San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick fired back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Tuesday, calling her criticism that his protest is "dumb and disrespectful" both "disappointing" and an all too predictable means of undermining black activists’ efforts.
"It is disappointing to hear a Supreme Court justice call a protest against injustices and oppression ‘stupid, dumb’ in reference to players doing that," Kaepernick told the San Jose Mercury News earlier this week.
He continued, "I was reading an article and it refers to white critique of black protests and how they try to de-legitimize it by calling it ‘idiotic, dumb, stupid,’ things of that nature, so they can sidestep the real issue. As I was reading that I saw more and more truth how this has been approached by people in power, and white people in power in particular."
Ginsburg recently sat down for a Yahoo News interview with Katie Couric. When asked about the Kaepernick-inspired protests sweeping the nation, Ginsburg noted that though the players are within their rights to protest, but said she ultimately thinks "it’s really dumb of them" She went so far as saying taking a knee during the national anthem was equivalent to flag burning: "I think it’s a terrible thing to do."
Ginsburg isn’t alone. Although Kaepernick quickly began taking a knee to combat accusations he was disrespecting American military service members by sitting during the national anthem, detractors have continued to question Kaepernick’s loyalty to his country. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went so far as insinuating Kaepernick is "sympathetic to ISIS" simply because he has a Muslim girlfriend.
Kaepernick refuses to mince words about what patriotic backlash is about.
"There’s a lot of racism in this country disguised as patriotism," Kaepernick told the Guardian in September, "and people want to take everything back to the flag but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about racial discrimination, inequalities and injustices that happen across this nation."
At least 2,195 people have been killed by police since Mike Brown was killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson two years ago. A disproportionately high percentage of those killed were black. And despite the high frequency with which officer-involved killings take place, police are rarely indicted for killing civilians, even as more video evidence of those killings becomes available.
These incidents aren’t isolated; they’re systemic. And while Kaepernick recognizes why "people are getting too caught up in the flag," Kaepernick isn’t willing to put more value in a piece of fabric than people’s actual lives.
"At the end of the day the flag is just a piece of cloth and I am not going to value a piece of cloth over people’s lives," Kaepernick said. "That’s just not something I can do, it’s not something I feel morally right doing and my character won’t allow me to do that."