Tom Gurman | Contributor’s Response| Tuesday 13 September 2016 | GMT 16:00 | tomcarlosgm@gmail.com

When it comes to discussions regarding race I tend to take a back seat. That is not to say that I do not recognise that racism is still very much apparent in the modern world or that I turn the other cheek to injustices, but rather I tend to find that these discussions simply don’t go anywhere. Those who deny racism simply refuse to have their little bubble burst, so why waste my time arguing with them and get into a huff about it? However, when I read Ronan Pandit’s article published on this very journal, calling out Kaepernick for his actions against racial inequality, I simply couldn’t stay silent any longer.

Firstly, let me address what I consider only the tip of iceberg when it comes to my issue with Pandit’s article. I found his use of the National Football League as a way to suggest America doesn’t oppress black people absurd. American football is a sport; as such it’s based on skill and skill alone. A white person of the same skill set has literally got the same chance of succeeding as a black person, whereas in the real world, a study showed that someone with a traditional black name has to submit 50% more job applications than someone with a more ‘white name’ just to get a call back regardless of skill.

Moreover, the number of people actually competing in the NFL makes up a tiny fraction of the USA’s population so the fact that 68% of them are black bears no significance to Pandit’s article. I also don’t see what his salary has to do with anything. Yes he earns $19 million – so what? Does every black person earn that much? Does every black person even have the chance to earn that much? Just because one guy earns that amount of money doesn’t mean that the glass ceiling holding the rest of the population back has suddenly shattered.

Even so, the fact that he was raised by white parents does in no way take away from the legitimacy of his argument, and why would his parents be in shock? I am a white male and even I can accept that there is still racism, whether it’s in the form of institutional racism or white supremacists. I do not believe in any way that his argument is that every white person treats black people poorly. But being raised by whites or being successful doesn’t automatically disqualify Kaepernick from making a point. You do not have to have faced injustice to protest it. The fact that there is an injustice means we must protest it.

As for his actions, I’m not really that patriotic (don’t get me wrong, I’m still proud to be British and I love the ‘Britishness’ of it all: the queen, the quintillionth cup of tea and of course all the moaning, but I’m not what you’d call a patriot), so I personally don’t have an issue with the act of kneeling during the anthem. But I can respect those who are offended. Yes, to many the act of raising the flag and singing the anthem is sacred and acts as a memorial to all those who died to protect their rights and their freedom and in kneeling many believe he is dishonouring them.

Respectfully however, I must disagree. To me, kneeling doesn’t mean that you are disregarding these sacrifices or that you are somehow spitting on their graves. To me, it means he is a proud American, but not proud of everything about America. It means that the fight isn’t over because there are still those in America whose rights and freedoms are still being ignored. It means that he is taking a stand (pun partially intended) against the racist attitudes still present in American society! America is great, but it could be even greater…

Kaepernick decided to protest in a way he knew would provoke a reaction. As they say, actions really do speak louder than words and I respect him for starting a conversation. That being said, there is truth in what some of his critics are saying. Here is someone who has no real history in taking action against the racial inequalities he protested, but does that mean he has no right to protest? Of course not! But it does mean that he now holds a responsibility to continue his fight against it, whether that is indeed as Pandit mentioned, the encouragement of completing education or becoming a spokesperson for the Black Lives Matter movement, because if you’re ready to send an earthquake across white America, there had better be some aftershocks. Only through his future actions will we see if he’s doing it for the vine or if he’s doing it for the people.

However, what irked me most was Pandit’s insistence that racial inequality in America was “a non-existent issue”, that the idea that America is still struggling with racism is a “divisive and acrimonious lie” and perhaps rather ironically that in these arguments “facts and studies mean nothing”. Well, let’s look at some facts shall we: even from a young age in American schools, black children are three times more likely to be expelled than a white child and make up nearly 40% of school expulsions according to the Department for Education.

Moreover, 27% of those referred to the police are black, despite the fact that black students account for only 16% of those enrolled in school – and once in court a black juvenile is 18 times more likely to be tried as an adult than a white child. Moving on from that, there is no question that a black person is more likely to be stopped by police than a white person. In fact, in Chicago despite the city having a black population of only 32%, 72% of the people stopped by the police were black.

Now he could try and argue that there is a reason for this, that somehow this shows that black people are rowdier than their white counterparts, and I would concede that yes okay, it’s not all about race. It’s true that in comparison to their representative population, the rate at which more violent crimes are committed is much higher for the black population in comparison to the white population so there is that. However, that doesn’t even begin to explain everything!

Why is it that black men have to hit 50 before the rate at which they get stopped and searched in a car can hit below that of white men aged 25 and under? Why is it that when a black person kills a white person they are two times more likely to receive the death penalty than a white person who kills a black person? Why is it that a black person will receive up to 20% longer serving times and are 38% more likely to be sentenced to death than a white person for doing similar crimes? I’ve looked at the facts and I’ve read the studies and what they are telling me is that America absolutely has a race issue, so I am totally bewildered and horrified at the fact that Pandit can genuinely believe that these injustices “no longer exist”.

So Pandit, I’m not calling you a racist, I’m not calling you a bigot, I might be calling you a bit of a goon, but how dare you as a white Englishman who has no idea (absolutely no idea!) about what life is like as a black American even begin to say that racial inequality is a thing of the past. It’s ignorant, it’s offensive and it’s downright shameful. Ronan Pandit: show some respect!

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