One of the shortcomings of Black Lives Matter is the fact that however well conceived and purposed, there is no face to go with the cause. Some think of that as a power, moving away from the traditional personality-based leadership of the 60s and ensuing years, creating decentralized, shared responsibility.
While that selfless approach to inclusion has many positive attributes, it may be that a movement is more difficult to sustain without a primary “mover.” Kaepernick provides the face, the embodiment of purpose, the challenge. He is clearly the victim of racism and discrimination, offering a concise rallying point.
So we may be on the verge of seeing what happens when Blacks in the new millennium are sick and tired of being sick – mad as hell, and unwilling to take it anymore. The outrage over the National Football League’s “virtual” blackballing of Kaepernick has reached a fever pitch and Blacks are about to take it to the streets – again.
Actor, director, activist Spike Lee is promoting a protest rally targeting the NFL headquarters in New York on Wednesday, August 23 to sound the alarm of Black America’s legitimate discontent of the mistreatment of a star athlete who decided to stand up by kneeling down.
If this voice of legitimate discontent is to be raised to a level that disrupts the status quo, the protest must be extended to include marches in every city in which an NFL team is located – including the Bears’ Soldier Field and Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
If Colin Kaepernick was an isolated example of discrimination, the reaction to his case might not be as intense. But his battle with professional football is endemic of a multitude of racial confrontations around the nation over the past few months.
So much is happening in such rapid-fire succession that African Americans in the U.S. can barely breathe. The Department of Justice going after universities to charge them with racial discrimination that places white students at a disadvantage would be laughable – if it wasn’t so serious.
The constant flow of stories about police brutality and deadly shootings of unarmed Blacks has become numbingly commonplace. Short-lived media commentary, prayer vigils, feigned indignation of authorities, wrenching pain of friends and devastation of families barely moves the needle any more. Racism is rampant. The White House has not only failed to respond to this national crisis, it has propagated measures and rhetoric that pour fuel on the flames.
For those living in a cave over the past year, Kaepernick is an out-of-work NFL quarterback who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. He made headlines when he began sitting or taking a knee as the National Anthem played in the stadium during the 2016 football preseason.
He courageously made the decision to use his notoriety to give voice to the voiceless. He was making a political statement about racism, oppression, and police brutality in America by opting out of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” While other athletes followed suit in solidarity, Kaepernick remained the central character – the genesis for the protest. He immediately incurred the wrath of many players, some fans, most media, and apparently every NFL owner.
Even faced with threats and backlash from critics, Kaepernick stands tall, refusing to relinquish his position or compromise his position.
So no NFL team franchise will take a chance on bringing him on board, even though in limited action last year, he threw 14 touchdown passes with only four interceptions. A professional sports league that indulges domestic abuse, murder, rape, animal cruelty, substance abuse and weapons violations draws the line when it comes to the First Amendment.
Harry Belafonte put it best when interviewed recently by Roland Martin: “To mute the slave has always been in the best interest of the slave owner. I think that when a Black voice is raised in protests of oppression, those who are comfortable with our oppression are the first to criticize us for daring to speak out against it.”
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].