By now, all of us have heard the uproar evoked by Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest social injustice and the injustice in our criminal justice system by kneeling during the National Anthem.
Being an NFL football fan (Who Dey! Go Bengals!), it upset me to hear commentator Trent Dilfer on the Monday night pregame show judge Kaepernick’s actions as selfish.
I thought Kaepernick’s response was right on the money:
“I think that’s one of the most ridiculous comments I’ve heard … I would ask him to really have a conversation with the families of people that have been murdered and see if he still feels that way. Because I bet that he doesn’t, because he hasn’t experienced that type of oppression.”
Kaepernick makes a great point that all white people should heed. African Americans have been enslaved and oppressed by white people in this country, and while we have made a lot of progress, it should be clear to all that injustice continues. The police shootings of recent days, racial profiling, and sentences handed out to people of color in disproportion to the crime while far lesser sentences are given to white people for the same offense all highlight the ongoing blight of racism and the oppressive misuse of power by the white establishment.
Kaepernick is utilizing his constitutional right (thank God we have these) to highlight such injustice. And whatever you think about his approach, it has worked. Here we are talking about it.
Regardless of what any one of us thinks about his way of protesting, he has taken a courageous stand (pun intended). Some of the NFL players who have joined him in his peaceful protest have done so at some personal and financial cost.
My point is very simple: Most white people have never been on the receiving end of racial injustice. Therefore, we have no right to critique and judge Colin Kaepernick.
If I, as a white person, disagree with his manner of protest, I should keep this to myself. Even though personally I may have never participated in racist oppression, I am white, and there are white people today who have and continue to hold racist views and engage in racist practices. African Americans have a right to critique Kaepernick’s method of protest, I don’t. I am part of the oppressive group.
So, from one white person to another: Stifle it. Get out of the way. Shut up and sit down. It’s not our call to make. We have no right to judge. Most of us have too many logs in our own eyes anyway.
Chuck Queen is a Baptist minister and the author of several books on progressive Christian faith, including his most recent, Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls): An Evolution of Faith. Chuck blogs at A Fresh Perspective, has contributed to the blog Faith Forward and is a monthly columnist for Baptist News Global.