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“Shut up play!” That’s what the average White-bred American wants. Not just from Colin Kaepernick. They want that from all vulnerable Americans, especially those of us Black, Brown, and female. Like the chain-smoking, beer-drinking, and buffalo-wing-eating archetypes many are, these average Joes have been going after Kaepernick since Saturday afternoon, attempting to do to him virtually what their great-grandfathers would’ve done to him in the town square. These folk should know that they know nothing of the flag, the national anthem, or the Constitution they claim to believe in so forthrightly. They have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the racism and oppression that motivated Kaepernick to take his stand by sitting is alive and well, both in American institutions and in the hearts and minds of average Joes.

But so are the rules of racial standing, or race rules, for that matter (to quote both Derrick Bell and Michael Eric Dyson). In the past two days, eloquent Black ex-NFL players Hines Ward, Jerry Rice, Rodney Harrison, and Tiki Barber have all weighed in, saying dumb and racist crap in the process. “All lives matter?” “Can’t we just all get along?” Kaepernick “isn’t Black?” Who are these dumb asses? And why is the media searching for anti-Kaepernick perspectives harder than Shell is searching for Arctic oil?

Because Americans demand it. Americans want a society with a permanent underclass, where even the few who somehow “make it” swear their allegiance to the status quo. Americans want to believe that racism is a mere boogieman that can be kept in the closet and will rarely see the light of day. And, most of all, Americans want their Black and Brown athletes, especially in football, to not have brains, mouths, or a conscious. Americans wants to be entertained, not educated.

As a couple of lines from Live’s “White, Discussion” (1994) go,

I talk of freedom
You talk of the flag
I talk of revolution
You’d much rather brag

That is America in a nutshell. Nothing’s wrong with the country, but everything is wrong with those Black and Brown who are willing to say that there is. The flag and the national anthem are sacred, but the lives of those Black, Brown, and female are cheaper than sewer water. Any sweeping changes to policing, foreign and economic policies, or other aspects of American culture are met with “U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!,” as if everyone Black and Brown must prove their patriotism in order to confront oppression.

So I say this. The only people who need to “shut up and play” are the ones with a Bud in one hand and three buffalo wings in the other. Shut up and play ball with America’s reality, and not with America’s symbols. Shut up and play the real game of understanding why Kaepernick is protesting and why the ideals of the flag and the anthem are daggers in the hearts of millions. Otherwise, you’re part of the problem. Period.