Colin Kaepernick was right about us, white America. He was right to kneel because when he did, he fully exposed us.

He exposed us as we became viscerally disgusted, not by the reckless disregard of black lives, but by the earnest and open declaration of black grief at their premature passing. He exposed us when we felt it was our right to tell another human being how to express their personal freedoms, during an anthem supposedly devoted to celebrating those personal freedoms.

He exposed us when we treasured flags and songs over flesh and blood; when we repeatedly ignored dissenting facts in order to hold on to our easy and lazy outrage. He exposed us when we chose to listen to the words of a divisive white President over athletes of color, as to their motives and intentions.

He exposed us as we had the stratospheric nerve to lecture him about the right way for him to protest as a citizen of this country. He exposed us when we chastised him for the manner in which he expressed his freedom, because it was a little too “free” for us.

He exposed us as we saw all of these things, and still remained silent.

And he’s exposing us now, those of us who are burning shoes and cutting up socks and boycotting Nike—because a strong man of color who will not be shamed into silence or allow us to make the rules, still makes our blood boil—which is the most telling and tragic truth of all.

Privilege is a terrible disease, because it is invisible to those most fully afflicted with it. When most deeply in the throes of the heart sickness, they cannot see themselves, or the reality of the moment. They do not require data to be disgusted or truth to craft the narrative of their suffering.

They simply feel fear, even when it is unfounded; oppression, even when there is none; offensive, even when they have no cause.

If you’re seething right now, this is a symptom.

If still you’re doubling down on some imagined defense of “America” while simultaneously seeking to deny people of color America’s most elemental liberties—you’re proving Colin Kaepernick right.

If you’re still refusing to believe the player’s voices over the one in your head or in a President’s tweets or in an angry country singer’s rants—you’re showing why Kaepernick was correct to protest from the very beginning.

You’re confirming the very reason his knee first hit the turf two-year ago: because too many white people want to go through life undisturbed by any reality of their advantages.

They will do anything not to be inconvenienced by the ugly realities of a system that they are the greatest beneficiaries of. They will be profoundly pissed off when a person of color intrudes on their entertainment with a dose of sobering truth about life and death.

They will follow the most convoluted, nonsensical thought lines, if this allows them to quiet marginalized people and to evade culpability for their own prejudices toward those marginalized people.

It isn’t surprising that the folks so violently shaken by Colin Kaepernick, profess to defend a freedom they don’t like him exercising. They’re the same ones saying that they love both America—and a draft-dodging, Russian-beholden, POW-belittling President.

They’re the same people who say they want to rewind and reclaim America’s “greatness”, while ignoring how much suffering and injustice that supposed greatness created for so many.

They’re the same people who claim allegiance to both Jesus and to Donald Trump.

Cognitive dissonance doesn’t register when you’re white and terrified of losing your dominance.

By kneeling, Colin Kaepernick let us do the work for him. He didn’t need to belabor the point, he just let us show ourselves. He allowed white America’s responses to reveal who we are.

He saw something ugly in us that we didn’t and still don’t want to see.

And he was right.

John Pavlovitz

Nіkе / Youtube

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

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