The murder of George Floyd was a tipping point for African-Americans who have lived in justified and all too often realized fear of American law enforcement for generations. For many in white America, it has caused something like scales to fall from our eyes as to the depth and breadth of the problem.
“What’s different now, it’s embarrassing to say, probably, but I think white people are more passionate about it now than then,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Thursday in reference to the anthem protests led by Colin Kaepernick in 2016, via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area. “And that’s our ignorance. And that’s what upsets black people, and they have every right to be upset because they haven’t just been telling us this the last few weeks. They’ve been telling us this since our grandparents. And I’ve been hearing it from every one of my friends since I was 14.”
Shanahan’s comments were made within the context of the connection between recent unjustified murders of African-American citizens and the reason for Kaepernick’s protests.
“It’s three years later, and [there are] still some people not understanding what his message was,” Shanahan said. “And, regardless, that’s too many people not understanding the message that everyone’s been giving for a long time. And Colin did it the strongest out of anyone, and people should respect him a ton for that and admire that. . . .
“Regardless of whether you agree with how he did it or not, that doesn’t matter. What Colin was protesting was something that should be respected by all humans. That did take a lot of courage. That is something that is 1,000-percent wrong and what he was trying to fix and bring light to.
“And, gosh, it was hard to bring light to the whole country because people didn’t want to totally hear it and it got diluted with so much different stuff.”
It didn’t get diluted as much as if got deflected. People who didn’t want to face the hard truths of a system that targets minorities for more aggressive and hostile and in too many cases (one is too many) lethal treatment changed the subject from the reason for Kaepernick’s protest to his chosen method of protesting, presuming that their own reverence of the flag and the military and America itself is fully shared by people who have had a far different American experience.
“These were the guys who started it and it was very clear when they would articulate it, why they were doing it,” Shanahan said of the protests. “And so the whole debate on all the other stuff, the flag, everything like, people don’t want to hear that. What he was doing was a big deal. Whether you disagree with how he did it or not doesn’t matter. . . .
“And I’m all for protest. I’m all for change. I hope the protest cause change. Whatever we have to do to get the change, I’m for it. I know our organization is. I know Jed is. I know our players are. We always have been.
He’s right, but it can’t be conditional or equivocal. It can’t come with, “Yes, but you shall stand for the anthem and respect the flag.” Those who want to make this moment the catalyst for change that may not come overnight will need the support — not passive tolerance but active support — to take a knee and/or raise a fist and remind the majority that the minority is still not enjoying the liberty and justice for all promised by a pledge of allegiance recited every day by school children throughout the nation.