Don’t you hate it when you’re on the phone or computer and you receive a notification that says it’s time for a software update? You think to yourself, “Damn, Already? My phone is working fine just the way it is,” and so you put off the software update until another day. The annoying process of updating devices can take up to nearly five whole minutes, and don’t even get me started on iTunes. Life can be so hard, right? In the big scheme of things, I suppose five minutes isn’t that annoying, but the fact that somebody is telling you what you need to do with your time and energy is what really bothers us — having to put time aside to focus on something you don’t really care for. One day, once your apps start running slower or stop working completely, you will finally give in to the update. Your apps should make your life easier but now they’re jeopardizing your everyday existence. Well, America, this is my software update for you.
For some years now, I wanted to write something about the issues that continue to plague black people in America. Yes, black people, not Caucasians, not Chinese, not Hispanics, not Asians or any other race/nationality residing in America. I can only write from my own experiences so I would hope society would respect, listen, and understand from where I’m coming from. If the shoe were on the other foot, I would want a person coming from a totally different background to enlighten me and express their feelings on issues bothering them as fellow Americans. Regardless of my race or gender, one thing I realize is that, as people get older, they talk more, listen less and become more stubborn in their ways. We listen but just enough so that we can give our own critique on the matter, but as a society we don’t really listen. I’m talking about listening enough to the point where we want to make a change because of what we actually heard. Especially with the power of the Internet, everybody thinks they’re the voice of their generation. This is not the purpose of my piece you’re about to read. I needed to write about what’s continuing to transpire with race in America, but more importantly try to change it. I really wish I were a more prominent athlete, entertainer, musician, politician, or successful millionaire/billionaire socialite in America so that I could actually be the voice of reasoning, but I’m not.
I am a 6’7″, 125 pounds, black male, born and raised in Compton who used his “tall privilege” and work ethic to become an above average basketball player. This in turn, allowed me to use my “basketball privilege” to receive a college scholarship, graduate with a degree and be debt free. Next, I used my “NBA privilege” to visit almost every state in America while living my childhood dream. Lastly, I’m currently using my “overseas basketball privilege” to live in a foreign country, visit 20 counties and counting. The funny thing about living abroad is there’s not been one day where I wake up worried about being racially pulled over with the first question out of the policeman’s mouth being, “Are you on probation?” This has happened to me in America numerous times, and unfortunately, I will never be able to use my “white privilege” to help me out. Well there goes all the hard work I put myself through to not be seen as another threat or stereotype? I’ve been respected, treat as just a normal person and not scared to be killed over a misunderstanding; this is why I am writing.
The Kaepernick Affect
Who would have thought that a half-black, half-white, adopted boy, born in Wisconsin, raised by two white parents named Colin Kaepernick would have started something so controversial but yet so necessary? Why would he do something so un-American by exercising his American constitutional right? In fact, it’s infuriating countless diehard, patriotic (or so-called) Americans while others are saying, “He needs to show some respect to America’s 85-year-old song about freedom and liberty.” A song, which has a third verse that is hardly sung but includes the lines, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” Is it me or did people forget what American life was like 85 years ago? I do, and I can promise you that my grandparents, great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents would give zero fucks about the national anthem and pledging allegiance to it. I have a great idea. How about we hit the reset button and make a new national anthem? Even better, let’s turn it into a reality show and let Americans of all ages, races, religions write the lyrics and then we vote on which song to use. Did anybody think of that while complaining about a song created by a racist person? Software update!
Then you have black people in the world like former NFL player, Rodney Harris who says that Colin is not black enough, which is mind-boggling. Seriously, Rodney, I know you have the right to freedom of speech, but you also have the freedom to shut the hell up sometimes. You’re telling me if Colin was a normal person and not a football player, got pulled over by the police while rocking his afro or braids, you think they would see him as a person who’s not black enough? With comments like that, maybe you did take one too many shots to the head during your impressive NFL career. Okay, let’s say Colin isn’t black enough; well, that’s even better right? We need more non-black people to help raise awareness on these matters too; actually it’s vital that they do (I’ll get to that later). I don’t think we’re at the point where we can turn away people who want to help the inequality of minority groups in America.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if these same people who are upset about Kaepernick’s stance would speak just as openly towards video footage of black people being shot and killed by police in the streets? Just maybe change what might finally happen, but that’s asking for too much, right? America, don’t you think there’s a serious problem when people are more upset at a person for trying to bring attention to racial injustice at the beginning of an NFL game? NFL game? We’re in here talking about an NFL game? I mean, listen, we’re talking about an NFL game. Not real life! Not real life! We’re talking about an NFL game? The NFL is by far both the most popular and successful professional sports league in America. How dare that Kaepernick kid use the NFL as a way to help shed light on a situation that is dear to him and other people across America? I wonder why Kap thought that this would be the best platform to bring attention to this matter? Maybe because 67.3% of the NFL players are black, while their white counterparts are the primary fans, trainers, coaches, and owners of the NFL. I’m just as confused as you are, America. Keep in mind these are the same people who also attend NFL games two hours before tailgating getting drunk, recklessly trash talking, fighting each other all the while cheering on men pumped up on painkillers that run into each other at high speeds. And every hit they make/take is a step closer to having brain damage and other career-ending injuries. I feel you, Drew, Brees, Kid Rock, Kate Upton, Trent Dilfer, and the always “insightful” Tomi Lahren, ain’t nobody got time for Colin’s protest nonsense.
