Speaking out against the violence of policing and systemic oppression

At an NFL game in September 2016, Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, knelt while the “Star Spangled Banner” was played. This action was a symbol of peaceful protest against the injustice, violence, and oppression of Black Americans at the hands of the police. Since that time, the United States has seen calls for reformist interventions to the carceral state, yet anti-Black racism and violence persist across the country. As Kaepernick says, “Systemic problems demand systemic solutions.” Instead of a future tied to police violence, prisons, and systems of punishment, he says, “…We must imagine a future that “prioritizes harm reduction, redemption, and public well-being in order to create a more just and humane world.”

In this five-day lesson plan that Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp have created together, educators and learners will explore the creation of educational systems and a future built on justice, liberation, and the realization of humanity through the abolition of policing and prisons. Days 1 and 2 ask learners to think about their own identities and examine ways in which the education they have received has contributed to oppression or liberation. With an increased understanding of civil rights within the global human rights framework, learners take Day 3 to explore the harm caused by policing and prisons before imagining a world of health, safety, and true justice. Days 4 and 5 allow learners to build communities rooted in activism, restorative justice, and healing. Throughout the lessons, learners will “become a defender” each day by engaging in community-based accountability and organizing to promote Black liberation and human rights for all.

Colin Kaepernick, born in 1987, was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers after graduating from the University of Nevada in 2010. In 2016, in the wake of fatal police violence, Kaepernick began his silent protests. After kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he founded and helped fund the nonprofit Know Your Rights Camp as well as Kaepernick Publishing and Ra Vision Media to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systemic change, and political education. Kaepernick has earned Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award, been named GQ magazine’s “Citizen of the Year,” and received the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, the ACLU’s Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award, and many others.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, as well as opportunities for discussion and collaboration with learners on Zoom or in the classroom, these lesson plans will work with both virtual and in-person communities. Educators may choose to use additional digital resources as well, such as Colin Kaepernick’s remarks from the 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award ceremony or Speak Truth to Power’s webinar series on restorative justice in education.