Guardian: Cali Police and Prosecutors Cape for Neo Nazis & White Supremacists

The latest from the “Jeezus, what now?” file: The Guardian reports that police in Northern California have been caping hard for members of neo-Nazi/white nationalist groups, in some instances while in custody, in attempts to identify and target anti fascists for arrest.

A bit of background

California (and the West Coast generally) has been a major site of recent neo-Nazi and White supremacist mobilization. Meanwhile bands of loosely-connected anti fascists have actively countermobilized, leaving the two forces literally fighting in the streets. Heather Heyer’s murder in Charlottesville may have focused attention on right-wing violence but fatalities and serious injuries have been piling up for years, especially in California. To be clear, the open or tacit sanction of violence against women, people of color/immigrants, so-called race traitors and cucks, and political opponents generally is less a coherent strategy than an endemic feature of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. As sociologist Kathleen Blee notes in a 2017 essay on far-right mobilization (p. 5):

Chaos is not only a description of white supremacist membership; it is central to how many racial extremist groups operate… In the chaotic swirl of life in racist groups, ideas are sidelined by action and discussions by simple slogans. People are valued and accorded leadership roles for their aggression and willingness to take risks for the cause more than for their understanding of the cause… [T]hey are attracted by… coercion, fear, the lure of profit, opportunities to engage in violence, access to drugs or alcohol, ties of friendship, familial and sexual relationships, and links to criminal networks.

To be fair, Antifa is not bashful about engaging in and even instigating street-level violence but the willingness to go lethal with swords, guns, bombs, and driving into crowds of protesters is a hallmark of right wing groups. Certainly the publicly available body count, not to mention years of social science research, corroborate this.

A morality tale about policing

This Guardian story corroborates activists’ long-standing claim that local police have a wink-and-nod relationship with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. We can scream “NOT ALL OFFICERS!” about this all day long but to do so is to lose the plot (quite possibly on purpose). The central dilemma in this story is the moral rot that characterizes local policing’s historical origin and defining features. That rot didn’t get here because X percentage of officers lack personal integrity. Rather, it got here because there is no legitimate oversight of their practices. Even in the rare instances where they are brought to account for abuse, restitution comes from government; not police departments. Although it may be glib to claim that consent decrees and court decisions are toothless, it is perfectly accurate and fair to say that they largely do not impact practices on the ground like those highlighted in the Guardian article. 

So regardless of whether 1% or 99% of officers openly abet fascists or coyly turn a blind eye to their misdeeds, the practice itself does not violate any policy. And more importantly, even if it did there is no entity with the power, resources, and authority to enforce such a policy. (Many department heads lack even the authority to fire officers for getting drunk, doing drugs, or selling drugs while on duty.) Prosecutors may lose cases against Antifa activists built on fascist testimony but exoneration comes long after the targeting and arrest have already occurred. Meanwhile, it remains an open secret that white supremacists and other right-wing extremists have been infiltrating law enforcement for decades. Infiltrate might be too strong a term since many departments don’t even bother to scrutinize such affiliations in the hiring process. FBI reports from 2006 and 2015 make clear that this infiltration is national in scope, and not just a few fat Southern sheriffs reppin’ the ‘Stars and Bars.’ So when an officer in Northern California says to a neo-Nazi (in custody for beating up his wife), “We see YOU as the victim. Help us identify Antifa members,” the scandal is bigger than just his bias. We are way past that. The scandal is that no one in local law enforcement–not the officer or anyone else–can be held to account specifically for this practice. That level of moral rot cannot simply be cut out of local law enforcement. It is not an institution that can be saved or reformed. It has to be scrapped and re-imagined entirely. 

