Stick to the issues: The Collin Kaepernick lesson

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Video released by the Tulsa Police Department shows the moments before 40-year Terence Crutcher was shot and killed.

A few weeks ago tragedy hit another African-American family, this time in the outskirts of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In scenes that have been repeated to many times to count unarmed Terence Crutcher, a 40-year old father, was shot dead by law enforcement officers after his car broke down on the highway. What makes it even worse, if that is even possible, is the fact that his death is right on video; we were forced to replay the scene over and over as it was shown again and again on the news.

Despite the temptation, this column isn’t about the seemingly continuous loop of ‘cops kill black man’; rather I want to talk about Colin Kaepernick. If you aren’t a news junkie (as is my case) or a fan of American football, his name probably means nothing to you.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin (R) Kaepernick kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL and is joined by a team mate

 

In a nutshell, Mr. Kaepernick is a American football player who is now famous for refusing to stand up for the playing of the national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, until the system that makes it possible for law enforcement to kill black people with seeming impunity is reversed. His logic is ‘why should I stand proud for a country that allows its citizens to keep getting murdered without repercussion’?

Again, I will not go down the rabbit hole of arguing whether he is correct to protest this way, despite the fact that I really want to. What I want to discuss is the reaction that I’ve seen to his protest. Instead of the protest starting a nationwide conversation on police violence vis-à-vis the black community, the majority of the political discourse is about whether his refusal to stand up is unpatriotic and an insult to the American armed forces and its veterans.

No longer is it about the uncomfortable conversation about violence against minorities, but rather one about how America is great and “how dare he not believe that to be true”? The narrative has been changed from ‘justice for all’ to ‘America über alles (America above all else).

Sadly, I’m not surprised by this at all. I’ve seen it happen many, many times. Let me give you some examples off the top of my head; a few years ago a young feminist wrote an article decrying the Miss Rwanda contest. She was told by an anonymous commentator that she was a hater and probably ugly to boot. When I wrote about safe abortions for vulnerable young women, I was told that I was unchristian. More recently, a fellow writer penned a post calling on the members of the African diaspora to pack their bags and come home in extremely strong language; as a result his personal life was brought to the fore and insults flew his way.

While the opinions were very different in the above examples, the reactions to them were quite similar; instead of examining the validity of the statements and opinions, there was an attempt to divert the conversation.

While there will always be issues that cause these strong disagreements, what we need to ensure both as readers of this publication, and more importantly Rwandans, is that we are able to filter all the noise and keep on the issue at stake.

This might be uncomfortable but it shall stand us in good stead as we keep developing as a nation and more diverse voices come to the fore.

……………………………………………

Adieu Hotel Faucon! You had a good run  

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Hotel Faucon today

It would seem that every single time I visit the historic town of Huye (Butare), I find another piece of its history gone. The Muslim Quartier? Gone. The iconic Ibis Hotel? Its been ‘renovated’ and now it looks cheap and utterly charmless. The ancient jacaranda trees that lined the streets? They are gone. And now, Hotel Faucon, is seemingly closed for good.

Remember that this is the hotel that was a ‘whites-only’ establishment until Mwami Mutara III Rudahigwa forced it to allow Rwandans and other Africans on its premises as guests (and not merely staff).

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Hotel Faucon in its heyday in the 1950’s

This is the OLDEST hotel in the country; it is a veritable historical monument. And now? It is soon to become a mere memory. So, I say to the hotel that wasn’t only a landmark, but also a snapshot of our past, ADIEU! Fare thee well.

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