The discussion revolving around Colin Kaepernick and his decisions to first sit and then kneel during the national anthem continues to serve as a symbol of what’s wrong with our nation’s discussion of race and how certain minority groups are viewed and treated, especially when they interact with law enforcement.
Instead of dealing with the issue that Mr. Kaepernick has attempted to bring light to, athletes and other public figures have spent their time debating whether or not his status as a second string quarterback qualifies him to make public statements, whether he’s been converted to radicalized Islam by his Muslim girlfriend, or whether his perceived lack of patriotism disqualifies him from having a legitimate opinion.
These peripheral conversations serve only to divert our attention away from Mr. Kaepernick’s original point of discussion: The experiences that black and brown people have when they come into contact with police, the most recent public symbol being the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man in Tulsa which was recorded on multiple police cameras.
The tactics used to try to discredit Mr. Kaepernick and deflect attention away from the issue that he’s trying to address have been outlined in the book 48 Laws of Power, written by Robert Greene.
In 48 Laws of Power, Mr. Greene outlines three tactics that clearly apply to how Mr. Kaepernick has been viewed and presented through mainstream media. Law 31 says, “Control the options — get others to play with the cards you deal- The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.”
The false dilemma of the current conversation about race and policing is that you either have to be for police or against them. There is no middle ground. Once you take a stand, in Kaepernick’s case a knee, against police brutality, you are immediately branded as someone who hates all police and supports all criminals. Neither of these is actually true. We are told that there is no middle ground, but there is and it’s up to discerning citizens to make sure that middle ground isn’t lost.
Law 37 states, “Create compelling spectacles- Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.”
What better spectacle than the celebrations that occur when the United States flag is raised before a sporting event? By requiring people to take part in the celebration of the flag as a public symbol of their patriotism, the spectacle is on the gesture and not remembering or questioning the principles and practices that helped to make America the great nation that it is. Practices such as adhering to a philosophy of manifest destiny to justify exerting power and authority over those who were militarily weaker and less sophisticated.
Law 42 states, “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter- Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual – the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoned of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them – they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.”
The act of silencing the lead troublemaker has been the primary practice of those who oppose equal rights. The thought is that if you can silence their voice, you can silence their influence. Or if you inflict enough pain on that person, those who follow them will fear experiencing the same thing and cease to follow them. The irony of how Mr. Kaepernick has been treated is that it has actually led to more people following his lead and imitating him.
Mr. Greene’s laws can be summarized through the words distract, divide, and conquer. Distract from the actual subject that was originally brought up by not addressing it, and instead bringing attention to something totally unrelated. Divide by making the new issue that you have brought up the thing to be focused on and villainize anyone who tries to bring the conversation back to its original point of focus. Conquer those who tried to bring attention to the original problem by making them out to be the bad guy for bringing the subject up in the first place.
As a former police officer for the City of St. Louis, MO, I know that Mr. Greene’s laws are used by police departments when they want to silence someone who makes them look bad. Instead of dealing with the problem of police abuse and misconduct head on, many people attempt to draw our attention away from its reality and focus on peripheral things, like the national anthem.
Instead of spending so much time questioning Mr. Kaepernick’s patriotism, we should be working on solutions that help police officers not immediately judge black males as being dangerous or immediately assume that they are “bad dudes” who are “on something” as the helicopter pilot exclaimed about Mr. Crutcher. In focusing on legitimate solutions, we will hopefully be able to save more lives. What’s more patriotic than that?