Talk Back

Rodney Harrison Questions Kaepernick’s Race

Rodney Harrison

By now you’ve probably heard about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the national anthem. Kaepernick, who has become increasingly interested in social justice, has chosen to speak out against police brutality and racism in America.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick explained. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

While many have come out in support of the QB, others have not. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the anthem “a terrible thing” and said the NFL star “should find a country that works better for him.” Former 49er star Jerry Rice went the All lives matter route and explained, “I respect your stance but don’t disrespect the Flag.”

No matter where you come down on Kaepernick’s means of expression, one thing shouldn’t be in doubt: his race.

Colin Kaepernick is a biracial man who identifies as Black. He was born to a White mother, a Black father, and was raised by a White adoptive couple who taught him to be comfortable in his Blackness. Back in 2012, Teresa Kaepernick explained, “When we adopted him, I bought some books from the library on raising children from another race, but what it all came down to was common sense more than anything. You want him to feel really good about the race he is. You’re not trying to make him white.”

Unfortunately, that’s what former NFL player Rodney Harrison seemed to do. In an interview with iHartRadio, Harrison argued Kaepernick can’t possibly know what it’s like to be profiled by police or be a victim of racism because he’s not Black.

I tell you this, I’m a Black man. And Colin Kaepernick—he’s not Black. He cannot understand what I face and what other young Black men and Black people face, or people of color face, on a every single [day] basis. When you walk in a grocery store and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something.

You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis. I’m not saying he has to be Black, but I’m saying his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices as a Black man, or people of color; that’s what I’m saying.

Let’s set aside for a second the fact that Kaepernick—who is biracial—identifies as Black, is a member Kappa Alpha Psi, a historically Black fraternity, and speaks passionately about justice for Black people. Unless Harrison has been with Kaepernick for every moment of his life he can’t possibly know if the quarterback has ever been racially profiled, or experienced racism and injustice. Moreover, asserting that Kaepernick isn’t even a person of color when his skin is visibly brown is just straight up wrong.

We’ve been down this road before. When Jesse Williams spoke out about social justice and racism, some claimed he wasn’t Black enough to do so. But when it comes to standing up for what’s right and elevating the concerns of Black people to a national level, are we really about to institute a paper bag test for that?

Maybe Harrison should tell the countless people currently hurling the n-word at Kaepernick because of his choice to be vocal about social justice that he isn’t Black. Or perhaps he should holla at the folks who’ve called our biracial president all manner of racially-offensive names and let them know to direct their anger elsewhere because he isn’t Black either. Or maybe, Harrison should just be quiet because he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Over on Twitter, Harrison admitted that he “never even know [Kaepernick] was mixed.”

Hmm…I guess Harrison’s eyes don’t quite work.