Op-Ed: Colin Kaepernick Redux

October 14, 2017

America has an appalling history of racism and brutal subjugation, and we should always be vigilant against any recurrence of that history. But the most influential sectors of our economy today practice preferences in favor of blacks. The main obstacles to racial equality at present lie not in implicit bias but in culture and behavior. — Heather Mac Donald

by Dick McGowan, Ph.D.

I watched the NFL games the last several weekends, but I am also a fan of Mahatma Gandhi. He said, “Truth hurts no cause that is just,” and, certainly, getting rid of racial hatred and racial injustice is a good cause. It is especially urgent if agents of the state, for instance, the police, are perpetrators of the injustice, and it is especially compelling if one race behaves violently toward the other.

Thus, I can understand why people who believe police pick on blacks and whites beat on blacks, i.e, the players, would kneel during the anthem in protest.

But believing something is true does not make it so. A woman can believe that she could jump off a six-story building and fly. The belief would only last seconds before it ended when she hit the ground. A man can believe he could drink massive amounts of liquor and still drive safely, but anyone who can read the miserable data on drunk-driving fatalities knows the consequences of that belief.

So it is with the NFL’s kneelers, which began with Colin Kaepernick. Since the NFL kneeling began with the alleged police killing of blacks, that is a good starting point: the November 2011 “Arrest- Related Deaths, 2003- 2009 — Statistical Tables,” (NCJ 235385) from the  Bureau of Justice Statistics, shows that 42.1 percent of arrest-related deaths are white, 31.8 percent are black, and around 20 percent are Hispanic.

In other words, police killed more whites than blacks when making arrests. Since Hispanics have traditionally been treated as white for race-related matters, the proportion for arrest-related deaths is 62.1 percent white and 31.8 percent black.

So yes, Kaepernick and others can take a knee because they believe more blacks are killed by police than whites in the same way a woman can can believe she can fly from a building. While the NFL players are talented people with terrific skills their skills are not in research and investigation.

As well, the main perpetrators of murder of blacks, those who act as though black lives do not matter, are other blacks. Data from a 2013 FBI uniform crime report show that of the 2,491 black homicide victims, 189 were killed by a white offender, or 7.7 percent. Over 90 percent of black victims were slain by a black offender. Of the 3,005 white homicide victims, 409 were killed by a black offender, or 13.6 percent. Obviously, homicide is largely an intraracial act, not an interracial act.

Data from the FBI 2016 Crime Statistics show that 4,192 whites and 4,932 blacks were the victims of murder and non-negligent manslaughter. If over 90 percent of those acts were committed intraracially, then 4,439 blacks lost their lives at the hands of another black.

For bigoted readers of this piece, the data provide an occasion to justify hate and prejudice against blacks; for “far left” readers, the data being made visible is an occasion to name-call about racists and racism.

To the center, where most people reside, the data are an occasion to realize that race relations in America are not as simple as saying whites are indifferent to blacks. The numbers are value neutral — and forward-looking people, motivated by love, want to understand the world as it is, not as some projection based in anger.

Nonetheless, NFL players kneel during the anthem. A joke that made the rounds in class may explain it: “How many big-school, Division I athletes does it take to screw in a lightbulb? The answer is one, and he gets three credits for it.”

The joke is unkind. It suggests that players are stupid. They are not. It is kinder to think of them as ignorant and easily misled (at least those who accept the Kaepernick rationale). For ignorance is curable in a way that stupidity is not.

Willfully choosing ignorance, however, is stupid.

Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, taught philosophy and ethics cores for 42 years, including years at St. Joseph’s College and Butler University.


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