MCCC hosts discussion over Kaepernick

Dave Uhl and Catina Polk look at Bob Leski as he demonstrates the black power sign.

There has been much talk as to whether Colin Kaepernick and other athletes are justified in their protest of the National Anthem.

About 70 people attended an Oct. 18 forum at MCCC on the topic that was moderated by president Kojo Quartey and consisted of seven panel members.

Each member of the panel, which included professors, a state representative, and the Republican nominee for sheriff, agreed that Kaepernick should be allowed to express his view.

“He has every right to protest,” said former MCCC professor Bob Leski.

The debate between the panelists centered on the way in which the quarterback was performing his protest.

“I totally agree with the protest,” said adjunct professor and Agora Chorale director, Catherine Brodie. “I just wonder if there would be a better way to do it.

Perhaps the players could kneel before the kickoff?”

Brodie said she is concerned about how Kaepernick’s protest is affecting veterans.

“I think it’s wrong to disrespect veteran’s. We need to be careful of hurting the families of someone lost in battle. I’m ashamed that we still haven’t learned to live peacefully,” Brodie said.

This train of thought was questioned by Meadow Montessori student Emily Jason, a member of the audience.

“What about the families of the black men who have been killed?” Jason asked.

Brodie reiterated that she absolutely did understand both sides and supported Kaepernick’s right to protest. She just thought we should consider the feelings of others.

“We all hurt each other too much,” Brodie said.

Professor Leski said there was no “right way” to protest.

“There was a terrible time in our history when you couldn’t protest war,” Leski said. “During World War II, over 100,000 citizens of Japanese descent were put into concentration camps here in America. Colin Kaepernick kneeling is one of the least forms of protest we have.”

Representative Bill LaVoy said that he believes that the athletes are trying to get people to think.

“I think they are trying to do it in as respectful a manner as possible,” LaVoy said. “Some are offended, but they have every right to protest.”

Catina Polk, a social scientist and adjunct professor, brought up statistics that show that even though African-American men make up 7 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 40 percent of those incarcerated.

“The entire Black Lives Matter movement is about getting some change,” Polk said. 

Jim DeVries, a former MCCC professor and veteran, showed support for both Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“When people respond with “all lives matter,” what they’re really saying is, ‘go away,’” DeVries said.

DeVries also talked about how insidious he believes racism is in America.

“There is an endless permutation of racism. We need to admit, on a cultural level, that we are racist,” DeVries said.

Robin West Smith, an adjunct professor and wife of a Detroit Police Officer, said she was grateful for the awareness that Kaepernick was bringing to police brutality.

“We look at the numbers, we see it with our eyes,” West Smith said. “There are just as many black people dying today as died at the hands of lynch mobs.”

Josh Taylor, a student, asked the panelists why they weren’t discussing a statistic that claimed 91% of all Black people were killed by other Black people. Taylor falsely claimed that it was an FBI statistic.

“Those are not FBI statistics,” West Smith said. “The stats he referenced came from a white nationalist website.”

Upon checking, the Agora discovered that the statistics did in fact come from a white supremacist website and were retweeted by Donald Trump. 

Dave Uhl, a police officer for 40 years and the current Republican nominee for sheriff, received a round of applause when discussing how to bridge the gap between the police department and the community.

“We need to break down the wall that currently exists and interact more with citizens,” Uhl said. “There needs to be change.”

A.J. Fischer, MCCC’s Director of Financial Services, asked the panel where we go from here.

“What do we do next” Fischer said.

“You can ask me that question on Nov. 9,” West Smith said. “I won’t have an answer for that until we know the results of the election.”