As someone with degrees from the University of Minnesota that give me at least an academic understanding of a lot of what is going on, feel like I should jump into the debate as to whether or not the Vikings should sign Colin Kaepernick as some sort of olive branch to those that are currently rioting and burning the city I was born in, that I’ve always lived in, and that I love to the ground. Those degrees are sociology of law, criminology, and deviance, as well as political science. They’ve given me the historical background to analyze things that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. That’s because I’m a straight white man, and perhaps I was under the false pretense that things were getting better in that regard, year-to-year.
While I do think there are certain metrics you could point to that prove that that’s the case, it’s clear that people in marginalized communities don’t feel that way. Does that give them carte blanche to burn the city to the ground? Of course not. In fact, with COVID-19 already pushing a lot of small businesses to the brink, they could be essentially handing those businesses over to the larger more corporate entities that they’ve bemoaned as gentrification, as bars, restaurants, and the neighborhood liquor store that employees me, my mother and my fiance are one molotov cocktail away from perhaps never re-opening.
In fact, that liquor store is one of the few left standing between Lake Street and the airport, and I’ve spent the last couple nights defending the store along with the other small business owners in our neighborhood, having agitators attempt to threaten my family and their financial well-being, literally, while other more passive liberals/progressives scream at me for meeting aggression with aggression, with this “Let the Police handle it!” idea that clearly shows that they’re unaware just how bad things are in the city righ now (newsflash, the police AREN’T going to come).
It’s bad. Is my point, and I’ve never been this afraid for the safety of my family before. We work and live in this neighborhood and can hear gunfire, police helicopters fly overhead with their lights shining into our windows, there are screams, explosions, reports of fires at the library, other businesses on our block have burned and now it seems that people are focusing on the residential aspect of our neighborhood as well.
I’ve always been the type to meet aggression with aggression, showing those that are looking for cracks to exploit in the solidarity of our neighborhood aren’t going to listen to appeals to their morality, how do I know that? Because I’ve tried.
I’ve had cars floor their engines at my fiance and me, driving down a main street at upwards of 70 miles per hour, threatening me, her, my mother who is 60 years old and who has diabetes and high blood pressure. I may be white, but my fiance isn’t. She’s half Native American, something that apparently is worth mocking by those who feel that anyone that doesn’t have their exact skin color is the enemy despite the fact that people in my neighborhood have voted down the line for progressive causes for decades. Despite the Black Lives Matter signs that existed everywhere even before people are blanketing their businesses with them in the hopes that their livelihoods will be spared.
It’s tribalism at it’s worst and while there’s a lot more to it than that (groups on both sides of the political spectrum are also involved and are fanning the flames both literally and in terms of using the current nightmare to go on cable news and yell “SEE?”), at this point I really don’t think that the Minnesota Vikings can do much to stop what has happened, nor can Colin Kaepernick. Assuming he even would in the first place.
Would he want to be used in a Jay-Z like fashion to quell protests? As some sort of buyable commodity by elite team owners to stop what some see is necessary to finally get the attention of those elites who haven’t done much, in their estimation, to fix problems they’ve bemoaned for decades?
I doubt it. Just like I doubt those that are burning their own neighborhoods to the ground would stop doing just that if Kaepernick came out rocking a purple and gold jersey. This is an irrational action based on rational anger, after all. Those that feel no representation in their own neighborhoods, no connection to it, no ownership or pride (despite the 612 tattoos). That’s why they don’t care if what they’re doing is going to exacerbate the issues they’re “protesting” about, because they already feel like things are hopeless so what difference will it make if things get worse? Or maybe they feel like those of us who are working/middle-class need to feel the fear they do on a regular basis?
That’s assuming that the majority of people looting and burning are doing anything but acting in their own self interest. Which a lot of them are. There’s just a lot of nuance here and when you watch videos of people looting target, they’re simply trying to get some free stuff, they’re not really thinking about anything else. When you have hundreds of thousands of people, you’re going to get a wide array of reasons and it’s going to take a wide array of solutions to stop what so far hasn’t responded to traditional attempts to do just that.
So, maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t think that Kaepernick’s million-dollar contract as a back up to Kirk Cousins would do a single thing to stop this. Take it from someone who has been up all night defending a business, who has attempted to reason with people by saying we’re just regular people that have no political power, some of whom haven’t worked in two months because of COVID and are already hanging on by our fingernails and just want to make sure we can pay for our rent/mortgage and stay safe.
If that hasn’t worked, if my 60-year-old mother has been pushed and screamed at, by people. I, again, don’t think that some millionaire athlete’s contracts for millions will change anything. Because I think this was a long time coming and that it requires real change, not symbolic moves by billionaires, to sign millionaires who I can almost guarantee wouldn’t feel comfortable being used in that regard.
Or maybe I’m just tired, and scared and while I want this to be over I really don’t think it will be anytime soon, or at the very least that it’s something that an NFL team can fix. As, again, someone who studied this sort of stuff in college, and who has felt like an advocate for people in my lifetime, I feel like this has turned into a situation that is so far beyond rationalizing with people on the ground. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to say just leave us alone. Just go home? We’re just trying to make sure we have jobs or, in some circumstances, aren’t dead by morning. While some may say that that’s exactly what George Floyd was also saying, I’m not sure how attacking one’s own neighborhood and hurting any progress made will help ANYONE.
This is/was an opportunity for real change in this country, especially in Minneapolis where the police department has been plagued with issues like this (and others) for years. Does anyone feel like we’re closer to making positive change in that regard right now? That this won’t further militarize police? That this won’t further add to the gentrification of neighborhoods by now removing family-owned single location businesses who were already struggling thanks to COVID and some of which have already said they’re closed for good? The burning of affordable housing complexes that were under construction to help with the housing crisis in Minneapolis?
If those things were ignored by people, how would an NFL team’s personnel moves change anything? I’ve seen things first-hand, and I’ve pleaded with people to go home, to not put hands on my 5’ tall mother who gets mostly AARP junk mail each day. We aren’t the enemy, we’re all just trying to stay afloat financially as people who are defending places of business that are small, family owned retail (ie, not traditionally great paying jobs). Etc.
If the humanity inherent in the above is ignored, and people can floor their car/push/threaten/say vile things at people who traditionally have supported their causes in terms of voting, who have a vested interest socio-economically and in terms of the area of the city we live in together… What can Kaepernick do? Sign another nine figure marketing deal and throw footballs at injustice?
Point being… from what I’ve seen? We are super far beyond the point where anyone can say anything to stop the insanity I’ve witnessed. If people don’t care that they’re destroying their own neighborhoods, or making things they claim to be upset about WORSE for years, or whether they’re assaulting elderly women?
What can Kaepernick do?
That’s not to say that there isn’t some sort of point in trying. But, the changes we need are political and societal, not symbolic moves made by sports teams. Those changes need to come after the nonsense stops and from what I’ve seen, with neighborhood after neighborhood banding together Marshall Law style, we need the powers that be to clamp down (Posse Comitatus style, even) so we can start looking at how we got here and how we can heal and avoid this from happening in the future.
I’ve never felt unsafe in Minneapolis in my entire life, and I’ve never seen the types of things I’m seeing. So, maybe I’m wrong and maybe I’m just scared, angry and tired. But, as someone who has seen the two women I love more than anything in this world threatened, pushed (by men)… I thought I’d give my point of view on this and while I’m pretty sure I was all over the place because I’m exhausted,
I just hope that this will stop soon.