It took a hundred years and untold acts of courage along the way, but Americans of color moved from slavery to full-fledged status as United States citizens with all the rights responsibilities that go with that awesome privileges.

Thomas Mundy Peterson was the first black American to vote, the day after the Fifteenth Amendment was adopted on March 30, 1870 prohibiting a state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color or “previous condition of servitude.”

That amendment, proposed in Congress and ratified by the states made former slaves the equal of their former masters – and the proof was that they could participate fully in the decisions made at the ballot box – electing representatives, governors and, yes, even the president.

Black men could vote almost 50 years before white women – it was that important.

Some states enacted voting laws putting up barriers such as poll taxes, literacy and grandfather clauses, and intimidation in some cases made the actual act of voting an act of courage until a series of Supreme Court cases and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally ensured the right to vote to all citizens regardless of color.

Today, however, it seems far easier for Colin Kaepernick, an adult man who is paid millions to play a game – and not very well, to grab the spotlight with a publicity stunt than to actually honor the sacrifices of a hundred years and cast his vote.

Kaepernick, who began kneeling on the field during the playing of the national anthem to protest what he terms “oppression” and “racial inequality” in America, drawing praise and criticism, but above all media coverage, not only did not vote in last Tuesday’s election, but has never even registered to vote.

The San Francisco 49er quarterback, whose sudden concern with racial relations coincided with trade rumors following a decline in play that saw him replaced by a second-string substitute, is 29-years-old and would have been eligible to vote when he turned 18 in 2005, meaning he could have cast his ballot for Barack Obama in the presidential election of 2008.

He didn’t.

In fact, Kaepernick, who is of mixed-race heritage, but was raised by white adoptive parents, told reporters that it would have been hypocritical of me to vote” because “the oppressor isn’t going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression.”

Tell that to the ghosts who fought for that right and cherished it as free men and women.

 

 

 

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