Advertisements

Why Being a Knicks Fan is the Worst (But This Time Might Be Different)

As you are no doubt aware, dear reader, Knicks phenom Kristaps Porzingis (aka the Unicorn) tore his ACL in a meaningless game on February 4th against the Milwaukee Bucks. The injury ends his 2017-18 season and almost certainly keeps him out of game action until after the calendar turns to 2019. This was, in its own way, a perfect microcosm of life as a Knicks fan. To that point in the contest, KP had more than held his own against Milwaukee’s uber-talented phenom, Giannis Antetokuonmpo. Porzingis blocked at least one of his dunk attempts and generally frustrated him. Of course, with Porzingis off the court the “Greek freak” went bananas

On the 2nd quarter play where Porzingis was injured he faked a high ball screen then quickly slipped it and cut to the rim, coming wide open to receive a perfect bounce pass for a dunk. Antetokuonmpo pursued but had little chance to contest the shot. Unfortunately, as Porzingis landed he appeared to catch just a wee bit of Antetokuonmpo’s foot with his own. He came down awkwardly and crumpled into a heap, clutching at his knee. With so little contact (it’s not even clear on video) a torn ACL seemed far less likely than an ankle sprain. Yet here we are.

Of course, Knicks fans are hardly alone in terms of suffering through life with an injured star. So when I say that the Porzingis injury is a microcosm of life as a Knicks fan, I’m not suggesting the Knicks have it worse than others. Rather, I’m referring to that foreboding sense that every Knicks fan feels; that the outcome will eventually be terrible no matter the cause. Now, it’s incompetent boobery often enough to warrant endless mocking from seemingly every ignorant jackass in the sports media universe. So at least dumb luck represents a kind of rhythm change. We usually have to wait all the way until the June draft lottery to get screwed by dumb luck. But here it is in early February, like Punxatawney Phil’s dismal shadow.

But y’know? This time feels a little different. To be clear, losing Porzingis is fetal-position-thumb-suck bad. I just feel more confident than in the past that this front office won’t make things worse with idiotic quick fixes. Y’know why? The Knicks are–gasp–not incompetently run. As much as it feels like tempting cruel fate to type those words, they are true as far as I can tell.  Although the possibility of a James Dolan “big time” move this summer hangs like the Sword of Damocles, he has (to date and to his credit) stayed disengaged from day-to-day management since firing Phil Jackson. The Mills/Perry duo (to date and to its credit) has stayed away from the kind of short-sighted, just-do-a-bigger-deal disasters that any Knicks fan can recite without thinking. Reasonable people can criticize their player evaluation (they clearly didn’t value Hernangomez), but turning McDermott (who they weren’t going to pay) into a cost-controlled look at a guard with size, athleticism, and some upside is not a bad look at all. 

And About All This Tanking

NBA tanking is always a popular topic. I don’t think the league cares about it quite as much as some fans, but it is a big deal. I am generally not opposed to tanking. A team may fairly conclude that it’s better off starting over than throwing good money after bad on a non-competitive roster. More importantly, I think the league is generally best off not dictating strategy to individual franchises.

With that as a caveat, I think the league has a duty to limit (not eliminate) tanking as a long-term strategy. Sam Hinkie’s infamous “The Process” is not good for the business of basketball, even if one might reasonably conclude that it was the best strategy for the Philadelphia 76ers. Hinkie’s strategy was built on economic theory. In essence, if one is allowed to lose a bet, but then bet double-or-nothing in perpetuity, he should continue betting until he wins. Hinkie applied this thinking to the draft. Keep betting (i.e., being bad enough to guarantee good odds of winning the draft lottery) until you win (i.e., land franchise-altering talent).

Although Hinkie is no villain–in fact, the Sixers appear to be improving–the league should be highly motivated to identify and limit perverse incentives to forego improvement. Bad franchises need to acquire young talent at the expense of winning, but they also have a duty to develop talent for long-term competitiveness. They shouldn’t be allowed to bet double-or-nothing in perpetuity without penalty.

