Well that’s settled. Let’s all welcome Jay Cutler to Miami. Then let’s do something else: Get real.
The search for a new Miami Dolphins quarterback was not about Colin Kaepernick. He’s the serially rejected player on the outs with the NFL — and much of America — for taking a knee during the National Anthem last season to protest African Americans being brutalized by police.
This quarterback-in-waiting isn’t saying anything that Americans don’t already know. Rather, he’s confronting an aggravatingly enduring issue about which too many Americans simply don’t want to hear: that this, yes, great nation in which people indeed find freedom and opportunity has systematically reneged on those promises specifically when it come African Americans — in education, in healthcare, in the court system, in housing, and, of course, in how laws too often are arbitrarily applied.
And hard-won rights secured decades ago — with blood, sweat and tears, it’s not a cliché to say — are being rolled back, not by stealth anymore, but in plain sight: The laughably named Election Integrity Commission is working hard to deny again the vote to African Americans and other minorities in this country, with an assist from many states; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, with a twisted sense of history, said that black colleges and universities are “real pioneers of school choice.” She left out the exigencies of Jim Crow. Affirmative action, a decades-old initiative that has been both upheld and dashed by the courts, is under attack again, though many studies have found that white women have been the principal beneficiaries, while minorities remain underrepresented on many college campuses.
But if questions about African Americans’ increasingly threatened status in this country — their country — are too confrontational to ponder, there are perhaps, some questions that many Americans, of every hue, should ask themselves:
The National Football League, indeed, has a right to determine who uses its fields to make a statement. But 70 percent of the NFL’s players are black. Where is the support for its employees? They are not immune to bias. In fact, defensive end Brandon Mebane and other black players, for instance, went public recently about their struggle to find housing in Los Angeles. No one, it seems, wants to rent to them. Of course, when most of the league’s black players have been intimidated into silence, it’s easy to understand that of the NFL. And why does the league have less of a problem with criminality among its players than with a man who wants America to live up its guarantees?
Many were rightly offended by Kaepernick’s Castro T-shirt — it’s hypocritical to glorify one police state while lamenting the same tendency in America. But aren’t out-of-control police in this country — and the official sanction they too often receive — just as offensive?
Anyone who declared that “We are all Americans” after the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, but still excoriates the righteousness of Kaepernick’s cause — that some of darker hue, and for that matter, accented, hijabed, or who calls his male spouse his “wife” be considered less American for only those reasons — should defend their reasoning. This is not a question of political ideology. The question is, What part of bigotry is patriotic?
The questions are persistent, the answers elusive. However, little of this is about Colin Kaepernick. It’s about the mirror he’s holding up to America.