(Tyrus Cobb) – Former Nevada and now San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has ignited a national controversy by “taking a knee” during the playing of the Star Spangled banner before NFL games to protest racial injustice and police violence in the inner cities. Since Kap took a knee, similar actions have spread to baseball stadiums, high school football games and college soccer contests.
The silent protests were driven by examples of fatal shootings of black youth, including Trayvon Martin, and a video showed a Tulsa police officer shooting Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man whose hands were up. The knee-takings have expanded to focus on broader challenges faced by minority populations in the U.S., prompting Kaepernick to declare, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”
All well and good, but if Kaepernick and other celebrity knee-takers really are concerned about black lives, then why are they not turning their attention to the violence that plagues America’s largely black inner cities? We are in the midst of a horrifying epidemic of gun deaths there — in Chicago, the death toll has already soared above 500 this year, and the city has experienced more homicides than Los Angeles and New York combined! More than 90 murders took place in August alone, making it the deadliest month in over 20 years. By the end of the month, more than 3,000 people — almost all black and in the inner city — had been shot in Chicago in 2016.
Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute stresses that black lives in particular are being lost at a rate not seen for two decades. She points out that as crime rates rise in our inner cities, the overwhelming majority of victims are black—as are their assailants. And while Kapernick is rightly concerned about police shootings of blacks, the facts are these incidents are very rare.
What isn’t rare now is the killing of police officers, which has more than doubled during the first three months of 2016. McDonald points out that, “In fact, officers are at much more risk from blacks than unarmed blacks are from the police. Now a police officer’s chance of getting killed by a black is nearly 20 times higher than an unarmed black getting killed by a cop”.
We shouldn’t encourage actions that stow anger against the police. This includes Kaepernick’s wearing a T-shirt with Fidel Castro’s photo on it, or socks that depict cops as pigs. That may warm his soul, but if Kap really wants to halt the violence that plagues our black communities, he must focus his efforts on where the problem really lies, black on black homicides.
Consider these disturbing stats that MacDonald lays out:
- Every year more than 6,000 blacks are murdered. Blacks are killed at 6 times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined, even though they represent only 13% of the population;
- Nationwide only 987 civilians were killed by police, with whites representing more than 50% of the victims. Most of those victims, black or white, were armed and threatening officers with lethal force;
- In Brownsville, Brooklyn, a predominantly black area, the per capita shooting rate is 81 times higher than in nearby Bay Ridge, which is largely white or Asian.
I’m sure Kaepernick is as disturbed as the rest of us by these horrifying statistics. However, taking a knee at an NFL football game, then heading home in your Mercedes to your predominantly white, gated community, does little to mitigate the violence pervading our inner cities (Colin’s 4BR, 5-bath San Jose home is on the market for nearly $5 million!)
Colin has not been a great example of what our sports heroes can do to call a halt to this violence. If Kaepernick really wants to stop the violence that poor blacks face on a daily basis, then he needs to become involved himself. First, he should vote—he is not registered and apparently never has voted. Second, he should be more generous in directing his vast financial resources toward alleviating inner city poverty (we learn that Kap has not been particularly generous in his giving, although he—apparently spurred by the attention his frugality has provoked–has recently made a million dollar commitment, which, I must point out, even if he gives that in one year, is barely 3% of his annual income). Third, he should occasionally leave his gated community and spend time with inner city youth, encouraging them to get an education and find a way out of poverty.
Taking a knee and wearing offensive socks are easy; what is hard is to be personally committed with your presence and your generosity in ameliorating the violence that plagues our black communities.
Reno native Dr. Tyrus W. Cobb served as Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan for National Security Affairs. An abridged version of this piece will appear in the Reno Gazette-Journal on Saturday, Dec 10.