A thought on Kaepernick Nike Ad Parodies

[Politics warning, it’s something I have been previously punished for talking about but feel strongly.]
There are clever remixes of the Nike Kaepernick ads out there, but I’m personally not gonna ‘Like’ any of ’em, and here’s why.
Someone who has a voice wants to make a statement against an undercurrent of white supremacy that’s infected some corners of society. It’s led to black people being disproportionately shot by cops under shady circumstances without any real consequences. Just this last weekend, for example, an officer pushed into a man’s apartment (mistaking it for her own), shot him in his home, then walked around free for days before being grudgingly arrested. She was out on bail within two hours. Try to imagine any of us receiving this same institutional benefit-of-the-doubt for this situation and it’s easy to start to see what the black community has known for decades.
A Green Beret reaches out to this protester and suggests he modify his protest slightly to take a knee instead, which he does. “Soldiers take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave, you know, to show respect”, the veteran says.
A nation goes mad. Conservatives smear the protester, the president threatens any players who join the protest, careers are ended and white nationalists lead the charge wherever they can. Big chunks of Middle-class white America buy into it and decide that protesting these shootings is anti-police for some reason instead of anti-racism. It’s uncomfortable to be complicit, maybe, and perhaps it’s easier to re-frame the narrative to something like ‘anti-police’ so that action isn’t required?
“It’s just a few bad apples” really only goes so far as an excuse, btw, because then shouldn’t the folks who honestly believe that be saying “YEAH, let’s fix these outliers!” …but instead, they either attack or ridicule the protesters.
So Nike, an imperfect company that has done a lot of shitty things, Nike has its own voice. It’s got the loudest voice in our culture, money, and like any company, it has to decide where it wants to put that amplification. There’s a roll of the dice and…. they publish this ad of Kaepernick.
The US goes mad again. “We’ve already talked about this”, the narrative goes, “institutional racism is over. You’re being ridiculous.” A man is shot in his apartment by an officer but “that’s a different subject”, the narrative says, “and not what we’re talking about”.
Mike Rowe writes an editorial that says basically “ignore this protest, let’s talk about real sacrifice like this white guy who died on 9/11.” The conservatives eat it up, this is way better than confronting a today-problem. FaithWire falls over itself to cheer how brilliant this is, it hits all the buttons: 1. Stop talking about racism, 2. Start talking about 9/11 again, 3. White heroes. The religious right absolutely loves this.
Then there’s the wave of parodies. There are some great ones, no doubt. There’s pop-culture characters saying outrageous things because that’s funny stuff. There’s the aliens from Mars Attacks and the Swedish Chef borking it up and there’s no doubt this meme has taken off. Thanos snaps his finger in another one, but instead of half of them disappearing, even more show up.
I love parody. I love it when smart people do funny things with the news or culture and I appreciate the talent that’s gone into these because humor’s my bag, my thing.
But I personally won’t click that little like button because I can’t get over the image of that man opening the door to his apartment. Of him becoming the next victim in a long line of essentially state-sanctioned killings. I can’t get past the fear that millions of my fellow Americans need to live with and teach their children to be careful of and the creeping, rotten smell of racism that some guy decided to speak up about and has the dead career to show for it. I’ve gotta believe we can do better, and making fun of someone who sacrificed so much by saying the same thing… that just ain’t my game.