In Kaepernick controversy, we forget the purpose behind the protest
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Earlier this week I spilled some digital ink complementing Colin Kaepernick’s sedentary anthem protest, even as it was undermined by his choice of inflammatory hosiery.

He wanted to bring attention to his concern. Success. Followed by US soccer star Megan Rapinoe who replicated the protest and the promise by the entire Seattle Seahawks team who are considering (not threatening) to stage their own protest.

I have heard from more than a few people who disagreed with Kaepernick’s sentiment but respected his right to protest. In fact there seems to be as much push back against those who condemn him. The U.S. Hockey coach has had to defend his declaration that he would bench player on the national team if one staged a protest.

There has been no comment on Kaepernick’s color or threats on his life. In fact, it seems, despite his pig police socks, Kaepernick has done more to engage a civil  national discussion than the one-sided protests and outrage.

And for some misguided reason ESPN invited me to come on to continue the discussion.

I was teemed with a Yale Professor Zareena Grewal - in the department of American Studies.

And from there it went downhill.

There are two issues here, Mr Kaepernick, his protest and his right to do that. 

And the issues of which he protests.

We got to none of that. Instead the conversation careened off into an angry diatribe masquerading as political theory. But the highlight for me was two parts:

The first was a complaint that both sides were talking across each other and not listening. But here we were on national sports television talking about it. The trouble has become that if you don’t agree you are talking past someone. But conversations that agree are not discussions, they are validation.

Ironically, it was not that I did not disagree, but clearly Grewal is an activist and so the implication was if anyone did not agree totally they were wrong. Ironically I never got a chance to respond so she would not know.

Second, she equated Kaepernick’s treatment to the awful threats again Mohammed Ali and other activist blacks (one about whom she made a movie and whose house was burned down by the KKK). Nothing of the sort has happened to him; quite the contrary, Kaepernick’s jersey sales have spiked. Likely, for some organizations so has his value.

But most of all the ESPN segment never got to the real point.

It is not whether racism still exists (only a fool would say it does not), but what happens when we stop caring. What happens when Kaepernick’s noble stand becomes the new normal. When the issue fades back under the surge of the next headline. When we stop talking about it.

Ask the flooded residents of Baton Rouge what it is like to be ignored because titanic floods are ho-hum.

We started that follows every homicide in DC, which sadly impacts young black men disproportionately, exactly because at some point our national attention will move on and nobody will be listening any more to the shouts of #blacklivesmatter or the indignation of talking heads. 

But the deaths will sadly continue and we do not intend to forget. 

Gelb is the director of the Washington Media Institute and a co-founder of Follow DCWitness on Twitter @dcwitness


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