In case you missed it, here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had to say about Colin Kaepernick’s on-going anthem protest:
“I think it’s really dumb of them. Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful.”
“I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag-burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do,” she added. “But I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”
“It’s dangerous to arrest people for conduct that doesn’t jeopardize the health or well-being of other people. It is a symbol they are engaged in,” she said.
Asked whether she meant it was their right to protest, Justice Ginsburg agreed.
“If they want to be stupid, there’s no law that should be preventive,” Justice Ginsburg said. “If they want to be arrogant, there’s no law that prevents them from that. What I would do is strongly take issue with the point of view that they are expressing when they do that.”
Like many progressives, I love me some Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She’s standing tall for the things I appreciate about America’s liberties, and she’s becoming bolder with each session of the Supreme Court. Long may she serve.
But, damn. She sure got it wrong this time.
Of course, she’s made injudicious public comments before. Earlier this year, she ripped Donald Trump. She didn’t say anything that tens of millions of Americans do not disagree with, but for a Supreme Court justice to attack a presidential nominee was wrong. Dangerously so.
(That point is underlined by Trump, in the second debate, saying that if he were president, he would prosecute and jail Hillary Clinton. Presidents do not threaten their political opponents, and judges do not attack political candidates. Both acts are deadly to our democracy.)
What bothers me about her comments regarding Kap is that she seems not to understand either how the protest began, why he felt the need to do something, and what has transpired since he began sitting, and now kneeling, during the pre-game anthem. I don’t think she has read or heard a single word from him on the protest. He’s been thoughtful, honest, and direct. As a liberal, I do not know how she could find fault with his actions or reasons.
And she lumps him in with flag-burners. That’s how far off the mark she is. In fact, he switched to kneeling specifically to tell people he is not disrespecting the military. His protest is about justice for people of color. And RGB might have noticed: Kap is a black man. It’s silly to take a stand for people who look like him?
On top of this, he’s had a real impact on our national dialogue about “race” and police accountability. Just last night in Sacramento, a woman named Leah Tysee sang the anthem before the first game in the Kings’ new NBA arena – and she went to a knee for the final line. And she was a white woman. All across the country, athletes, students, musicians, and so many more people are taking this simple stand: not standing for the anthem while people of color are murdered by police with impunity.
Justice Ginsburg apologized for her comments about Trump. Even if I agreed with her (and I did), she was wrong to speak about a political candidate in that manner. She’s just as wrong about Kaepernick. She needs to learn what is actually going on and why his protest is having profound impacts. He’s being neither disrespectful nor dumb. And that she does not understand this troubles me greatly.
How much, in the end, does Ruth Bader Ginsburg understand about the politics and real-world impacts of race in America? On the evidence, not nearly enough.