Colin Kaepernick burst onto the "Civil Rights" scene in 2016 as he took a knee while playing in the NFL for the San Francisco 49'ers to protest police brutality. Teams, media, and the public all chimed in touting either his bravery or absolute disrespect for his country. Since becoming an activist, he has become a staunch critic of policing, and this week announced his plans to publish his first book in October 2021, "Abolition for the People: The Movement for the Future Without Policing and Prisons."
The cover, which features a dark-skinned black woman adorned in hoop earrings and the obligatory afro was the work of famed graphic artist and Black Panther Party member, Emory Douglas. Since the book's announcement, the cover has come under criticism because some feel it communicates the negative message that black women do not want to be protected or that somehow they will become the protectors of their own community, despite being one of the most victimized groups in the world.
Featuring 30 contributors from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, the book includes essays that were originally published in LEVEL, a publication from Medium that targets minority men. Kaepernick who has been increasingly focusing his activism on not only police reform, but also total abolition of the police explained his position stating, "Abolition is the only way to secure a future beyond Anti-Black institutions of social control, violence, and premature death."
According to statista.com, between 2013 and 2019 more than 200 Black people have been killed by the police annually, with 2015 seeing a spike to 305. In comparison, the police killed more than 400 white people in each of these years with 2015 seeing a rise to over 500. I believe these numbers reveal there is a need for police reform, de-escalation, prosecution, retraining, and community involvement; however, Kaepernick and many other reformative justice proponents believe in a more radical approach.
As the slow drum of change begins to beat, the country has seen the conviction of police officer, Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd, and his cohorts now facing federal Civil Rights charges. The progress of advocacy and awareness around police misconduct and brutality is being met with BLM, riots, and recognizable stars like Colin Kaepernick bringing light to the issue. To many millennials, a symbol of bravery and rebellion, Collin has uniquely carved out a niche for seemingly speaking on the behalf of Black people.
That's why his most recent foray into blackness, namely the book cover and advocacy for the abolition of the police is a problem for some Black women. Kaepernick, who was raised in a white family, is bi-racial, and a multi millionaire who has no personal understanding of the dangers black women face in their communities and homes on a daily basis. By putting a Black woman as the face of such a destructive call further puts them in danger of becoming victimized, but also now having no justice or protection by the state.
Just like Joe Bidden said Black religious leaders and parents led to him writing the 1994 Crime Bill that sent 10 million black men to prison, the removal of protection of black communities will also be blamed on a call from Black women. In the face of the need for reform, we must be careful to not overcorrect, but most of all, not allow others to use the image of Black women to call for the destruction of the law. We can no longer be foot soldiers or the mascot for people who live in gated communities protected by law enforcement.
The backlash regarding the use of Black women for its imagery is growing louder with a petition garnering over 1,000 signatures so far on Change.org posted by Youtuber, Paris Malin.
About the Author Trenette Wilson (aka Lady T) has worked in the field of urban youth development for the past 25 years. The award winning author of "Understanding My Daughter's Brown Body," Lady T is the founder of the online www.urbangirlz.org community and the Urban Youth Network, a monthly meeting for urban youth, which works to impact over 20,000 urban youth annually. For more information log on to www.nauep.com.