Much of the sports world has been engaged in a fierce debate about NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his protest against America’s racism and historic patterns of institutional injustices against people of color. While much of the media may be showing that the vast majority of football players and Americans are disgusted by Kaepernick’s refusal to stand in reverence for the National Anthem, conversations on social media and in-person show that many, many people support Kaepernick for peacefully exercising his First Amendment and human rights. One such supporter has been U.S. Women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
On Sunday night before the Seattle Reign’s game against the Chicago Red Stars, Rapinoe took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem and later confirmed that she did so in support of Kaepernick. Rapinoe stated:
Rapinoe hit the nail on the head. See, unfortunately, the way the American psyche is set up, far too often the majority doesn’t immediately hear or empathize with the minority. White people don’t feel the pain of black and brown people, men don’t feel the pain of women, heterosexuals don’t feel the pain of homosexuals, and Christians don’t feel the pain of Muslims. The same is unfortunately true among minority groups. Black people are often quick to discredit and ignore the position of brown people. Heterosexual women discriminate against lesbian and trans women. Groups are willing to push their own agendas forward, to protect and advance themselves; but are unwilling or unable to do the same for others.
What we need is a greater sense of empathy across group lines. We need more in the majority groups to speak up for the minority groups and we need more minorities to speak up for other minorities. We need people to see how protecting and advancing others is what will ultimately improve their own lives. We need for men to see that paying women equally will not decrease their earnings but improve the earning capacities of their families and we need white people to see that protecting people of color from police brutality makes their communities more, not less safe. We will be a better country, a greater humanity, not when everyone is willing to blindly stand for a song or march to the beat of the same drum. But we will be better when everyone acknowledges that simply being born gives you the right to march to the beat of your own drum and to live free from harassment, discrimination and abuse.
Thank you Megan Rapinoe for being willing to step outside of your position as a white, homosexual woman and identify with the causes of people of color. And thank you for understanding that saying that this country needs work isn’t some unpatriotic, ungrateful statement; but a call for this country to be better for all groups in it. I hope that your small gesture encourages others to do and feel the same.