As structured, The NBA’s draft lottery distributes the odds of getting the top pick too finely. There’s really no good reason that two teams whose records vary by a game or two should get different mathematical odds of having the chance to draft Tim Duncan (versus Keith Van Horn). Yet that’s what we have, and the consequence is perverse incentives to actively sabotage late-season games so as not to “lose ground” on other bad teams. This is not just “playing the kids.” I’m talking about benching a kid who is playing well in order to lose.

I would offer two basic reforms:

Reform 1: Tier the Ping Pong Balls

Rather than distribute ping pong balls weighted precisely by record, I would place the worst teams in the same tier and assign them all the same probability. There’s no real downside to this.

  • Tier I: Worst 5 records
  • Tier 2: Other lottery teams

The lottery would still feature names drawn at random, but here’s the kicker. I’d give the commissioner the power to expand Tier 1 to include 8 teams or 10 at his discretion. I’m all for go-nowhere teams developing young players at the expense of winning, but the point is to create conditions where a one or two game difference in record doesn’t change the odds of getting a good player. That should cut down on perverse incentives.

The Draft Should be a Hand-Up, Not A Way of Life…

The other change I’d implement is a three (consecutive) year limit on appearing in Tier 1 for each franchise, excluding traded picks. Again, you shouldn’t get to tank in perpetuity. So for example, if the Sixers were a Tier 1 team for three seasons they’d be in Tier 2 in the fourth (unless they made the playoffs). However, if they traded their pick to Portland the Blazers would get a Tier 1 pick if Philly finished with a bottom five record.

To be clear, I would not bar a team from winning the draft lottery for four consecutive seasons if the ping pong balls fell their way. Random chance would still be random. Rather, my intent is to limit tanking as a long-term talent acquisition strategy.

 

The NBA Could Use a Few Tweaks But So Could Fans

This “rest and scheduling” issue is the talk of the NBA right now. Powerful moneyed interests are feeling threatened and have responded in their usual way: like a 5 year old going limp in a grocery store checkout line. Still, if you can get through all the blubbering, hyperventilating, and slobber, they–and I’m talking national TV networks here–have an actual point. We know the economics. The big networks (esp. ESPN/ABC and TNT) pay the NBA for broadcast rights. They make their money by charging advertisers insane prices to peddle their wares to the nation. The prices are based on ratings, and the league’s broadcast model is heavily star-dependent.

Nevertheless, as ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh points out, the rest issue cannot be ‘bah! humbugged” away. A lot of the belly-aching about how lazy these millennial NBA stars are, and how their bodies really don’t need that much rest is rhetoric we can trace from the plantation to the plant floor, and safely ignore. The truth is that professional basketball is labor of the high repetitive stress variety. It may lack football’s explosive brutality, but it is hell on soft tissue, ligaments, and tendons.

So you can see the problem. When a star-driven broadcast model fails to deliver stars you best believe advertisers won’t keep paying premium prices. Revenue stability is of course in everybody’s long-term interests, but grinding up players’ bodies is not.

So, how to solve the issue? Well, I have one big thing and a few minor suggestions.

One big thing: NBA fans are just gonna have to learn to love the non-stars.

Basketball is improvisational art. As an NBA consumer, whether your taste is for Steve Kerr’s Warriors or Chuck Daley’s “Bad Boy” Pistons, aesthetics are a big part of what you are consuming. A game with Lebron James’ artistry is not the same product as one where he rests, even if the final score is identical. Yet artistic brilliance is a finite resource. To regularly produce it the artist needs time to recover. That’s just part of the deal.

But NBA fans in particular are spoiled rotten on this point, which is part of why the broadcast model has crept away from being star-driven to being star-obsessed in recent years. NBA fans are simply not habituated to times when their favorite players are not available. Baseball has its “getaway day” lineups on Sunday afternoons and its September call ups. In the NFL, the 30-carry RB is a thing of the past. Everybody has a “committee” now. Hell, in weeks 14-17 you don’t even know what you’re getting because teams are resting players.

