I am not really big on sports, but I have been following the controversy around Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem as a form of protest very closely. As Kaepernick said in his own words, “To me, this is bigger than football.”
The Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association sent a letter to the San Francisco 49ers threatening that their members may boycott working at Levi Stadium if “corrective action” is not implemented for Kaepernick’s statements made about the issue of racism in American police departments and the loss of black lives at the hands of officers. I am glad that someone like Kaepernick is bringing this issue up in a way that forces so many millions of people who would rather just ignore this problem to think about it.
Our nation’s law enforcement and emergency personnel are sworn to protect. There is no fine print. It’s not, “protect everyone … except those you don’t like.” Officers are not required to work at Levi Stadium, and when they do, they are paid as security personnel. An individual officer has the right to pass up working at the stadium. But the fact that one would do that because they disagree with the views of one person in that stadium is alarming and petty. There seem to be plenty of officers who would step up and fill the empty positions. But what if there weren’t? Apparently, there are members of our law enforcement who would be OK with leaving a stadium of thousands of people defenseless.
In the SCPOA letter, and a similar letter from the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association, Kaepernick was accused of generalizing members of law enforcement and dismissing the daily struggles of police.
Kaepernick never said Officer So-And-So and Officer Such-And-Such were racists. He never said all police officers are racist. He never said that their jobs weren’t dangerous. He just pointed out that a problem exists. Apparently, this was too much for members of SCPOA, as it says in its letter: “Your employee further insulted all law enforcement officers in America by stating, ‘There is police brutality. People of color have been targeted by police.’” So it’s insulting that Kaepernick pointed out something that has been proven to be true? Police brutality and racial profiling absolutely exist, and it’s not just a rare occurrence. After lengthy investigations, police departments throughout the country have been found to have severe problems with systemic racism, including the San Francisco Police Department.
Police brutality and racism, both as separate entities and as an ugly tag-team, are issues that affect all of us. Across the county, we are seeing police departments that are militarized and lacking in de-escalation tactics, resulting in fatality when a better outcome could have been reached. And in terms of racism, the American spirit is to stand united despite our differences — if any group of people in this country is suffering because of who they are, we all have an obligation to stand up for it.
This problem is real. It’s happening on campuses. In cities. Out on the countryside. On the East Coast. The West Coast. And all of this is causing the public to lose trust in those we depend on to protect us. I know that police do good. I know there are officers who go above and beyond every day — who put their lives on the line for the greater good. But still, my trust in them is almost completely gone because the reality of our “justice” system is one in which black boys are shot for wearing hoodies and carrying Skittles, women are interrogated about what they were wearing and how much they drank after being raped, and their rapists only get six-month sentences and then are released early, while others are spending years in jail for having possessed marijuana.
Any officers who choose to participate in a boycott of defending Levi Stadium are proving all the things they hate about Kaepernick’s opinion right. They are proving that there is indeed a limit to who they are willing to protect. They are giving the public more reasons to be distrustful, skeptical, and uncomfortable around law enforcement. In a time when we need them to step up, they are instead turning their backs on us.
I am sick to death of the idea that if you stand with Black Lives Matter, then you are also anti-cop. This is ridiculous. Social justice activists want everyone to be safe, including officers. We want measures to be put in place to prevent racism and other forms of discrimination from influencing the actions of those who should be protecting us. We also want to see all of our men and women who are in service for the general public come home safe to their families each day.
Absolutely no one deserves to lose their loved ones to a premature, preventable tragedy, whether they had black skin or a blue uniform.
To read more from Faith on this topic, go to her blog, Van Meets World.