By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
It’s not a question of whether or not Colin Kaepernick had the right to sit out the national anthem. If this is still America, there’s no doubt about that. And can all the garbage about the time and place. It’s never the wrong time to say or do right.
The real deal is that there are two issues that are much more important – not quite as simplistic or black and white. This so-called controversy will be a missed opportunity if we don’t dig deeper than normal and I hope we use this situation to go there.
Move Past the Symptom to the Disease
First, every time we have St. Louis players emerging from the tunnel with hands up after Ferguson, or the Lebron-led Miami Heat players donning hoodies in respect of Trayvon, or the WNBA sisters in Minnesota protesting the recent infamous police shooting there, or Beyonce producing a defiant Super Bowl presentation and music video – America gets its wrong.
Most people in the general public look only at the protesters – millions from the hood to the highest degree earners in the wake of a 12-year-old with a toy gun murdered or following a brother in New York choked to death by police on video complaining in a whisper, “I can’t breathe,” or rejecting the rhetoric to explain away the hanging death of Sandra Bland.
Looking at the protesters without the stimulus is like a doctor trying to offer a diagnosis or prognosis solely based on the symptom that patient is reporting. It can’t be done. Any medical official who’s not a quack has to do an examination, including X-rays and blood tests. They have to include a review of not only that person’s medical history – but also his entire family.
So it is with the protests of this or any other day. When John Lewis and his compadres decided to sit down at a Woolworth’s counter that prohibited Black people, the question wasn’t how a peaceful lunch was disturbed for those eating when they arrived. And how ignorant is it to call them to task because they know how racist bigots would respond.
The environment doesn’t matter. The risks are secondary. It is a worthy cause, you just do it. The quintessential representation is, of course, Muhammad Ali who forfeited his championship belt, much of his fortune, a modicum of fame and faced incarceration to take a stand. He would not be deterred.
Dr. King once said America is confused if she thinks African Americans marched in the 60s to be disruptive. The iconic warrior told a congregation that he didn’t have a martyr complex and like many, he wanted to live a long life. But in the end, he had to do what’s right. The disease was far worse than any symptoms and could not be tolerated.
Why can’t Black and White America stop dwelling on the symptoms (forms of protest) and start examining the disease (racism, oppression, prejudice and discrimination). Despite optics to the contrary, when you see supporters of the GOP presidential nominee spewing venom, I am persuaded that there are more good-hearted, well-meaning whites than racists.
Yet, sometimes they fail to recognize their own complicity in the matter – again, looking more at the symptom rather than engaging in genuine exploration of the disease.
If nothing else, I hope that Kaepernick’s protest will spur dialogue between the races that forces to the front painful truths and the roles we all play in perpetuating the chasm.
Stand up or sit down…you can’t have it both ways
The second point is this. For all of you trying to second-guess the way in which his protest was made, or even his right to make it given how blessed he has been as an American athlete – shame on you. You can’t have it both ways. We are forever lambasted self-absorbed athletes who take pride in NOT being role models – who mock bolder fellow athletes.
Perhaps you would enjoy the denial of O.J. Simpson who at the height of his career argued the existence of a racial problem. Or maybe you’d rather have the attitude of Tiger Woods who distances himself from his roots by claiming equal allegiance to all of the other 13 or 14 hereditary strands he proudly claimed to dilute his Blackness.
Or maybe you prefer Michael Jordan who was a hell-raiser on the hardwood but their little angel when it came to social issues or anything having to do with his people. One of his teammates said it would be impossible to get Mike to an event like Indiana Black Expo because he sold his soul in a $60 million “lifetime” contract with Nike.
We want our athletes, our entertainers, and our celebrities to stand up and be counted with our struggle – no matter how far away their success has taken them. Look no further than Jennifer Hudson and Dwayne Wade to see how wealth doesn’t separate you from the suffering of those you love.
The hardest job a coward faces is looking in the mirror of morality and consciousness, only to wince in pain in the constant realization that she or he has no reflection.
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].