Those fans don’t always like it, but they are generally habituated to players resting to treat or prevent injury. As a consequence they pay a fair bit of attention to non-stars and so-called role players. I’d wager that the typical NFL fan can tell you the backup tight end on his favorite team, because that guy plays regularly. The typical baseball fan knows the fourth outfielder (and probably at least one minor league prospect he’s never even seen). In sharp contrast, many, many NBA fans are so casual that they don’t even follow any particular team. They may know Russell Westbrook’s triple-doubling and James Harden’s beard, but they can’t name any other OKC or HOU starters (much less backups). I’m not saying this is most NBA fans, but way more than some insignificant portion, and far more than other sports.

THIS REST ISSUE CANNOT BE RESOLVED WITHOUT FIRST ACKNOWLEDGING THAT NBA FANS MUST CHANGE. I’m a marketing guy, and the marketing orientation is fundamentally about giving the people what they want. But, this is one of those moments where playing to the casual fan’s star-obsession is enabling a tragedy of the commons. Fans have to learn to want something else, or at least live with something else. Thing is, the league is so deep right now and the product is so good this shouldn’t be hard.

What the NBA can do.

  • Alter the schedule to accommodate regular season series play — This to me is low-hanging fruit. Teams should play 2-3 game series across non-consecutive nights in the same city to cut down on the insane every-road-game-in-a-different-city travel. You could see real benefits to player health before having to entertain cutting games. Teams already don’t play every other team. So if you lose a few inter-conference matchups each season, big whoop. You rotate inter-conference games by division like the NFL. Apart from cutting travel, it also cuts down on the complaint that “Lebron is only gonna be in city X once this season. Therefore, he must play.”
  • Play more 10-man rotations — Too many coaches are grinding star players down with 30+ minutes of high-intensity, high-stress basketball, in part because the league is so deep with athletes. It’s way past time to see more 10-man rotations. For all the talk of how playoff seeding doesn’t matter because one road win wrests home court advantage away, it’s amazing to me that more coaches don’t institute more minutes restrictions to get to the playoffs rested.
  • Expand rosters at the start and close of the regular season — Insert two call-up periods during the season for D-Leaguers and free agents, one pre-Christmas and one in March, where rosters expand to 16 players.
  • Promote teams AND stars — The NBA’s own marketing reinforces the “stars-and-scrubs” bias of its most casual fans. So, it is routine, for example, to see TNT/ESPN promos where the team names are never stated in the voiceover; only the names of stars. The NBA could be more diligent about having at least some product promos that mention teams and standings.

2016 Presidential Election: What The Hell Just Happened?

This quote tells you everything you need to know about what went wrong.

This summer when visiting my folks in St. Louis, I said, “I don’t think Trump can beat her, but she could lose. There’s a difference.” In the aftermath of what really ought to be the final death knell in the would-be Clinton political dynasty, this quote attributed to Chuck Schumer makes it plain to see how awful the political instincts of these Democratic centrists really are.

schumer-quote

Though it is possible that someone has misquoted Schumer, the sentiment expressed here was unmistakably at the heart of the Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) campaign. To be clear, it almost worked. Clinton got enough votes to win the popular, but lost the Electoral College based on Trump’s clean sweep of Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. She lost those states on a quixotic chase after so-called moderate Republicans, who would never, ever vote for her. I told my mom the Friday before the election that Trump had to win the tossup states and flip two that usually go blue to win. He did just that.

So, what happened?

Again. He really didn’t beat her. Her losing is the story.

As I see it, there’s two parts to this: (1) the votes Trump won; (2) the votes HRC didn’t. There is some overlap, but she mostly lost votes from people who opted out.

The alt-right racists and the “never-a-woman” crowd got Trump a lot of his vote totals. Based on the data I saw (and always take early exit polling with a huge grain of salt) he dominated on White voters. But for all the talk of blue-collar “angry White guy” revolt, Trump’s staunchest support came from the $50k-and-up small business owner types. One area you have to give him credit in is beating her with the White people who are the apple of her eye. To her credit, she did okay with less well off Whites.

