Colin Kaepernick

The more we recognize the problems of policing and solutions to those problems, the further it seems we get from them. I’ve read some of Mr. Kaepernick’s statements and comments. I’ve been to his twitter feed which would make one believe there is nothing positive in the world and everyone with white skin is part of the KKK or some form of Neo-Nazi. I have read the statement from the SFPOA whose members have helped protect Mr. Kaepernick, from PORAC who has been a leader in trying to find ways to improve and expand training in California agencies. I myself have tried to be a voice for deputies and victims in Santa Clara who have repeatedly broken the “thin blue line”, frequently a complaint of those with Mr. Kaepernick’s views, often to see the public ignore or attack those deputies in the media, or to be lumped in with the “problem children” that exist in every career, not just law enforcement. When they spoke up and said there were problems, that if things didn’t change, bad things would start happening because the office was so poorly run. The public was told they hated the sheriff because she “held people accountable.” Now we have 3 people dead, proof the sheriff rarely held anyone accountable, and still no one listening. Mr. Kaepernick certainly hasn’t engaged in the issue.

Mr. Kaepernick has had the opportunity a number of times to step up against bad law enforcement right here in Santa Clara County as his own team and members of his team were given special treatment when arrested, allowed to party with a sheriff at events while under investigation for weapons crimes, shots fired at parties (yes, I said and meant parties), ultimately an actual shooting, DUI’s, domestic violence and other crimes. Multiple calls to fights and reports of shots fired, with alleged gang members present at some parties, no one was ever shot or abused by the deputies on those calls. Despite a handful of your own team members endangering them, you never spoke up in support of their response, or in offense at the sheriff’s actions — when they benefited your team.

The deputies stood up about those wrongs, where was Mr. Kaepernick’s voice? I never heard it.

Three people have died due to the sheriff’s neglectful ways of running the jails, there are questions about others because investigations were so shoddily done. Mr. Kaepernick claims to be outraged about the police oppression; I haven’t heard Mr. Kaepernick’s voice join the outrage demanding the sheriff step down when Mr. Tyree was beaten to death. Nor did I hear Mr. Kaepernick stand with deputies demanding the sheriff step down when deputies refused to let her hide the highly mismanaged cell extraction that contributed to the death of Mr. Roches, though despite their efforts the LT who gave the wrongful commands that ultimately ended in serious injury was never addressed. No outrage there either. And even yet again, Mr. Kaepernick was silent when deputies worked to provide as much information as they could to make sure the sheriff wasn’t able to hide the lack of follow through, communication, policy that resulted in Mr. Matyssik being released, suffering from Alzheimer’s only to die on a highway some miles away, lost and alone.

Mr. Kaeperenick claims to have been thinking about what to do for awhile now in regards to this subject, that he wanted to become “more educated about the issues”. He has had the opportunity to “learn about” and “change” law enforcement right here in his own backyard. To offer solutions by leading by example. All those times he remained silent when it directly involved a local sheriff that his team has been cozy with in the past all the opportunity he has to learn about local policing issues which have been boiling over in both SJPD and SCCSO for years now, and this is his decided action. Perhaps Mr. Kaepernick’s poor ability to think about strategic solutions is part of the reason he’s on the bench if this fiasco is any example of his learning about a matter and deciding on what action he takes.

Instead, Mr. Kaepernick dishonors his own local police who have been taking risks with their own careers trying to fight the very fight Mr. Kaepernick is benching himself on — and trust me, if Kaepernick is worried about losing his job, I’m sure he can survive for awhile given what he’s paid, the deputies standing up and risking their careers have no such multi-million dollar contract safety net. Deputies have been trying to demand the sheriff be held accountable, far too often with a silent public. They have sought better accountability in their agency, that there be better training, better policy, and yes, even better transparency. But without public support, training and policy continues to go downhill with just enough effort to be great PR for the sheriff. Mr. Kaepernick chooses to not lead by example, not show those who want change how to help make it happen, not to find out what is happening and potentially stand with police fighting for improvements; he chooses to shore up his lagging career and create an alternative excuse for why he’ll probably be sitting on the bench this season. Mr. Kaepernick, you won’t be warming a pine bench because you refuse to stand, you’ll be there because you’re not a very good player. I’m sure you’ll offer other suggestions for why you’re there now though.

Yes, I know… I’m pointing out one sheriff’s office, one police department, but change isn’t generally something that happens instantly, by magic. Wars are made up of many battles, each agency faces different issues, each community taking the time to understand those issues that apply to them and their department, everyone coming together to create and implement solutions. SCCSO and SJPD’s issues are individual and need different solutions like every agency across the country. Policing is a community thing and we seem to be looking to everyone but ourselves and our communities for the answers and Mr. Kaepernick just doubled down on that dysfunctional plan for all of us with his celebrity status.

