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Armando Salguero, Colin Kaepernick have exchange about Fidel Castro-Malcolm X t-shirt

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Both sides of this debate seemed to be focused on a “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” mentality.

Each week, local media gets the opposing team’s head coach and a player on a conference call to discuss the upcoming matchup. This week, Colin Kaepernick was the 49ers player who spoke with Miami Dolphins beat writers. And given events earlier this year, there were some fireworks.

On August 26, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand for the National Anthem first came to the attention of the media. Kaepernick had not stood the first two games of the preseason, but this being his first game in action, it was noticed and became a thing. Following the game, Kaepernick met the media wearing a Malcolm X hat, and a t-shirt with photos of Malcolm X meeting Fidel Castro in Harlem in 1960. You can read more about the history of the picture here.

There was plenty of outrage over the choice of t-shirt, and that was not lost on Dolphins columnist Armando Salguero. During the conference call, Salguero brought up the t-shirt, and challenged Kaepernick on this. In his column regarding the conference call, Salguero discussed his history with regard to Cuba and Castro. Salguero was born in Cuba, and left in 1967 when his parents realized the way things were headed. At the airport getting ready to leave, Salguero’s father was forced to stay, according to him behind based on the whim of a soldier at the airport. It sounds like Salguero’s father eventually re-joined his family, but as Salguero put it, many of his relatives did not.

Naturally, his history means anything related to Castro is rightfully going to be a significant subject. He (and plenty other Cuban Americans) was not pleased with the t-shirt decision, and asked why Kaepernick can protest oppression and, “then ignorantly don a T-shirt featuring an oppressor?” They went back and forth on this. Kaepernick tried to focus on the Malcolm X portion of the t-shirt, but Salguero rightfully pointed out that it features both men.

The whole article is worth a read, but I also think it is a good example of the lack of empathy and understanding both sides of that particular debate appeared to have for the other side. And given the raw emotion that comes with the issues both Salguero and Kaepernick bring, I am not entirely surprised.

On the one side, Salguero personally experienced the oppression of Fidel Castro’s regime. I doubt he will ever forget any of what he experienced, and plenty of Cubans have had to and still continue to deal with the oppression of the Castro regime. Kaepernick seems to overlook that and not be willing to engage on that. You can point to all sorts of dictators and say, “Well, he did this or that good thing,” but it does not overlook all the bad things that come along with it. And when you have personally experienced it, and likely know a lot of people who have experienced the oppression of the Castro regime, then it is entirely reasonable for this kind of stuff to anger you.

On the other side, you’ve got Kaepernick’s cause related to systemic racism. The problem I had with Salguero’s article were his own generalizations to downplay the issues of systemic racism that have been a problem in America for 400 years. This three paragraphs from Salguero suggest he does not actually understand the issues Kaepernick is raising:

Look, I understand Kaepernick’s complaint that some people are falsely imprisoned and others go away for long stretches for committing multiple minor crimes. But what is it about nuance he doesn’t get? There’s no way the blanket statement he just made is correct.

My family breaking up because my parents wanted me to be free is not and never will be the same as, for example, a father of two in the United States murdering someone and being away from his kids because he was convicted and serving time.

My father and the murderer are not similar. So breaking up families cannot always be equated with breaking up families. To believe so is not thinking the issue through. And not thinking issues through is a bad look for so-called protest leaders such as Kaepernick.

Police brutality is probably the most high profile aspect of Kaepernick’s movement, but as we are seeing with Kaepernick’s Know Your rights camp, there are bigger issues involved. The camp looks at dealing with the police, but it also gets into personal finances, health and nutrition, and plenty more.

Kaepernick is addressing a bigger issue than just police brutality and cops racial profiling a black person. There are economic issues that have been an extensive problem. When certain neighborhoods have nothing but liquor stores and small convenience stores, it results in a poor diet and is one of the reasons black men have a significantly lower expectancy than other demographics. It’s a matter of money being invested in the better communities, that often happen to also be the white communities, resulting in better educational opportunities for some people over other people.

Salguero immediately went to the extreme example with his mention of a father of two who goes to jail for murder. He uses that extreme example to try and show Kaepernick is ignorant in his comparisons of broken families. He ignores the notion of a school-to-prison pipeline that creates numerous issues for black families. He says Kaepernick is not getting the nuance, when he himself is also not getting the nuance of the many issues facing black people in America.

I’m not here to pretend I know everything about the issues either Armando Salguero or Colin Kaepernick are raising. I’m just a privileged white male who is trying to understand a little bit more about what’s going on in this country. This strikes me as two people who are sticking to a “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” mentality. I get that both sides have serious issues they are pushing forth, but there is a lack of empathy that seems to do nothing but create more conflict.