A Space for People of Color, By People of Color. Be Cool.
A Space for People of Color, By People of Color. Be Cool.
Image credit: Slate.
Image credit: Slate.

Update as of 10/14: Via ESPN.com: Justice Ginsburg has issued an apology for her remarks in regards to Colin Kaepernick’s protests during the National Anthem. “[M]y comments were inappropriately dismissive and harsh. I should have declined to respond,” Ginsburg said, adding that she was not completely aware of what or why Kaepernick was protesting.

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The apology came via a statement released by the Supreme Court’s public information officer, but I haven’t been able to find a copy of it, so I’m not sure if the block quote in the ESPN article is the statement in its entirety. Other news outlets are posting the exact same quote, so I’m assuming it is.

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Original: 10/10: Looks like our beloved Notorious RBG, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is afflicted by a particularly tragic malady: white feminism.

Deadspin just published a story with excerpts from a Katie Couric interview the Supreme Court justice recently sat for. In it, Couric asks Ginsburg her thoughts on the social justice movement started by San Francisco 49er’s player Colin Kaepernick. As we all know, Kaep — along with a growing number of other athletes — have been kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racially fueled police brutality.

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Justice Ginsburg, who has been a champion for free speech in the past, refers to Kaepernick’s protest as “dumb,” “stupid” and “arrogant,” saying she “strongly take(s) issue with the point of view they are, they are expressing when they do that.”

She further equates Kaepernick’s actions to flag burning, a similarly protected symbol of free speech she also thinks is dumb. Yet, symbolic speech is important speech. Oftentimes it is oppressed groups of people who are forced to use symbolic speech in order for their concerns to be heard. And oftentimes, those groups are people of color.

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How many times have we trotted out data that clearly shows blacks (and to a lesser degree, Latinos) are shot, arrested and imprisoned at higher rates than whites? And how many times have those cogent, well thought-out arguments been dismissed or ignored?

Black Lives Matters protests have been painted as unruly riots orchestrated by POC who are just naturally more inclined to be criminals — just look at how often y’all get arrested, amirite?

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“Why don’t y’all stop looting? What do you think you’re going to accomplish by destroying property and blocking freeways?” is something we’ve all heard over and over again. The valid message carried by the overwhelming majority of BLM protesters who aren’t doing any of those things gets lost.

But everyone understands patriotism. Everyone understands the symbols that represent all the ideals we hope our nation embodies. When you take one of those symbols and use it to glaringly illustrate that your nation does not live up to its ideals, people finally take notice. And more often than not, those people are the ones keeping things unequal to begin with — whether intentionally or through the blindness of their own privilege.

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And that’s where Ginsburg’s white feminism comes in. Yes, she is a woman, so she has experienced some of the bullshit sexist roadblocks all us women have. But, she’s also in a vaulted position. She sits in one of the highest seats of power in our country. On the whole, she has used that privilege carefully and thoughtfully, and for that, I am eternally grateful. But she’s got a bit of a blind spot when it comes to being a POC trying to be heard.

It is only a person who benefits from great privilege who can call the pleading of the disenfranshised dumb, stupid and arrogant.

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You can find Deadspin’s story here.

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