Mr. Kaepernick, I wholly defend your right to sit down for the anthem, to protest in any non-violent form you desire; even if it offends others, so what, as Steve Hughes says. But remember men and women of all colors, beliefs, and status have given their service, sometimes their lives to make sure that we have the right to return disrespect with more disrespect. Men and women of all colors have fought hundreds of years to end inequalities, for black people, women, gays — the battle is an every day experience for far to many, but it is still so much better than it was for any of those held down than it was in 1950. We should at least honor their lives by using ALL the tools we have to take it to the next level. I wish I could change the world tomorrow, but the world will only continue to change through more hard work, and hard work is rarely done while sitting on your ass until someone else does the job for you.

Rather than rallying those who support your point — that our system fails poor people, particularly black, poor people in many, many areas of our nation — you have chosen like so many others to disrespect them as part of the whole. I am white. So no, I do not know what it’s like to be black. On the other hand, I’ve been told I won’t be hired because I might get pregnant. I’ve been refused housing as a single parent. I’ve been called “hysterical” and told to “calm down” by police who told me they didn’t want to remove the offender from the house after a particularly terrifying domestic incident where I was told that I and perhaps my children would be killed. Just few moments of many in my life. I don’t know what it’s like to be black. I do know what it’s like to not be taken seriously because of a superficial trait. It’s frustrating and hurts. It’s angering, and demeaning. It makes you question yourself for reasons you should never have to worry about.

But rather than enlist the support of people who do have some understanding of what you speak, despite being white, you have kicked them. You’re a man, do I get to sit back and hold you personally accountable for the problem of gender inequality solely on the basis you’re a man? Am I going to condemn all men as misogynists because of a handful who mistreated me? I certainly know some women who do — if you don’t toe their line, they attack, and I disagree vehemently with women like that. They hurt our cause in my opinion. I had some local women’s political groups go for my throat a few years ago right here on this blog when they assumed I was a man because I wouldn’t support Sheriff Laurie Smith and they didn’t want to answer the hard questions about why they support the very sheriff you could be helping to make a stand against. Instead of making allies, they made… I hesitate to say an enemy, because I don’t count myself as that, but you’ll certainly never see me standing by their side for their cause ever again and I will never speak well of their organizations. You just did that will millions of people. Yes, I’m sure what you feel you done feels good. It feels like you’ve accomplished something with all this attention, I’m sure. But you’ve not accomplished much for any cause other than that very attention you’re getting. This has not moved us forward from the problems.

Go ahead and sit on your bench, Mr. Kaepernick, but when the game is over, take a walk over to San Jose Police Department or the Santa Clara Sheriff’s office and talk to the men and women on the street every day. Find out what they think about the problems you see, how they see them in their own agencies, what their ideas are about improving things right here at home, and what they think needs to happen to make those improvements real. Learn about their job, their training, what they need and want to better serve their community. BLM, the protests, the shootings, they all have gotten attention to the issue…what we need now is action, Mr. Kaepernick, not more noise. The world is already watching, they want to see what we do now. They want to see how people will bridge the gap between police and community, learn each others issues, concerns and problems. People who will start that “conversation” and make it okay to talk to each other. Crossing the line to learn about each other needs to stop being seen as treason, and those who can help the most with that, people like you, like Beyoncé, instead choose to sit on the bench rather than step up those next steps.

Police don’t have the opportunity to sit on a bench for their cause, for that matter they face un-examined derision more often than not as we’ve seen right here where your home and stadium sits; in trying to remove a poor sheriff and in trying to work with SJPD and the cities financial issues– more often than not the assumptions about police are automatically negative. You should understand a bit about that, right Mr. Kaepernick? Negative assumptions based on superficial reasons? You claim you educated yourself on the issues. Are you aware Mr. Kaepernick that there are problems even in your own stadium? That probably more than half the officers in your stadium every game are “double badging” under Santa Clara Police Department’s umbrella for less than their regular wage and without the protection of full workman’s comp coverage? These jobs should be staffed by fully paid and covered officers, but the City of Santa Clara, the NFL, and your own team don’t believe the officers livelihoods and potentially lives are worth it. It’s more important to save a few dollars for unimportant, lowly public employees so they have more millions to pay the more important, even not so great players like yourself.  Funny how often we make judgement and value on superficial things, isn’t it, Mr. Kaepernick? Regardless though, they risk their future breaking up fights; dealing with drunk people furious and causing problems because you’re a lousy quarterback; people who could now decide to rush the sideline where you sit and throw an officer down the stairs to get there putting the entire financial future of that officer’s family at risk. And still they are there to do the best they can to keep everyone, including you and your team mates, safe.

Prejudice itself really has little to do with color. Humanity has proven prejudice against a lot of things besides color — gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, wealth, which designer jeans you wear… and even if you wear a uniform or not. I like to point out that a negative generalization of any large group of people for any reason is usually wrong and unfair, regardless of how that group is defined — People of color, women, men, gay people, Muslims… speaking of….

To paraphrase Kareem Abdul Jabbar, we have to start to see each other’s humanity. The only way we do that is by both giving and taking the opportunity to allow that to happen rather than taking the opportunity to further dehumanize each other. You are not seeing officer’s humanity in your actions, Mr. Kaepernick, and I’m fairly certainly at this point you’re not giving them the opportunity to see yours. You’ve simple dug the rut of mutual disrespect we’re caught in that much deeper.