Why the oppressed need to keep silent so passive supporters of oppression do not feel uncomfortable.

Constitution cultural competency featured government and politics Police Reform Racial Equity societal change Uncategorized

Whilst boarding school in Ghana for me was mostly fun that was not all that I experienced in Mfantsipim School, one of the oldest schools in Ghana. My first 3 years in boarding school as a junior boy was fraught with many experiences that could well give Tom Brown’s School Days a run for its money. I still remember experiences that border on the verge of exploitation and  abuse. One lesson that I learnt dealing with bullies and other types of abusers in boarding school was that perpetrators and their passive and silent supporters hate those who speak out.

One particular experience comes to mind easily; I told one bully who believed he had a right to my food supplies he had no right to physically attack me because I refused to give in to his demands. Asking him if he would like his little brother to be treated in a similar fashion.  The next day I learned that a passive observer believed my words were disrespectful totally ignoring the complete lack of justice in the whole situation. That taught me a lesson that I do not always pay attention to; “When anyone shows total lack of consideration for your rights, you need to keep silent so you do not offend the sensibilities of the passive supporters of oppression”.

Some members of our society unfortunately hate people who question the status quo or dare to point out the injustices inherent in the way we do things. Whilst we tend to venerate a few individuals who start movements that end up bringing about change sometimes for the better most of these drivers of social change usually have to deal with hatred and sometimes physical and fatal violence on account of their stance. The lives of Jesus of Nazareth, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr (1929 – 68) and Malcolm Little (AKA Malcolm X) (1925 – 65) bear testimony to this fact.

Colin Rand Kaerpernick born on November 3rd 1987 to 19 year old Heidi Russo a white single mother and an African American father is now a household name across the country. A quarter back for the San Francisco 49ers till 2016, saw the need to show support for the national debate on the state of police killings affecting mostly blacks by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem before NFL games. This protest was picked up by other NFL players. Kaerpernick’s protests has met with some support but it appears that some do not feel comfortable with Kaerpernicks protest.

African American woman being violently restrained by 4 police officers

What I find interesting is how Kaerpernick’s silent protest of kneeling could be so offensive.  I have heard a lot of reasons for dislike of Kaerpernick;s protest. I would paraphrase a few of these below.

  • He is disrespecting the flag of the United States of America
  • I cannot understand how kneeling to the flag is a sign of disrespect, as a christian I know kneeling is a sign of deep respect and reverence.
  • I do not like politics in sports.
  • We do not all see things the same way and have the same beliefs and feelings about issues, this is Kaerpernick’s protest we need to respect that. Please let us not make it about us.
  • I don’t get his point more black men are killed by other blacks than die at the hands of police officers.
  • Yes, it is true more black men are killed by other blacks mostly because a black person is more likely to kill another black person because of proximity. According to a Washington Post article there were 990 fatal police shootings in 2015, of these 948 were male, 494 were white and 258 were blacks. Since blacks are only 13.3% of the population 26.1% of fatal police shootings is too high to be due to chance alone.
  • Colin Kaerpernick is not showing respect to the troops.
  • Kaerpernick has not made any disrespectful remark to the troops, he is exercising his First Amendment right which our troops and president have sworn to protect.

So far I have not heard anyone say that they disagree with Colin Kaerpernick’s refusal to stand for the anthem because they are satisfied with the status quo. Unfortunately what most of Kaerpernick’s detractors may be saying is this; “WE LOVE THINGS THE WAY THEY ARE, NOTHING NEEDS TO CHANGE”

NYPD officers restrain an Occupy Wall Street protestor in 2014

Kaerpernick is saying we live in a great country that affords all of us the right to protest what we believe is wrong. We all just need to leave him alone. To the National Football League (NFL) I say if Colin Kaerpernick is a good player why does he not have a contract since 2016. Colin Kaerpernick has given most of his adult life to the NFL  and has been rewarded well financially. However if life was all about money then Jeff Bezos would be the happiest man in the world. Allow our athletes to express themselves whichever way they see fit in as much as it does not disrupt the game.

Insisting that players who refuse to stand for the anthem would be fined is a violation of the First Amendment. But then the NFL is a totally different country and in that country the Constitution of the United States of America does not apply. 

To the different police departments around the country, please do not take this personal, you have been unfortunate to be on the face of this problem, this is not about you. This is a societal problem that transcends race.

By Dr. Leonard Sowah, an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan