GUEST BLOG BY ERIC ANDERSON
San Francisco 49’ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick must have known he was stirring up a hornet’s nest—while simultaneously setting fire to it—by refusing to stand for the National Anthem during NFL pre-season games. And he clearly must have known he was throwing vials of nitroglycerin onto that fire when he said the following uncompromising and unambiguous words:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, 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.”
Kaepernick’s passion, his willingness to risk millions in salary and endorsements, and subject himself to public scorn and ridicule in order to fight an epidemic in racial injustice, is something many black Americans can appreciate and support.
But it’s something few members of the privileged class–people who’ve never been on the receiving end of police brutality—can possibly understand. I was reminded of that a few weeks ago when I read a blog by a former Hard Copy reporter Diane Dimond. In her blog titled “Yes, Let’s Fix the Ghetto,” Dimond cherry picked a police shooting of an armed black man—a career criminal—to make the argument that cops are unfairly maligned, and that the real problem in the black community is democratic policies that have created ghettos and underclass of losers who act out violently and destructively to make up for underachieving in their miserable lives. To bolster her point, Dimond, as many white pro-police advocates do, displayed on her blog page prominent pictures of black law enforcement officers such as Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who unsurprisingly made the following one-sided, pro-police statement:
“There exists a very real and volatile mix of urban pathologies in minority communities today, created by decades of failed policies that only exacerbated poverty and nurtured its frequent companion – crime. Police didn’t create the situation. They only respond to the aftermath.”
Clarke’s statement is the default position of many conservatives and pro police advocates who, when confronted with irrefutable video evidence of cops shooting down unarmed black men, attempt to change the subject by retreating to crime statistics that show, shockingly, that blacks commit crimes against other blacks! Who knew? People like Dimond and Clarke seem to believe these two issues are mutually exclusive—that there can’t be both a problem with black-on-black crime and with police brutalizing and killing black men.
Can we say once and for all that most African Americans people despise criminals—probably even more than other people. But we also understand that most black criminals are caught and locked up in jail. The same can’t be said for rogue police officers.
Nowhere in Dimond’s blog was there any acknowledgment of a policing problem—that even one of the recent spate of police shooting of unarmed black men was unjustified. Reading Dimond’s blog, my immediate thought was here’s a woman who lives in a June Cleaver world where affable police officers in starched shirts pop out of their patrol cars and politely say “ma’am, can I help carry your groceries into the house?” I imagine Ms. Dimond has never been handcuffed and grabbed by the scruff of her neck and shoved into a darkened garage to be questioned for…well…being black. I also doubt she’s been handcuffed and frisked in full view of the public, and then when attempting to ask the reason why be told “shut up, ‘Slick.’” I seriously doubt that term of endearment has ever been used with her. But I’ve had these experiences, as has my brother who’s a doctor, as has my other brother who’s a partner in a major Los Angeles law firm, as have a good number of my professional friends—directors, editors and cameramen— whose only offense was they happened to be black.
And while not all my black friends agree with Kaepernick’smethods—some take exception of the “pig” socks he sported during a recent practice—we all understand the passion and motivation behind his protest.
Eric Anderson is an Emmy Nominated freelance journalist who has previously worked for CNN and ABC News. He has recently written and produced documentary programs on Charles Manson, Michael Jackson and O.J. Simpson, and has recently co-written and produced a ten-part cable television series on the Kennedys.