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MINDSETTERS ™ Cardeiro & McLoone: Ginsburg, PC Students Opinions of Kaepernick - Colorblind Racism

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Colin Kaepernick

This Fall San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, took a knee during the U.S. National Anthem to protest racial inequality in the criminal justice system. While some commend him, others like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg view it as unpatriotic and disrespectful. That much we know. What we know less about is how Justice Ginsberg and the millions who oppose Kaepernick are actually perpetuating “colorblind racism,” in which individuals seemingly disregard race while indirectly perpetuating racist ideas to resist serious systemic change.

In a recent interview with Yahoo news anchor Katie Couric, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg strongly criticized Kaepernick’s protest. She said, “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.

We found a similar logic at work when we did some reporting on student responses to Kaepernick at Providence College (PC), where we are students. Overwhelmingly, those who opposed Kaepernick used terms similar to the ones used by Justice Ginsburg such as “unpatriotic,” “disrespectful,” and “offensive.” For example, one white student reasoned, “I don’t think he’s wrong for believing those things. I just don’t respect the fact that he protested in that way.”

Of colorblind racism, Duke University sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva writes that “By framing race-related issues in the language of liberalism, whites can appear ‘reasonable’ and even ‘moral,’ while opposing almost all practical approaches to deal with de facto racial inequality” (Bonilla-Silva 2010: 28).  The statements of Justice Ginsberg and PC students are perfect examples of colorblind racism. Both concede Kaepernick’s individual rights, while condemning the protest of racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

The good news is that Kaepernick’s polarizing actions have proven successful as now everyone who is familiar with the issue is aware of his intention. Beyond bringing awareness to the mistreatment of minorities in the U.S., however, it is apparent that further action must be taken to not only confront the inequalities, but also educate on colorblind racism. We as a nation must focus less on the action of the protest, and more on the cause and intention illustrated by the action.


This op-ed was also signed by students in Cedric de Leon’s Sociology 101 class at Providence College: Megan Booker, Kelsey Gilbert, Jade Hernaez, Idylla Louis, Tommy Maggiacomo, Mary Murphy, Maggie Oaks, Maddie Reilly, Noah Robey, Maria Tobin, and Carolyn Walsh.


State House Trump Protest, November, 2016


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