Here’s the thing though. Trump’s level of support shouldn’t have been enough to win the White House. In fact, I actually wonder how far off the models were about his performance (if at all). The models didn’t think he would be impressive, and he wasn’t. As I understand it, he slightly underperformed McCain’s and Romney’s respective totals in 2008 and 2012. (Remember. Those two performances prompted all manner of “woe-is-me-soul-searching” among Republicans about whether they could ever win the White House again.) It’s hard to imagine ANY Republican nominee–Jeb, Rubio, Cruz, etc.–performing considerably worse than Trump just did.

Record low voter turnout is why she lost. In no way do I mean to minimize or discount sexism and racism or the weight of the faux-scandals in this election. But those factors mostly explain the votes that Trump got. They are less compelling explanations of the votes she didn’t get. The most compelling explanation for that is catastrophic strategic failure. Put it this way. In the waning days of the campaign, she was running ads featuring prominent Republican endorsers here in South Carolina. “Goldwater girl” to the last, I guess.

The Clinton team made it abundantly clear in the 2008 primaries that a 50 state door-to-door campaign to GOTV was old-fashioned. She would win, they said, with record-breaking fundraising and by sticking to the urban and suburban areas with high strategic value in the general election. They believed that right into 2016. HuffPo has a piece out today saying the HRC team relied on “small organizing,” which includes micro-targeting via text/direct, mail in lieu of traditional boots on the ground. Of course, all modern campaigns use micro-targeting. It’s an issue of emphasis.

When you put micro-targeting at the heart of your GOTV strategy you are running a low-turnout campaign. As Meredith Rolfe shows, candidates have a decent amount of say over whether an election has a “high” or “low” turnout in the aggregate. They control the presence of environmental cues that signal to people that others are (or are not) voting. It’s the lawn signs, the campaign buttons, the door-to-door canvassing, the buzz — all the stuff micro-targeted campaign messaging, by definition, does not provide.

The much disparaged Podesta emails also appear to show that the DNC (far too often in the role of surrogate, or at least inappropriately ardent supporter, of the HRC campaign) has spent considerable effort disciplining and de-funding the state and local party volunteers most responsible for mobilizing actual voters. If that is too conspiratorial for your taste I’ll put it another way. Republican voter suppression–an entirely predictable matter, given a gutted Voting Rights Act–worked in a number of states that Clinton needed, Wisconsin among them. The governor has declared open warfare on election-day registration and student voters. Surely, the GOTV efforts there were the most sophisticated given the level of Republican opposition. I mean, voter suppression in Wisconsin doesn’t even have to be framed as a race issue. Nope. As I understand it, Clinton never even campaigned in Wisconsin post-convention. That is face-to-palm, head shaking stuff. Evidently, the organizing principle of the campaign was that the corporate types in White Fish Bay and Appleton would more than offset any suppressed votes in Madison and Milwaukee.

Uh huh.

Whether through its callousness or incompetence (does it really matter which?) the Clinton campaign convinced scores of the party’s base voters that their votes didn’t matter. (Of course, the only ones the national talking heads give a rip about are blue-collar White guys.) Not shockingly, many stayed home. Her loss was not so much a matter of blue-collar White guys flipping to Trump. They picked him, not the other way around. As always for the Democrats, the loss really came down to who stayed home. Clinton needed a high turnout election by playing to the party’s base rather than to its power brokers. She got record low turnout and was running ads featuring Republican endorsers into the final week.

Today I Lost My Twitter Troll Virginity

Ahem…

See. What had happened was…

I follow @SonofBaldwin on twitter. He’s a writer who pens insightful stuff on racism, queer issues, and TV/movies/comics. He’s one of these people where even when I hold a contrary position, he challenges me to re-visit it. He wrote a piece on October 6th. Short version: it’s about a Black friend in a gentrifying Manhattan neighborhood who got a snarky note on his door about being too loud from White neighbors.

