From the time Colin Kaepernick first sat, and later kneeled, during the National Anthem to when George Floyd’s murderer was found guilty on all counts, 1,698 days, 40,752 hours, and 2,445,120 minutes had passed.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Network’s Steve Wyche in August of 2016. “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.”
The amount of time that has passed is important to remember, in the same way that it’s imperative to look back at Kaepernick’s initial words. They’re reminders about what this has always been about, no matter the millions that tried to make it about faux patriotism, a racist song, or a flag. To be clear, this has always been about this country’s long history of allowing police officers to use Black bodies as target practice without sufficient repercussions.
Throughout time, we’ve watched as athletes have become activists. Sometimes it was through their play and how they carried themselves, like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron, and other times it was through their boldness and brashness, like Muhammad Ali. But no matter the method, they all fought for the same cause. However, something has always been different about this latest chapter. Because when Kaepernick put his foot/knee down, so many others slowly started to stand, and kneel, by his side.
One of the most legendary stories from the Bible is in Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. And while Moses never made it, after 40 long years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites finally made it to the “land of milk and honey.” To many, it’s a story of faith and long-suffering. But, it’s also one that exemplifies what Black America has gone through, wondering if we’d ever see the day where we made it to a “Promised Land,” where white cops that kill Black people, actually go to jail.
I was seven years old when Rodney King happened. Think about that — six years before I was a teenager, my mentality about police and our judicial system was molded for me. Seeing the video on the news every night was one thing. But seeing those four officers walk out of court after being found not guilty was everything.
Instances like King, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and the fact that the cop that shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back recently returned to work, are why you heard such a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday. Because, if only for a day, Black America got to exhale…for a few minutes.
Those fleeting moments of comfort and redemption are why Kyrie Irving led a call last summer, with over 80 players, in which he expressed his opposition to the NBA’s restart, as he felt that this wasn’t the time to return to being white people’s entertainment as a potentially world-changing conversation about race was happening. At the time, we had no idea that the sports world was about to change America. We saw the WNBA help remove Kelly Loeffler from her Senate seat, thus giving Raphael Warnock a historic political win in Georgia. And we saw when the NBA shut down after Blake was shot, leading to other sports pausing their schedules.
In 2020, sports made America pay attention to the elephant that’s always been in the room — race — and forced this country to sit in a locked conference room until the presentation was over. But, unfortunately, Tuesday was only a temporary breakthrough. It was not justice, it was accountability. Justice is George Floyd being alive, or at least a world in which the police don’t lie, like this.
Tuesday was also a day in which the NFL confirmed, yet again, why Kaepernick has been blackballed since 2016, as the league and teams kept releasing pointless statements that missed the mark. The 49ers didn’t even mention Kaepernick in their statement, while the Raiders made a mockery of the entire situation.
But, the greatest example of how Tuesday was just a temporary moment of comfort, is when police in Ohio killed another Black person, just because. A teenage girl named #MakiyahBryant was killed by the police after she was the one that called them for help.
How do you reform a system so corrupt with a creed of “to protect and serve,” yet it kills the people who call it for protection?
Well, one of the things you can do is kneel, as a way to bring continuous awareness to this long-standing issue. Because, as Colin Kaepernick said, there are still bodies in the street, and cops are still getting away with murder.