Michigan Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue mocks NFL protests on Facebook, will keep job
In far too many cases, American race relations parallel the “I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I” childhood taunt. The taunt stems predictably: The pot shouldn’t call the kettle black. It takes one to know one. But, now there’s “if you are a Black professional athlete, you better not protest state-sanctioned killings of Black people, lest you anger state actors who will protest your protest and – unlike Colin Kaepernick, the creator of this movement – keep their jobs.”
On Sunday, Michigan State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue let her Facebook fingers fly, via a meme, about NFL players who took a knee against police brutality and racism. Etue called the professional athletes “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans.” By mid-week, calls for her resignation and the request for Michigan State Police troopers’ removal from Detroit came.
Then, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder stood up for her. She will remain at her post.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Etue apologized “once to the public on social media and separately to state employees in an e-mailed message.”
Etue’s meme selection betrayed a commonly held perception among white folks in America, this casually racist notion of gratitude. Never mind that professional athletes experience physical and psychological trauma from sports. Never mind that the money they earn is substantially less than the team owners’ earnings. The fact that they own more than everyday, white, sedentary armchair philosophers seems to mean these Black people cede their rights to speak once they put on the uniform. Comments like those in the meme Etue posted reinforce anti-Blackness, the expectation of programmable Negros, and reinforce poverty-shaming.
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah brilliantly captured many of the white people, and white institutional (because people of color can effectuate racist aims too), responses to Black protestors. Noah hypothetically asked, “When a Black male kneels quietly he should be grateful for the successes America has allowed him to have?”
Unfortunately, professional athletic careers are not entitlements. But, Kaepernick’s civil rights advocacy will outlive most NFL careers. The culture and Kaepernick continue mutual reinforcement. He supports Black and Brown people. Black and Brown people will support him. (Personally, I’m willing the universe to inspire him to write a memoir so I can buy it for the men in my life and request a book talk.) We know mostly white NFL team owners blackballed Kaepernick because he affirmed Black people’s human rights. We also know in the not-nearly-as-progressive-as-it-should-be year 2017, people of different hues and views protest with different long-term outcomes.