Sunday, October 15, 2017

35.5 - Outrage of the Week: backlash against kneeling NFL players

Outrage of the Week: backlash against kneeling NFL players

Next up, one of our regular features; this is the Outrage of the Week.

This week, the outrage revolves around the backlash against the NFL players who are players taking a knee during the pre-game playing of the national anthem, or are not coming onto the field until after it's played, or some other quiet protest.

It started with Colin Kaepernick, who did it as a quiet personal protest, saying he could not stand with his hand over heart in light of the repeated killings of young black men by police.

The protest caught on and spread. We have seen whole NFL teams kneel as well as teams at other levels; a few times we have even seen NFL owners joining the team.

What we have also seen, however, is pushback from government officials and those in the media who duly parrot the claptrap that such protests are "disrespectful," even "insulting" to the anthem and even somehow to the US flag.

Which is bullshit. The protests cannot be "disrespectful" or "insulting" because they are not about the anthem and they are not about the flag.

They are about police brutality.

They are about police murders of unarmed young black men.

They are about the bigotry of automatically seeing black men as thugs, as menacing, as dangerous.

They are about racism as expressed through the behavior of our police forces.

They are not about the anthem, even less are they about the flag. The anthem is just the organizing point, the symbol around which the protest is organized, not the target. Saying the protest is "about" or "directed at" or "disrespectful to" the anthem is like saying a march in Washington, DC is protesting Pennsylvania Avenue. It's like saying if there is a protest at the White House, that protest is not about some law or social condition or some policy of the current administration, it's about - and "disrespectful" to - the building itself and through that is "insulting" the very idea of the presidency, indeed the very idea of our constitutional form of government.

It's like saying that when Martin Luther King made his famous "I have a dream" speech in August 1963 that he was protesting the Lincoln Memorial. (After all, remember that he turned his back on the statue of Lincoln to give that speech!)

If that sounds silly, the idea that the NFL protests are "disrespecting" anything other than racism is equally silly.

Those who raise the claim know it. They know it. What they are trying to do is not to honesty critique the protests, they are trying to change the subject - because they don't want to deal with the actual topic. They don't want to deal with painful truths involved so they want to demonize the protest by demonizing the protesters.

They are, that is, lying to you, actively trying to mislead you. Lying to you to avoid facing their own bigotry and the bigotry they support though their official duties and their media maunderings and lying to you to enable you to avoid facing your own bigotry.

That's what the pushback is about: not "respecting" the anthem or the flag but about ignoring racism.

And there's one other aspect of this, one that I find particularly infuriating: the claim that kneeling for the anthem is "disrespectful" to "our soldiers," to "our fighting men and women."

Soldiers? Kneeling is wrong because it's disrespectful to soldiers? The anthem, the flag, is directly connected to soldiers?

That is positively un-American. Equating the anthem or the flag with one particular group - any particular group - is un-American. Period.

But this is worse: This is symbolically equating soldiers - symbolically equating the military - with America. Saying the military equals America.

You don't see it? You don't see what the problem is? Try changing "soldiers" to any other group. Say that kneeling during the anthem is insulting to teachers, who after all we call "the guardians of our future." It's insulting to hard-working American union members. It's insulting to peace and social justice activists, who raise the standard of free speech, free association, and the right to petition the government. It's insulting to civil rights lawyers, who are the voices of justice in the courts.

Does any of that sound like it should be the standard? (Remember that there are 2.7 times as many active teachers as active duty military.)

You still don't see it? What if we picked yet another group and said that it was insulting to whites? That seeing these (mostly black) NFL players kneeling during the anthem is insulting to white people?

Does that sound appropriate? No? Then why is it okay to single out soldiers as who are represented by the anthem, by the flag? In fact, what does that say about us as a people?

That threatens to get me off into a different topic, to our devotion to the military and to the militarism that runs though our national veins, so let me leave it for now except to say once more that saying the players' protest is insulting to soldiers, and so identifying soldiers with the anthem and the flag, is flatly un-American.

Let's get back to the actual target of the protest, because on that, the facts speak for themselves.

First off, know that there is no definitive data on the number of people killed by police and the government does terrible job of keeping track. So there is some play in the numbers, but the trends they show are unmistakable.

For one, blacks are far more likely to be killed by cops than whites are. In fact, compared to their percentage of the population, blacks are 5.5 times more likely to be killed by cops than whites are.

Black males aged 15-34 are nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by cops.

Black males aged 15-19 are 21 times more likely to be killed by cops than white males of the same age group.

That racial disparity persists among unarmed victims: Counting all racial minorities, not just blacks, an unarmed minority person is nearly three times as likely to get shot and killed by police than an unarmed white person. When you consider just African-Americans, the rate is five times higher.

And no, it has nothing to do with the crime rate and all the "well, they commit more crimes" mutterings: Multiple studies have found no correlation between police shootings and the local crime rate.

And its not because police are in such terrible danger that they have to repeatedly defend themselves in some supposed war:

Again, there is some play in the numbers, but according to, as of October 12, 931 non-cops had been shot and killed by ops in the US in 2017.

According to, as of that same day - October 12 - the figure was 941.

According to the Washington Post, using a more cautious methodology, the number was 770 as of October 8, which the paper noted is more than at the same point in 2016.

Meanwhile, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which is devoted to memorializing police who died in the line of duty, there had been, as of October 9, just 37 cops shot and killed by non-cops in the whole US in 2017, a number that is, the page noted, 16% below what it was at the same point a year earlier.

Cops shot and killed by non-cops, down. Non-cops killed by cops, up. And a kill ratio of somewhere between 21:1 and 25:1.

Here's a comparison for you, another way of looking at this: In 2016, 266 of the 1093 killed by cops were black. That's 24.4% of the total. If the proportion so far in 2017 is the same, then using lowest figure, the one from the Washington Post, 188 blacks have been killed so far this year by cops. Which means that cops have killed five times as many blacks as the total number of cops killed by everyone, blacks, whites, Hispanics, and anybody else.

There comes a point, one we are or at least by all that's rational should be well beyond, where despite the desperate fantasies such as the recent invention by an FBI Terrorism Task Force of a new threat of "black identity extremism" concocted out of the deaths of eight cops in six incidents spread over three years;

there comes a point where no honest person, no one with basic human decency and cognitive facilities outmatching those of a rabbit;

there comes a point where you simply cannot deny the truth reflected in these numbers. You simply cannot chalk these numbers up to any cause other than flat out racism.

And the fact that there are voices, powerful voices in government and media, that would do and are doing exactly that, that would and do deny that reality, that would and do insistently, persistently lie to you about those trying to raise awareness of that reality, that fact shows that those voices lack that honesty, lack that basic human decency, and that is the deepest sort of outrage.

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