Chances are, if you are not a pro football fan or living in the San Francisco area, before a few days ago you had no idea who Colin Kaepernick is. In the last few days, however, he has become infamous.
For those of you who have not yet been bombarded by internet memes or television interviews, Colin is a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. He has become famous recently, not for his prowess on the football field but as the man who will not stand during the national anthem. Kaepernick is refusing to stand to protest the violence by police against people of color that has come to national attention since Michael Brown was shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., in August 2014.
I am not writing to cast judgment on the young quarterback. He could have, no doubt, protested in a different way, but it is not for me to say he could have done better or worse. The question I would like to ask is this: When is it OK to protest?
We have seen many protests about this exact issue in the past couple of years. We have seen people arrested, people killed, businesses looted and burned, highways shut down, etc. Some cities, like Gainesville, have gone out of their way to hold community meetings to discuss unity between the populous and the police. I am very proud to live in such a community, and I thank everyone who has been involved in the Gainesville United movement, but other cities are not so focused. Again: When is it OK to protest?
Most people would say that the right to protest is ever present, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Yet, when people practice this right, for some reason there is public outrage. Kaepernick practiced his right, peacefully, by not standing during the singing of the national anthem, and the calls for his head are all over social media.
He is an overpaid brat. He is complaining about oppression, but he is making millions of dollars a year. It should be noted that Kaepernick has said that he is protesting not for himself but for people who don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard. If Colin has no right to protest because of his affluence, surely we can agree that people who are not rich have the right to be heard.
Not really. In June, when highways were shut down in Atlanta by protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, Andrew Young, a man who is certainly familiar with marching in the streets, called the protesters “unlovable little brats.”
Kaepernick is a hypocrite because he is rich. The protesters in Atlanta have no right to assemble because they are disruptive. Do I have a right to protest? Am I too middle class? What prerequisites do we use to qualify someone’s right to speak out?
Maybe our speech should be judged by its merits instead of the speakers’ social standing.