Would Colin Kaepernick would have been kicked out of MidAmericon? He was “inciteful” and made people uncomfortable by deviating from the program. He committed the worst of sins in modern America: He hurt people’s feelings. In a time when people are supposed to not upset anyone, his rejection of polite acquiescence deserves applause.
He refused to stand up for the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a game. That shouldn’t have been a big deal. However, he’s stirred up some ugly outrage. The Santa Clara police union threatened to have cops leave football games unprotected because they don’t like Kaepernick’s socks. They portrayed police as pigs; the response showed that these particular cops deserve it. A stranger on Twitter told me he was buying a Kaepernick jersey in order to burn it.
The police union declared: “The board of directors of the Santa Clara Police Officer’s Association has a duty to protect its members and work to make all of their working environments free of harassing behavior.” Like the people who impose speech codes at colleges and SF cons, they demand a “safe space” and call disagreement “harassment.”
Kaeperick’s criticism was overbroad at times; he said that the United States “oppresses black people and people of color.” Certainly oppression — often but not exclusively of black people — is a serious problem, and people have often looked the other way. But by criticizing “the country,” he seems to indict the undeserving along with the deserving. It’s not a way to gain support or change people’s minds.
However, some of his criticisms have been more precise and accurate. He said:
You have people that practice law and our lawyers and go to school for eight years, but you can become a cop in six months and don’t have to have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist. That’s insane. Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.
That’s not hyperbole. It’s strict truth. Prohibitive training and licensing requirements often affect African-American culture disproportionately, such as special burdens on African hair braiding. On the one hand, police get away with far too much, and on the other, petty regulatory practices keep black people from developing businesses that could help them and their communities.
In response to his comments, some people have argued that the third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” celebrates the killing of escaped slaves who defected to the British. This seems speculative. I’d always assumed that Key was just using the phrase “hireling and slave” to denigrate the British troops, and I haven’t seen an explanation of who the “hirelings” were if he meant both literally. It’s an interesting theory, but I’d like to see more research on it.
The amount of pearl-clutching that Kaepernick has inspired is astonishing. People regard it as their highest right not to hear anything that upsets them. At the same time, they’re entitled to spew hostility without limit. If they could all enforce their claims, they’d cancel each other out, and they couldn’t even demand the silence of others, since that would offend someone. MidAmericon’s speech enforcers and the Santa Clara cops would both have to shut up.
The real meaning of the “Don’t offend anybody” doctrine is “I have a right not to be offended, and everyone else must shut up to soothe my feelings.”
Did Kaepernick upset people and cause them emotional distress? If so, good. People need to hear distressing things now and then.