By Conference Minister Diane Weible
Every morning I spend 8 minutes and 46 seconds thinking about my privilege and the work that needs to be done in our communities and in our country in the area of racial justice and dismantling white supremacy. I have decided to start blogging about my reflections during these moments. Under the title “8 Minutes and 46 Seconds,” I will periodically share one of those reflections with you as part of my weekly newsletter article. You can read all the blog posts HERE.
I have a bee in my bonnet this morning. Last night I decided to turn on the news as I was folding laundry, getting ready for bed. I heard the NFL Commissioner say he welcomes Colin Kaepernick’s voice on the discussion of social issues. According to his interview with ESPN Roger Goodell said, “Well, listen, if he wants to resume his career in the NFL, then obviously it’s going to take a team to make that decision. But I welcome that, support a club making that decision and encourage them to do that.”
Colin Kaepernick has not played football since 2016 after he took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. I remember hearing six months ago that no team would sign him because of pressure from this very same league led by this very same commissioner.
Think about it.
In 2016, Colin stands (or rather, kneels) in protest of how a country that claims to be “the land of the free” is not a land that feels free to all of its citizens suffering from centuries of oppression and injustice. In other words, not all lives matter.
As a result, when he decides to become a free agenda, he discovers that he has been, literally, cast to the sidelines and no team will touch him for fear of reprisal? I remember hearing this and being dumbfounded—reprisal from the league for signing a player who stands up for racial oppression?
Fast forward to 2020 when protests throughout the country after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis has everyone, including white people, enraged. You see photos of white nurses and doctors stepping out of their hospitals to join the protests and take a knee. People of all skin colors kneeling in the streets of cities all over this country. Taking a knee has become a symbol of protest against racial injustice.
When I first saw people all over the country taking a knee, I began internet searches for Colin’s name, hoping that people were talking about the irony and calling for gratitude and apology to Colin Kaepernick. I didn’t hear it. I talked to some friends who said they heard someone talking about it on a sports station.
It almost feels like if you had been sleeping for the last four years and suddenly woke up and turned on the TV, you would believe people who identify as white came up with the idea of taking a knee as a sign of protest. I know that people of all skin colors and ethnicities and racial identities are taking a knee and I am not, in any way, making light of it. Instead, I’m disturbed by the dominating narrative that four months ago said it was disrespectful to take a knee during the national anthem now “giving approval” for taking a knee. People of Color don’t need our approval. They don’t need the NFL Commissioner in an interview with ESPN, as I heard it, giving permission to NFL teams to sign Colin Kaepernick.
My anger is at the blatant use of white privilege to control the narrative, both in 2016 and in 2020. Why would an NFL Team need to be afraid of reprisal from the white bosses in the NFL if they choose to sign an excellent football player? And why would they now need permission from a white man to sign the same excellent football player because suddenly it is fashionable (or, at the very least, acceptable by the dominating culture) to take a knee?
Those of us who identify as white must see the power and privilege embedded all throughout this narrative if anything in our country is ever going to change.
I am not a football fan. I never have been. In 2016, however, I was going to buy a 49ers shirt with Kaepernick’s name on it and start rooting for the team. I was proud of when I heard the 49ers management and team stand up for Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest in a way that was deeply meaningful to him. If my knees were better I would’ve taken a knee myself.
I didn’t do any of those things. (Ok, I did root for the 49ers in a playoff game I was watching with a friend.) My silence at the time spoke volumes. It’s one of the many things I am working on as I confront my own privilege.