I don’t know how loud he was. But, this wasn’t about music or instruments. This was about talking. We’ve all been in scenarios where we thought people were being too loud. I lived in apartments as a kid and as an adult. I worked in residence life for five years on two different college campuses. I can assure you. The way to NOT get a noise issue resolved is to leave a snarky note. That’s really opening things up at Defcon 3. So rather than say, “Can we chat later?” Mr. Snarky Note lead with a version of “and next time I’ll call the cops.” Who thinks that making a criminal complaint for something that is annoying but almost certainly not a criminal trespass is a thing that you do? And, that it’s likely to work?

Dude’s response letter to Mr. Snarky Note was, to put it mildly, hilarious. Read it, seriously. The brother just returned his neighbor’s snark with extra hot sauce. I replied thusly—on October 6th: That was some hilarious ish right there. It was. I do not apologize nor regret putting it in print. I continue to chuckle about it, even until this very day. That’s all it ever needed to be.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, on the morning of October 12th, as I sit for breakfast at a local eatery, minding my own business, scrolling through my twitter feed while biting into some buckwheat pancakes (one of which was not done), I see the following (NOW EDITED) tweet.

racist-troll-query

 

 

The original tweet added, “You can use a sports analogy since that may be intellectually easier for you.” That bit is now gone. 

Now, see. They done already messed up my pancakes. (I ain’t mad at ya, Eggs Up Grill, but I do NOT like doughy pancakes.) But, Laura got me straight. They were making me some new ones, so cool. I’m like, “Okay. We can do this.” You can see a series of my tweeted replies in the image below (start at bottom) that went to Mr. Makone (blue underline), Son of Baldwin (red underline), and the author of the response letter (yellow highlight).

 

racist-troll-replies

The table includes his comments and my remarks about them with numbers to the corresponding tweets.

Numbered Tweet (red box) His reply and my commentary

1

The first part of my two-part reply addresses why I found the reply letter funny. It was a classic case of someone taking unwarranted liberties, then getting what was coming to them. It’d be different had Snarky Note come to the guy personally and been rebuffed. Nope. He chose to issue the cop threat. Then he got one-upped, like nobody else can call the doggone police to issue a nuisance complaint. Evidently, the butthurt inspired someone to step forward in defense of Snarky Note’s honor, you know, lest the heavens fall. Enter Tony Makone.

2

In response to my query about whether he had any Qs, he wrote:

racist-troll-query2

Even though the guy took a shot at my intellect, my response in tweets 1 & 2 is, I think, measured.

3

I continued on #3 because dude is determined to issue some intellectual challenge, all while assuming as fact the very thing he came to me to discuss—whether police presence is warranted. This is of course begging the question or circular reasoning. He not only offers no proof of his faulty premise, he directly undermines it by asserting that the law in NYC needs greater clarity. Then he presumes to tell me what I should think? So, I checked him by pointing out his fragility (for coming at me with the sports quip that he edited out).

4

He mad now. So I must be drunk.

racist-troll-query3

I had to set him straight in #4. Man, if you don’t get the hell outta my mentions and let me eat these pancakes…

5

That was exhausting. I know some of our people out here, like Son of Baldwin, Leslie Mac and Feminista Jones, Bomani Jones and Mina Kimes at ESPN, Talib Kweli, and others, spar with these colorblind racist Twitter trolls everyday. I got love for ‘em because I’m quite confident that like Sade said, “It’s never as good as the first time.”

 

 

Quick Thoughts on Kaepernick and Ellison’s Column at TheRoot.com

Charles Ellison’s Aug. 31st column at the Root.com came across my twitter feed today. He looks to make the “pro-Black” case for standing during the national anthem. To say the least I am disappointed in the column, because rather than do much to convince us that standing is right Ellison mostly tries to convince us that Kaepernick is wrong.

