Shut up, Sharon, Or When It Isn’t Your Turn to Talk | Vol. 4 / No. 49.1

Photo: Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0

In general, I do my best to try to not silence other women. As a whole, we’ve had our voices oppressed for quite some time, and as the newly coined term “hepeating” shows us, even when we get our voices out they are often ignored. Which is why I am really going against my usual grain when I say: Shut up, Sharon.

Sharon is an avid football fan. I don’t know for sure that she’s white (but let’s be honest, she’s probably white). And she can’t stand to watch football anymore because she’s moved to tears by the injustice in the world, as personified by the #TakeAKnee movement. No, not the stark racial divide in America and the racism that gets perpetuated on every level. She’s literally moved to tears by the fact that people are kneeling before football games. Because ‘Murica.

Sharon is so upset, in fact, she had to call a national television show to explain how upset she is. She called into C-SPAN to explain that she was boycotting the NFL, not because of racism, the league’s history of covering up sexual assault and domestic violence, the league’s history of covering up traumatic brain injury, the fact that the entire system is based upon the exploitation of largely black labor by a mostly white ruling class, or the fact that Washington’s team is still called the fucking Redskins. She’s boycotting the NFL because she thinks Trump is right, which is a sentence no one should ever have to think, let alone write. It’s worth checking out the clip, but Raw Story’s explanation of the clip is also worth reading in full.

“I’m a big huge football fan but I can’t watch it anymore because it brings tears to my eyes,” Sharon from Williamstown, New Jersey explained. “It’s too painful so I can’t do that.”

According to Sharon, the flag “is a symbol of imperfect people in an imperfect country always trying to do the right thing.”

“It’s just shameful and it hurts me to see people taking a knee when we are supposed to be joyful about living in this country,” she said. “After I saw what happened [with players kneeling during the anthem], I tried to watch it and I just couldn’t because I just kept crying.”

And true to her word, Sharon broke down in tears.

“I just don’t understand why people do these things,” she sniffled. “I miss my Monday nights. I’m an addict. I have two televisions on watching two different timezones. I’m crazy about football but I just can’t take the pain.”

“It hurts… too much,” Sharon concluded.

…there’s so much ignorant and so little time.

So first of all: the protest is not about the flag. It has never really been about the flag, or the military, or disrespect. As a truly amazing tweet going around explains, “Thinking NFL protestors are ‘protesting the flag’ is like thinking Rosa Parks was protesting public transportation.” The protest is only even about “patriotism” in that a true patriot can examine the flaws in his or her country (like, say, systemic racism) and want to fix them, rather than blindly loving a broken thing. The latter is called jingoism. That’s different.

Second of all, even if it was about the flag, it is because the flag is a representation of the United States, and Kaepernick’s protest is about systemic racism in the United States. See the connection? But the flag is not “a symbol of imperfect people in an imperfect country always trying to do the right thing.” Our country has rarely, if ever, tried to do the right thing, if by “right thing” you mean “what is moral and best for everyone.” If by “right thing” you mean “what will benefit a small group of mostly white, male, cisgender Christians” then yeah, sure. It tries to do the right thing a lot. With like, guns and colonialism and stuff.

Third, and really vitally important to the reason I’m telling Sharon to shut up: this isn’t about you. When an injustice is happening that does not personally affect you, there are two passable responses, ranked in order from “most good” to “meh, it’s better than being counterproductive.” 1: Do everything in your power to help address the injustice, lending your voice to the cause without drowning out the voices of those who are truly affected by it. 2: Shut the hell up and cause as little trouble as possible for those who are actually doing something about it. You will notice that there is no number 3. There is no “hijack the conversation whilst totally misunderstanding it and make it about your own feelings.” We are past the point where it is acceptable to clog the phone lines with a complete misunderstanding of the situation at hand. In the time since Colin Kaepernick first started his protest, at least 223 black men have been killed by police.  By virtue of being a woman, I am sure that Sharon has faced her fair share of oppression in her time. But unless she is willing to get on the intersectionality train, we do not need to hear her opinion about #TakeAKnee. We do not need her tears. We maybe need her boycott, just because the NFL genuinely can’t tell who’s boycotting because of Trump’s gasbaggery or because of the already-existing boycott that was actually in support of Kaepernick.

Stephen A. Crockett Jr. sums it up well:

You know what else hurts, Sharon? Racism. You know what else hurts, Sharon? Watching video of Tamir Rice being gunned down in the street by a cop so reckless he could barely get out of the car before he fired bullets into the 12-year-old. You know what else hurts, Sharon? Watching Eric Garner plead with police to get the fuck off of him because he couldn’t breathe—for the crime of selling loosies. With all due respect, Sharon—and all the other Sharons who still think this protest is about the flag or the national anthem—get the fuck over it, snowflake.

Yeah. What he said.

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Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not banging her head against the wall of the patriarchy because it feels kinda good when she stops, she studies gender in popular culture.

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