s against unity?

But the call of unity has long been used to soothe people out of frenzy, as a band-aid for an amputation. But history shows us that to correct injustice—especially systemic injustice, which is more lubricious to grasp—requires anger and unrest so as to manifest into social movement.

Baked into our civic code is the idea we don’t need everyone to agree to something to make it happen; we only need enough to make a majority. That’s how we make change in a democracy. Calls for unity–specifically in response to a movement calling for change–is, at best, a moving of the goal post and, at worst, a blatant effort to cut a movement’s knees from under it.5

I have no interest in unifying with members of the Klu Klux Klan, neo-nazis, or anyone who thinks my interracial marriage and our mixed race kids are abominations.6

Now there’s a case to be made that overhyped histrionics of unity aren’t entirely the Seahawks fault. The media hyped it, not just Doug Baldwin. It’s not purely the Seahawks fault that mine and so many other’s expectations were Ezekiel Elliot-high. But Baldwin and others on the team have been around and have enough media savvy to know the type of coverage and reaction that was coming.

I am also tremendously sympathetic to NFL players not interested in engaging in public forms of protest. For many, professional football represents their only path to social mobility. The NFL is highly regimented and historically conservative. Their earning potential isn’t guaranteed and every time they suit up, they’re risking their health AND their careers.

Protect that. No one should feel like they have to pit their livelihood against what’s right in the world. That makes the choice even riskier. But in the event you face that impossible decision, protect yourself and provide for your family.7

But there’s a real, insidiously inflicted damage made in the milquetoast #alllivesmatter half-measure that the Seahawks proposed. In what is surely an unintended consequence of expressing broad support, their actions validated the misdirected conversation surrounding Kaepernick and other player’s method of protest.

Jesse Williams, in what may be the most woke moment of 2016,8 said, “If you have a critique for the resistance—for our resistance—then you better have an established record of critique of our oppression.”

Applied here: y’all that are up in arms about Kaepernick sitting but don’t have a valid criticism of the systems of oppression that drove him to sit9 need to examine y’alls priorities.

Many woke people tried to keep the focus of their coverage of Kaepernick on the racial inequity of our policing that he was trying to point out, however, 99.9% percent of the coverage around Kaepernick centered on his methods of protest—an insidious way of delegitimizing his point in the first place.10

This is wrong. Full stop.

It’s no different than our presidential election coverage eschewing policy for the horse race. It’s just wrong.

Now none of this is the fault of the Seahawks and what I’m sure is a well-intentioned leadership group the face of which has become Doug Baldwin. And I hope against all hope that this was the start of something bigger—that Doug Baldwin’s efforts to connect with the Mayor of Seattle yield real, substantive discussions and outcomes.

But standing together and locking arms has forced even the most progressive people into a debate about the methodology and efficacy of protests when we should all be talking about the inherent racial inequity and injustice in policing as presently constructed.

Let me say that again: WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED. WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT THE INHERENT RACIAL INEQUITY AND INJUSTICE IN POLICING AS PRESENTLY CONSTRUCTED.

All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams! All of which are American dreams!