Dear Colin Kaepernick: Not Voting Dishonors Activists Who Came Before Us

 

Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines during their NFL game
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 2016 election might be over (well, some ballots are still being counted), but that's not stopping discussions about politics -- including who did and did not head to the polls. Almost half of Americans did not vote, and one person who's unashamed about staying at home is NFL player Colin Kaepernick. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has caused a national discussion about race and social justice with his protest of the national anthem at games. And yet, Colin Kaepernick still made the choice not to vote, because, as he says, it would've been "hypocritical" for him to do so.

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Speaking with the press after his team's loss to the Arizona Cardinals on November 13, the 29-year-old explained why he thought voting in the election wouldn't produce his desired results:

You know, I think it would be hypocritical of me to vote. I said from the beginning I was against oppression, I was against the system of oppression. I'm not going to show support for that system. And to me, the oppressor isn't going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression.

If you think this is bad, news outlets are reporting that Colin Kaepernick has never registered to vote ... like, at all.

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Oh, Colin ... Colin. Colin.

*Sighs*

Well, Colin, I hope you're listening because as much as I give you credit for choosing to speak up about your decision not to vote (heaven knows you have enough publicity), I'm still disappointed by your decision.

I commend you, Colin, for trying to raise awareness about police brutality and injustice and daring to take such a public stand on pressing social issues. I think it's amazing you're donating $1 million to community charities, and your camp for underprivileged youth in which children are taught about self-empowerment and knowing their rights is what we need.

... But making the choice to not exercise your right to vote -- missing out on the opportunity to have a say about local delegates and important issues on a ballot -- because "oppressors" will prevent you from escaping maltreatment of any kind, is just not the way.

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Voting is bigger than a political party or a candidate. It represents the freedoms we have in this country and the blood shed by those who fought and gave their lives to ensure we could have it -- including the #VeteransforKaepernick who support your national anthem protest.

Yes, the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870, but it's really only been 51 years since black people, my family included, were allowed to exercise their right to vote in this country through the Voting Rights Act. Our community -- aunties, uncles, grandparents, parents, religious leaders, family friends -- experienced horrific treatment in order to make sure future generations could have their voices heard in an election. Voting honors those who came before us to make sure we could have the rights they fought so hard to have.

My aunt was an advocate for African-American rights and joined with others to publicly protest for equality. She and my mother experienced being called "ni**er babies" growing up in West Virginia and had ketchup poured on their heads sitting at a lunch counter. My grandfather fought in the Korean War for this country -- and my cousin still remains in active duty today.

Every time I step into a booth, I think about all those I know who did everything in their power to secure my right to cast my vote. It's a reminder of how important "one vote" is and why I simply can't afford to stay at home.

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I get that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton weren't the ideal candidates to many people. Truthfully speaking, I'm wasn't a fan of either one of them -- but that didn't stop me from voting. I too battled with my conscious and the election, Colin. But rather than stay at home and say to myself Nope, not doing it, I chose to cast my ballot for a candidate that matched my values and the direction I would like to see this country go. 

(For the record, I was one of those "third-party idiots," but I don't feel I wasted my vote. I knew New York state was going to go blue even though my county is almost all red and tried to help boost the national percentage needed to guarantee less popular options get federal funding the next election.)

I know that I'm a "nobody" on the grand scale of who you, Colin, interact with on a daily basis. But just as you inspire so many to get more involved in effecting change and being unapologetic about it, I truly hope you consider voting in the next election -- including state and local voting events in the near future.

No one will deny that our system is broken, Colin. We need reform from the top-down to the bottom-up and back again. But part of that change won't happen until we come to the table ... 

... and use our voices and votes to assure change will happen.

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