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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “Dumb” Remark About NFL Players’ Protest

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has, alas, said something disappointing. She told Yahoo’s Katie Couric that she finds football player Colin Kaepernick and others’ refusal to stand for the national anthem was “really dumb.” Ginsburg added that she believes the protest should be legal, but the criticism of what is, after all, a peaceful anti-racist protest nevertheless risked the justice’s status as, as Barry Petchesky aptly put it, a “woke Twitter folk hero.”

In the same Deadspin post, Petchesky called the kerfuffle “a great reminder that performative online love of any powerful person will ultimately reflect poorly upon you,” which may be right. But I think the social-media-age takeaway is more that nobody gets everything right, and that holding anyone (Ginsburg, Ginsburg’s admirers) to a purity standard gets us nowhere. That’s one takeaway. The other, if we may shift the conversation away from Ginsburg’s thought-purity for a moment, is that American anti-racism remains a work in progress. Even allies who don’t merely get it but do tremendous good are products of the broader culture, one that isn’t ever entirely convinced that racism is a thing, or is a problem.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood. Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.


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