Most Shared

A player's quiet protest sparked an important national conversation.

The 49ers quarterback defends his decision to protest during the national anthem.

A player's quiet protest sparked an important national conversation.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat huddled on the bench before his team took on the Green Bay Packers in a preseason football game.

As the national anthem played, players on both teams stood to honor the flag. Kaepernick, however, wasn't among them.

This decision — not his electric play that led the team to the Super Bowl just a few seasons back — may very well go down as the defining moment in his career. He seems OK with that.


Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," he told the NFL of his decision.

The move was pretty shocking. After all, standing for the national anthem is just something that happens before sporting events in this country. His decision to sit it out was met with massive condemnation. It was tough to watch.

But he stood (or rather sat) firm, saying, "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images.

So let's take a look at why the 28-year-old took a stand by taking a seat — in his own words.

Kaepernick has since elaborated on why he sat out, and it's worth hearing his explanation. By understanding his motives, perhaps it's easier to understand his methods. Below are some of the highlights (but you can check out the entire transcript here).

"There’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable," he said about police brutality. "People are being given paid leave for killing people. That’s not right. That’s not right by anyone’s standards."

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

"To me, [protesting] is a freedom that we’re allowed in this country. And going back to the military, it’s a freedom that men and woman that have fought for this country have given me this opportunity by contributions they have made," he explained to those who criticized his decision to sit as being disrespectful to the military.

He doesn't see his move as disrespectful, however, and he certainly doesn't owe the military any sort of performative patriotism. The military has fought for his — and everyone's — opportunity to protest peacefully.

"This is something that has to be said, it has to be brought to the forefront of everyone’s attention, and when that’s done, I think people can realize what the situation and then really effect change," he said.

Protest and criticism aren't signs of hate, but rather of a desire to improve a home that you love, and there's certainly nothing un-American about protesting.

When Ryan Lochte embarrassed himself while acting as a representative of the United States with a lie about being mugged at gunpoint during the Rio Olympics, he was rewarded with a spot on a primetime TV show to explain himself. So why can't we cut Kaepernick a bit of slack for taking a principled stand against a well-documented pattern of injustice happening in our country? Of the two actions, Kaepernick's is far more inherently "American" than Lochte's, hands down.

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Just a few weeks earlier, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas faced somewhat similar national anthem-based criticism after she failed to put her hand over her heart during a medal ceremony. Never mind the fact that other U.S. athletes did the same with relative silence from critics.

The truth is that America is a 240-year-long work in progress. Things can, and should, and if we're being optimistic enough, will become better as time goes on.

In order for that to happen, we cannot let ourselves remain complacent, and we cannot gloss over issues of inequality, oppression, and violence in our quest to become — as so many like to say — "the greatest country on Earth."

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
True

In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

More

4 minutes of silence can boost your empathy for others. Watch as refugees try it out.

We could all benefit from breaking down some of the walls in our lives.

Images via Amnesty Poland

This article originally appeared on 05.26.16


You'd be hard-pressed to find a place on Earth with more wall-based symbolism than Berlin, Germany.

But there, in the heart of Germany's capital city, strangers sat across from one another, staring into each other's eyes. To the uninitiated, it may look as though you've witnessed some sort of icy standoff. The truth, however, couldn't be more different.

This was about tearing down walls between people.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."