It Brings Traction.
One dissenting voice is a magnet for criticism, it is easy for an overwhelming majority to condemn the actions of one man and render it irrelevant.
But when something becomes a movement it becomes more difficult to dismiss, it becomes a symbol for something far greater and multiplies in importance. It proliferates public consciousness on a far wider scale which permits understanding and invites mutual coordinated action. It ensures cognisance of a problem which is being ignored and the issue Colin raises has been for far too long. Athletes utilising the platform they have been afforded is nothing new, most often for personal gain, but being so bold in hope of achieving change is. In many ways Colin is sacrificing himself and potentially his career with his views.
Doing so he has been incredibly brave. Taking that first step is overwhelmingly difficult, particularly when you are a minority and you know the decision will be unpopular. Arguably, the second person who joins him is even braver. They are gambling with far more social currency in support of something it is far easier to stand against or ignore.
Nate enabled a wider public acceptance of the protest by bringing perspective. Huge swathes of the public were upset not because of the protest, they understand the reasons even if they don’t agree with how he is showing his views, but because it disrespected the flag and therefore American service men and women around the world they were incredibly upset. Nate helped others see this about more than disrespecting the flag or the military. It is about being a fully respected American citizen, which Colin feels strongly that some minorities aren’t in America are looked down upon and treated differently.
Nate helped Colin with his image problem, altering his protest from disrespectfully sitting to taking an acknowledging knee. By standing next to Colin Nate showed the world that what he was doing wasn’t a slight on anyone. Infact, it was an empowering acceptance of a public movement growing in prominence.
And the Seahawks will do the same, they will add more visibility. They bring far more attention and credibility to the protest than would of come to Colin on his own. As more and more people follow Colin the image becomes a symbol of hope for change, one which people can relate to and rally around. These athletes become a public beacon of hope for millions of Americans who feel ignored.
It’s not too dissimilar to the non-violent protest methods used to overthrow dictatorships in eastern Europe the middle East and Africa. Otpor! overthrew the Yugoslavian dictatorship and help gain independence for Serbian in the early 2000’s by introducing (note: I’m not saying the situation is similar, merely the methods for gaining wider acknowledgement of a movement are). Otpor! Achieved this by coordinating pot-banging, or traffic slowdowns in which everyone drives at half speed. The grew their movement from a few hundred to 70,000 in a few year. Eventually they spread their learnings to other nations, most notably Egypt where they overthrew another government. It’s about adopting something which is easily seen or heard so other people can become confident that there protest movement is growing in size.
Colin is using his right to protest in a visually obvious way and inviting others to join him. I think it’s smart, crucially it is safe and highlights a major point of pain in modern America for a significant number of people. Where others are happy to sit back when in a position of influence and say nothing Kaepernick has taken a knee.
Others joining him simply make the movement even more powerful and influential and watch as other athletes in other sports do likewise.
Other joining is like a network effect which supercharges the movement. As others grown what it breeds is empathy and understanding. The larger a movement is the more people begin to have an affinity with it as they begin to see the similarities with the people who are protesting as opposed to the differences.
And that is what the protest requires. It needs to be understood in the context of modern america. It needs to be viewed within the spectrum of reality instead of a vacuum which dismisses its relevance. Misunderstanding and ignorance is what has led Kaepernick to feel like what he is doing is a necessity. He no longer wishes to be complicit in a society where the things he has highlighted are happening every single day.
And you shouldn’t either.
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