In many ways, Colin Kaepernick’s non-salute during game time playing of national anthem affords us a new symbol to add to US Black media panoply. It is difficult for me to list it as a symbol of protest, but it exists as such in enough minds for me to sidestep that particular arduousness in an argument. His act of refusing to place his hand over heart as is customary in these United States acts as rebellion and invention. I am somewhat disturbed presently by how many are referring to his lack of acting as an action leading to movement. However, it would be remiss of me not to notice his influence and how it has worked to extend itself into various other forms of symbolic protest if not just gestures of rebellion.
There is a beauty in his particular expression of resistance to cultural conforms. An almost silent wistfulness that due to spectacle responding to lack of spectacle creates a new spectacle. Here is accidental protest in a space where even that which could be remotely dubbed ‘adventitious’ is by design. And yet, it took almost two weeks before anyone took note of Kaepernick’s disengagement, his not standing, his nonstance. In this instance of nonstance, he ushered in a moment of symbol through refusal to embrace symbol.
This lack of demonstration of acknowledgment of USA’s grand symbol is in and of itself an acknowledgment. This lack of demonstration of acknowledgment behaves as a blaring statement when embraced by a celebrity. Especially a celebrate athlete who gets a chance to take a nonstance ever week with exception of his teams by weeks. While I do not think Kaepernick’s nonstance will generate any policy changes that years of social unrest in cities like St. Louis, Baltimore, and Baton Rouge did not, I would be remiss to say his nonstance does not spur conversations in places those conversations may not have occurred. However, talk can be cheaper than not standing, and I am not quite sure how valuable these discussions are to overall regulations of police forces nationwide.
This is not me stating or inferring that conversations do not have sway over public opinion. It is also not me suggesting that public opinion does not have sway over governmental policy at federal or more local levels. However, it is my addressing this discussion of police brutality of Black and Poor people not altering significantly a very specific set of instances, namely, police brutality against Black and Poor people. While I do believe that social justice concerns being made fashionable are exciting, that these fashionable expressions are not also practical is concerning. What we begin to celebrate is not actual accomplishment or achievement but a reification of form executed by those we already celebrate.