This past week marked four years since Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, knelt during the national anthem at a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers as a way of speaking out against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States.
His actions took the media by storm, resulting in his eventual dismissal from the 49ers and the apparent end of Kaepernick’s football career in March 2017.
Despite this, the movement gained traction and Kaepernick has been commended by many for his willingness to put his career on the line for a cause important to him and one of pertinence throughout the nation. While this was a revolutionary act at the time, it did not do much to draw further attention to the causes at hand.
However, four years later, it’s incredibly clear how much work there still is left to do.
On Aug. 23, Jacob Blake of Kenosha, Wisconsin, was shot seven times in the back by the police after reports that he was attempting to break up a fight between two women on the street. He has since been hospitalized and has suffered injuries to several organs as well as his spine, compromising his ability to ever walk again.
Less than four months ago, the nation saw another senseless act of police brutality resulting in the murder of George Floyd, which set forth a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement across the United States. Despite a global pandemic, people marched and protested, as well as took steps to participate from home.
Part of why the movement was able to take such a strong force and draw as much attention as it did was because Floyd’s murder occurred at a time when the American people were still quasi-quarantined. Because there was nowhere else to divert our attention, we were all consumed in our Twitter feeds, news channels and various media outlets reporting on what was going on.
What’s terrifying now is that as life adjusts to a newer normal with the start of another academic year and more and more people returning to work, it’s easy to divert from news that scares us. It’s easy to stop paying attention, but it shouldn’t be.
Being able to ignore the news in and of itself is a stance of privilege.
But what is remarkable is how public figures throughout the country have taken a stance to make their voices heard in areas in which you would not expect. They’re making it so that you can’t turn a blind eye. You must face it head on.
The NBA, WNBA, MLB, NFL, MLS and NHL have placed boycotts on competition after an already long pause on their seasons due to COVID-19. It is on those with larger voices to use their platforms to share their support and continue the movement on a larger scale.
These players are using their privilege to speak up because they know not everyone can.
Not only are they pausing their play, but are creating organizations, campaigns and other ways to help educate and actively progress the country on these issues of racial injustice and police brutality.
It is, however, despicable that the current administration within the United States is constantly contradicting their stances and criticizing literally every aspect of the movement. This past week presidential advisor Jared Kushner said in a CNN interview that members of the NBA are financially privileged to be able to take a few games off in order to shed light on these causes, saying the real work will begin once they turn “slogans and signals into actual action that’s going to solve the problem.”
A few months prior, the Trump administration completely berated the acts of protesting and other forms of activism in regard to this movement and have yet to bring about any governmental action to improve these issues in any way.
We need to stop allowing such hateful people to be in positions of power. If they are going to criticize every form of action toward this movement and those working toward actually making these causes better, the needle will never move forward — or rather, the needle will only move toward the ideals of justice and equality in spite of these people in power.
Since Floyd’s murder and the rise of the movement in June, there have been more localized attempts to improve some of the issues at hand. For example, the Bethlehem Police Department has released a use of force report in order to keep community members aware of when force is and isn’t appropriate. Any time the public can get a better understanding of when and how the police can use their force is important because individuals are more aware of their rights, more cognizant of inappropriate behavior and more apt to hold their community officials accountable.
It is on each and every one of us to stay informed and not shy away from the more difficult news. Put in the extra work. Stay engaged and stay informed. It quite literally starts with you.
Knowledge is not only power, it is essential.