The scars of racism are lasting, and they are terrible.
After all, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first arrived on the national scene when his white coach, Jim Harbaugh, stuck it to him by benching another white guy, thus allowing Kaepernick to take over the most important position in all of sports, for a team that would end up playing in the Super Bowl.
No wonder #BlackLivesMatter has become so important to him. His life didn’t matter to such an extent that he is now filthy rich to the tune of a $125 million contract. Have talent, get paid. That sucks, man. But such are the times that try men’s souls.
There’s more, though. So much more. Pretend scars upon pretend scars. And when you learn more about the loving white family who adopted Kaepernick, you’ll see just how deep those scars really don’t go.
Rick and Teresa Kaepernick, who had struggled through the pain of losing two infant sons to congenital heart defects, nonetheless found the strength to open their arms to Colin, after his unknown black father ran from his responsibilities and his white 19-year-old mother gave up on the idea of raising him in the final month of pregnancy.
Look at all that white privilege talking. Just walking around with a silver spoon in their mouths and never doing a darn thing for anybody except raising someone else’s child in a safe and loving environment. Really makes your skin crawl, doesn’t it? All that overcoming-real-hurt-and-loss-in-order-to-let-grace-abound-all-the-more is just one giant micro-aggression, when it comes right down to it.
It would be nice at this point in such a horror story if somebody stepped in and did something to help poor Colin out. But no. Just more jerks. First, his white high school football coach, Larry Nigro, didn’t like the lack of attention Kaepernick was getting from big-time college football programs. So he backstabbed him by making a highlight reel of his best performances and then helped send it to roughly 100 schools.
Where do you find the fortitude to get up off the mat when someone betrays you like that? No wonder Kaepernick has so much lingering resentment. And when it rains, it pours. One of those tapes was sent to the University of Nevada, where two more white guys — head coach Chris Ault and assistant Barry Sacks — piled on Kaepernick once more. They had the unmitigated gall to offer him a scholarship to fulfill his persistent nightmare scenario of playing college football. Then they threw in a free college education to boot.
Most people don’t rebound from that kind of sabotage. How Kaepernick put the pieces together and got a chance to become a starter as a freshman, as well as go on to finish in the top 10 in the nation in several categories at his position, we will never know. If only amid the systemic prejudice, somebody had given him a chance.
Ultimately, Kaepernick’s four-year trail of tears at Nevada concluded with him ranking as the only quarterback in the history of Division I FBS college football to pass for more than 10,000 yards and rush for more than 4,000 yards in a collegiate career. But now, let me see you and raise you on the pain-and-suffering-O-meter. Kaepernick is also the only Division I FBS quarterback to pass for more than 2,000 yards and rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season three times in a career.
Shattered dreams like that are only possible if the white patriarchy keeps kicking you in the groin over and over again. No “one shining moment” for this guy; just a never-ending stream of them. And all the misplaced bitterness and manufactured grievances that so obviously must follow when things play out so perfectly.
Then finally, one August day, you are sitting there during a meaningless preseason pro football game, when all of a sudden, the years and years of oppressive love, assistance, success, and riches catch up with you, and you are finally triggered into taking a leak on your country’s flag.
Something had to give. You can only keep up a brave face for so long.
After not rising for the national anthem last weekend, Kaepernick explained, “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.”
That’s powerful. I bet almost as powerful as that time Kaepernick said nothing when San Francisco’s Kate Steinle was shot dead by an illegal alien. Or when he was fined $11,000 for using the N-word during an argument with a black Chicago Bears linebacker. Or those feature stories written about Kaepernick’s shoe collection, which at the time occupied five rooms of his house.
Clearly all the hallmarks of a deep-thinking social justice warrior, his personal resume filled with very little but the very opposite of lamentation and woe.
Naturally then — and perhaps supernaturally so — Kaepernick is hypocritically equipped with eyes to see made-up monsters and ears to hear preposterous lies. That will come in handy, as his career seems prepared to tank, because ESPN is always looking for its next Michael Sam scam.
So keep digging deeper, Colin Kaepernick. I’m sure your life can finally be the convoluted mess you seem to desire so richly, even though so many others have been willing to see the best in you.