When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick told the media why he now kneels during the national anthem at games, most people clung to one line: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."
The truth is, Kaepernick spoke for more than 20 minutes about America, who he respected and why he was doing what he was doing. It wasn't just about the oppression of African Americans, it was about unjust police killings, about peaceful protest, and about unity. Few outlets reported on how Kaepernick spoke fondly of men and women in uniform and raising standards for police officers.
But since Kaepernick's protest started a firestorm, we've seen further evidence of the pattern of police brutality against people of color that he was protesting. Last Friday, an unarmed African American named Terence McCrutcher was shot and killed in Tulsa, Oklahoma after his car broke down on the highway. Then, just days later, Keith Lamont Scott was killed in Charlotte, North Carolina. Police initially said he had a gun, although his family said it was a book. Now, the police are saying the video does not definitively show he was armed.
In the wake of these shootings, both of black men, Vanity Fair put together a comprehensive list of 18 studies that underscore racial bias in policing and its effects. Here are a few key takeaways they highlighted, takeaways that support Kaepernick's assertion that people of color are subject to unequal treatment by law enforcement:
— You are 3.49 times more likely to be shot by police when you are black and unarmed than when you are white and unarmed.
— And, according to an analysis of Washington Post data, when blacks are killed by police they are less likely to be posing an imminent threat than when whites are killed by police.
— Investigations in San Francisco, Ferguson, Chicago, the state of Illinois, and Greensboro, North Carolina all showed that local police departments were indiscriminately profiling, stopping and searching people of color. Those same reports found that despite this racial bias, whites were more likely to be carrying contraband than blacks or Hispanics.
— Between January 2004 and June 2012, 83 percent of the stops in New York City's "stop and frisk" program were blacks and Hispanics, despite 88 percent of those stops not resulting in any further action.
— Several other studies found blacks were far more likely to be the victims of police violence than whites, regardless of the crimes they were involved in.
This data, which represents just a fraction of the evidence supporting Kaepernick's protest, should be a wake up call to Americans everywhere. As we watch violent protests unfold in Charlotte and peaceful protests progress in Tulsa, the data above should give context to the frustrations of people of color and the hard work as a society we have yet to do.