Colin Kaepernick had been openly protesting the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the beginning of National Football League for three weeks before taking his first knee on Sept. 1, 2016, capturing the attention of mainstream media and starting a national protest movement. When asked about it, Kaepernick simply explained that he was "not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
"To me," he continued, "this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Those bodies, of course, are the bodies of African Americans who were being murdered during acts of police brutality. How many? In 2016, the body count was 266, according to The Guardian. Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Jessica Williams. Antwun Shumpert. Korryn Gaines. Terence Crutcher. We could (and should) spend days going over the details of each case, but the pattern cannot be denied. There are police across the United States that appear to think it's open season on black folks, and it doesn't feel like this bloody trail is going to come to an end.
Last year, Kaepernick's decision to #takeaknee was extremely polarizing. While the likes of J. Cole, Steph Curry, and Marshawn Lynch showed their support for Kaepernick's protest early on, there were a number of detractors, including Kid Rock, Kate Upton, and Ray Lewis, among others. I'm truly not sure why you'd try to get Kaepernick to refrain from exhibiting his right to protest (which is, as the ACLU puts it, "at the core of the First Amendment"). Even if you disagree with him, that's not stopping you from standing in acknowledgment of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (which is pretty fucking racist), right?
Unless your name is Donald J. Trump, the ridiculously rich son of a Klansman (or, at the very least, Klan sympathizer) who tweeted his way into the position of being the President of the United States. The same Trump who, when he hears that NFL players might protest the national anthem, says those "sons of bitches" need to be "fired." The same Trump who failed to appropriately respond when it was his turn to decry the Nazis who walked all over Charlottesville. The same Trump who pursed his lips to say these national anthem protests have "nothing to do with race." This motherfucker doesn't even know what to do during the national anthem.
None of this should be about anything related to Donald Trump. If you're playing in the NFL and are locking arms (which Russell Simmons basically called a bitch move) or taking knees because you're sending Trump a message, find a seat. If you're on Twitter and think all of these protests are anti-America or are, again, attempts to shit on Trump, have your fucking head examined (or take a few moments to Google what drove Kaepernick to start his protest to begin with). Why are we even talking about Trump? Call me old, but I have a theory.
America is racist. No, that isn't my theory; it's a fact. People who looked like me weren't even considered a whole person back in 1787, and most days, I don't feel like I'm perceived as more than three-fifths of a man in a number of mostly-white circles. It's the reality of the country we live in; the country many of us were born in. And the more stories about the horror stories of police across America murdering black people like Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown or Sandra Bland or Sean Bell or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice or Walter Scott or Freddie Gray I hear, the more I realize that I'm one trigger-happy racist cop away from being another name added to that ever-growing list. It's even crazier when you think that, about a month into Kaepernick's protest, the world lost actor Bill Nunn, whose portrayal of Radio Raheem in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing highlights just how long black people have been dealing with police brutality in these streets.
How Trump adding 140 characters to the discussion on the national anthem protest that Kaepernick started because bodies that were born with a beautiful amount of melanin in them turned the debate into a discussion about him and what it is to be a "real American" is beyond me. Sadly, it looks like people are more than willing to make Kaepernick's national anthem debate more about Trump being a dickhead and sticking it to him than about the real reason we're protesting, or continuing to let the world know that Black Lives Matter. It's because this country, which was founded on racism and still reeks of the charred remains of my ancestors and the oppression beaten into their backs, isn't ready to truly deal with its race issue. We're fine lambasting a rich pinhead who will tweet back, but are deathly afraid of getting real when it comes to the problems facing those who are black.
Remember their names. Remember why Colin Kaepernick is still currently an unemployed professional football player. And remember that, even though this conversation has fuck-all to do with him, it continues to be Fuck Donald Trump. All day, everyday.