Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is known for her forthright commentary. This time, her judgments are directed at San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protests against police brutality.
Ginsburg recently sat down for a Yahoo News interview with Katie Couric. In addition to talking about the law and Donald Trump, Couric asked Ginsburg to weigh in on athletes continuing to take a knee with Kaepernick. Ginsburg noted that though the players are within their rights to protest, she ultimately thinks "it’s really dumb of them":
Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.
If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive. If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.
Ginsburg isn’t alone. More outraged detractors, however, have used nearly every excuse imaginable to discredit Kaepernick since he gained national attention in August for refusing to stand for the national anthem.
He’s been attacked for being too rich to protest. He came under fire for disrespecting the military by sitting during the national anthem at the 49ers preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. And while he changed his protest gesture to taking a knee, which others have done in solidarity, that hasn’t stopped people from continuing to criticize his loyalty to the US, even by insinuating he is "sympathetic to ISIS" simply because he has a Muslim girlfriend.
Yet none of these statements address Kaepernick’s fundamental qualm: African Americans continue to be killed by police with minimal accountability or redress.
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.
So sure, Ginsburg, like other critics, takes issue with Kaepernick’s actions. But focusing on how people protest (or whether they should protest at all) misses the overall point.
As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, argued for the Washington Post, people shouldn’t be worried about Kaepernick. Instead, they should be concerned about what resistance to Kaepernick’s statement, and the statements of his allies, says about America today.
"What should horrify Americans," Abdul-Jabbar wrote, "is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequalities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here."