Opinion: Castro comments delegitimize Kaepernick’s social advocacy role

Lucas Misera

In August, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a nationwide conversation concerning racial inequality when he opted to sit during the national anthem before a preseason game. Arguing that he would not stand for the flag of a country that “oppresses black people and people of color,” his actions — which have continued through the regular season — sparked a considerable amount of backlash.

Despite the backlash, Kaepernick was successful in bringing attention across the United States to festering frustration over a rash of police shootings targeting black victims. It appeared as if he was using his NFL popularity to voice the concerns of a disenfranchised black community — until Election Day arrived.

After months of conning the public into believing that he was a legitimate activist of social change, Kaepernick admitted to the media that he did not vote in the election.

He claimed that he “is against the system of oppression,” suggesting that discussions on social disparity between President-elect Donald Trump and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were simply to settle “who’s less racist.”

Despite his reasoning, not voting entirely discredited Kaepernick’s stance as an advocate for black citizens. The most powerful forum for change in the U.S. is the voting booth. Kaepernick — by not voting — sent a clear message that he values the attention from his anti-institutional protests far more than the actual societal progress of which he discusses. To not vote after his on-and off-the-field demonstrations is — in one word — hypocritical.

After facing criticism from both sides of the aisle for not voting, Kaepernick further tarnished his public image in late November after controversial comments about now-deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Sporting a shirt depicting a meeting between Malcolm X and Castro, Kaepernick spoke highly of the ruthless ruler, arguing that Cuba’s healthcare system and high literacy rates established under the dictator were policies after which the U.S. could model itself.

Beyond Castro’s role as an adversary to Western democracy and his support of Soviet Russia during the Cold War, his regime nearly personified oppression. Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental organization that reviews the state of human rights internationally, recognized improvements in Cuban healthcare and education. However, the organization countered that “these gains were undermined by extended periods of economic hardship and by repressive policies.”

Human Rights Watch further discusses atrocities under the Castro regime, citing his brutal tactics and denial of political freedoms to his people.

The deliberate ignorance surrounding the plight of countless Cubans under Castro in favor of healthcare and literacy rates (which were self-reported by the Cuban government) is a head-scratching contradiction to Kaepernick’s message surrounding racial inequality.

If one argued that the 15th Amendment, Affirmative Action or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 refuted Kaepernick’s insistence on the prevalence of institutional racism in the country, he would certainly scoff at such an outlandish, lazy assertion. Yet, Kaepernick’s argument mirrors a similarly uninformed format, somehow looking past the struggles of Cubans in favor of Castro’s few successes as the nation’s leader.

Kaepernick has officially forfeited his role as a poster child of progress. Between not voting and his insensitive comments in support of Castro, Kaepernick is proving to be an incompetent leader of his cause who is only fueling the resistance of his opponents.

If he seeks change and the furtherance of the black community’s rights, his best option now might be to disappear from the spotlight.


Lucas Misera is the opinion editor, contact him at [email protected].