“Of all Americans, Negroes distrust politicians most, or, more accurately, they have been best trained to expect nothing from them; more than other Americans, they are always aware of the enormous gap between election promises and their daily lives.” – James Baldwin (Notes of a Native Son, 1955)
Colin Kaepernick is not a novelty. Far from an anomaly, the 49ers quarterback is part of a storied history of Black political protest. From refusing to stand for the National Anthem, to exercising his right not to vote, Kaepernick’s actions are part of lineage of skepticism over mainstream politics. The presidential election, of course, represents the height of mainstream politics. Blackskepticism, however, should not be read as lack of interest in politics, but rather a struggle to expand what is meant by politics. Black skepticism says that if voting is the only way to be political, then we’re in trouble.
Colin Kaepernick is part of a tradition that predates the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the song thatbecame the US National Anthem in 1931, and the ratification of the 15th Amendment which enfranchised Black men. This struggle predates Black folks fleeing the hellish conditions of chattel slavery being diagnosed by Dr. Samuel Cartwright (1851) as having a disease that he called drapetomania, to explain why Black people were risking their lives to escape antebellum oppression. Black people have been fighting for the human right to be free since the first Africans were kidnapped and brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. From rebellions on slavers like the Amistad, to something as seemingly innocent as learning to read — our ancestors died not (exclusively) for the right to vote. Many of our ancestors were fighting against systems of oppression/oppressors for our right to be free. [read more…]