Not that I have any readers, since I so rarely write on this blog, but if I did they would surely know that Black folk will be all over the map on Colin Kaepernick’s ongoing refusal to stand for the anthem beginning during the 2016 NFL pre-season. (How long he remains on an NFL roster, frankly, is an open question.)

Here’s my take. Refusing to participate in a ritual is a *personal* form of dissent. By definition one size does not fit all. At the extreme, few of us, for example, would hunger strike. Had Ellison left things at “here’s why standing is what’s right for me,” I’d have no problem.

But nope. Ellison went for the speculative and disingenuous hit piece on Kaepernick. There was a point to be made, but ultimately the column devolved to respectability politics scolding some other presumably more “divisive” politics. Ellison effectively “All Lives Matter”s Colin Kaepernick. I wouldn’t question the man’s #wokeness because he stands for the anthem. I question it because pulls from the standard bag of cheap shots when writing about Black athletes.

  1. He plays pocket watcher. Despite clearly not know how much money Kaepernick has contributed to whom, Ellison gives us the salary details and the insinuation that he hasn’t or won’t write a check to “the cause.” If that weren’t sufficiently gratuitous, he followed it up with the already tired trope about Black athletes as mere Twitter activists. Ellison’s blurb says that he’s a “veteran political strategist.” I won’t inquire about the size of the checks he’s writing, or exactly to which causes, but I do wonder who he’s worked with and what they’ve done for the people.
  2. He lies by omission. This is part of a larger “Kaepernick doesn’t have an end game” critique. Kaepernick has stated clearly that he is considering additional actions and will announce them. Ellison could have easily said he doesn’t believe that, but was either not competent enough or honest enough to mention it. That was weak, but even that obscures a fundamental problem with this “no end game” line of criticism. Personal protest is supposed to be limited in scope. Hunger strikers aren’t trying to convince masses of people to hunger strike. They use an act of personal dissent to–at best–inspire others to engage in their own. That’s it. That’s all it has to be.
  3. He tries to own the legacy of Black protest. Ellison does exactly what we’ve seen conservative pundits do a million times when discussing race issues. Rhetorically, they are quick to invoke the iconography of MLK and try to make it mean whatever they want. Let them tell it, if King were alive today he would definitely be an immigrant-hating, gun-toting NRA member, and a reliably Republican voter. I’m not comparing Ellison’s politics to their’s, just his rhetorical device. Kaepernick is obviously now part of a long legacy of protest among Black athletes, yet Ellison blithely hand-waves away any such notion. Kaepernick is of course doing EXACTLY what Jackie Robinson claimed in his own autobiography to have done himself–refuse to salute the flag or participate in the anthem ritual. (Perhaps Ellison should actually read TheRoot.com.) John Carlos–of the “iconic” fist pump–has supported Kap’s protest without reservation and placed it in the very legacy Ellison would deny him.

There is mild tragedy in the missed opportunity. The pro-Black case for standing for the anthem is NOT because Kaepernick is wrong. He’s no more wrong than Frederick Douglas about the Fourth of July. But, neither are those who stand for flag or celebrate Independence Day. I stand for the anthem at sporting events, not out of any exaggerated sense of patriotism or even belonging. Like 99% of those at sporting events, it is purely perfunctory. Yet I am in no way troubled by this because there are lots of ways to express dissent. Within fairly broad ethical boundaries, the rightness or wrongness of any particular form is not something we can know straightaway. Sitting through the anthem is a perfectly legit form of dissent, but it’s only one. So is singing it as a long baroque love song, even though its not, like Whitney Houston and Marvin Gaye have done. As Sterling Stuckey reminds us, the rich and deep legacy of Black anti-racist resistance encompasses too many forms to count. It is patently silly to fall into the trap of declaring any one form THE right or wrong one.