The Bully & The Big Brother
Let me start off saying that I have nothing against the police. Every day the boys in blue put their lives on the line to protect and to serve us. I know their job is extremely difficult, stressful, and I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes many times. I can’t imagine having to go to work and possibly be killed for protecting a stranger or defending myself in the line of fire. Over the years, I have had both family and friends work as police officers so I have come to see these people as human beings too. As a society we need the police, there’s no question about that. Now that I got the obvious out of the way, let’s address the real problems here: police brutality and killings against unarmed civilians.
The police are the biggest gang in America, and that gives them ability to be the bully and the big brother. How confusing would that be if you were a nerd in high school? Arriving to school every day never knowing what the mood is going to be of the bipolar, power tripping, hall monitor kid who never gets in trouble because his job gives him the ability to save his own ass. Welcome to the life of a black person. In theory, each police department across America has the ability to police themselves, and sometimes this is where things start to get a little crooked. I truly feel most police officers have a sense of entitlement since they are the law, which means they can also be above the law. If a police officer were to kill a nonthreatening, black person while on the job, 10 out of 10 they are going to cover their own asses. Prior to having police dashboard cameras and people now having access to recording devices, I can’t even imagine how many cover-ups there have been over the last 60 years. Mix in racial profiling and sprinkle in some outdated, overaggressive protocols and you have the life of a black person again. I’m sorry if this is getting repetitive to read; it’s just that we feel the same way living it every day.
Let’s go even deeper down this racial rabbit hole; the black community has had issues with the police since the civil rights movement and even before that. Law enforcement’s most inhuman tactic, however, was police brutality during the 1960s. When blacks put on peaceful protests, they were hosed down, beaten down, attacked by police dogs with no criminal repercussions. When Americans finally saw the outright brutality going on right in their country on television, they felt shocked, and many joined the cause in support of the Civil Rights Bill being passed. Before being assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King spent the last decade of his life working hard to get integration and equality in every city and in every state. He once said, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” If we were to still go by those famous words today, then it looks like we still have a ways to go. This means the current police protocol on how to treat encounters with civilians is outdated and needs to change immediately. The police are supposed to evaluate each situation separately and then decide which type of force is needed, but we all know that isn’t the case. In their dealings with black people, some police automatically assume we are a threat to them, which means they are already defensive and on high alert more than normal. Once the exchange begins (the audition I like to call it), it is then up to us to prove that we are not a threat to them. If you really think about it, they’re really threatening us with this aggressive, stereotypical approach. Blacks are guilty until proven innocent and if you have an attitude about that, then you are only going to make things worse for yourself. I will always remember my dad telling me at a young age, “If you ever get pulled over, put your hands outside the window where they can see them”. Moral of that story: Police have no problem shooting or killing your ass over a misunderstanding and then asking questions later, or even changing their story all together. I wonder how many white people received that life lesson from their parents at thirteen years old?
Can History Be Repeating Itself?
Ladies and gentleman, I am here to proclaim that Colin Kaepernick is the sports’ modern-day Rosa Parks. Yeah, I said it! Before everybody starts proclaiming that I’m crazy, just hear me out. While I don’t think he intended to be this now iconic figure standing up (by kneeling down) to the face of injustice, and I’m pretty sure Rosa Parks wasn’t thinking about the long-term implications either when she did it back in 1955. Parks refused to give up her seat in the back of the bus to a white passenger after the white section of the bus was full, but look what her decision led to. How do we know in 5-10 years what Kaepernick’s stance on the matter will actually turn out to mean for America, and more importantly, black people? This could possibly set off a chain of events just as Parks’ act of rebelliousness did and how the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She then became an international sign of challenge to racial segregation. Since Kap started protesting the national anthem, more players and other athletes in other sports are joining in, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Could this be history repeating itself? I hope so; all I know is that the man is on the front cover of Time magazine taking a knee, and that’s a big deal. In the long-term, obviously kneeling will only do so much, eventually there has to be a more serious call to action and I’ll get to that later.
I can only speculate why Colin decided to take this approach, but I’m glad he did. I’m assuming he probably figured he’d already signed the biggest contract he was going to get in his NFL career. He’d reached the Super Bowl, and then followed it up with reaching the NFC Championship the following season, which is more impressive than over half of the NFL quarterbacks starting right now. Yes, his play has declined over the last three seasons; he was demoted to backup quarter in favor of horrible Blain Gabbert. So I’m pretty sure he reckoned he doesn’t have anything else to lose anymore so why not ruffle some feathers. Now that Chip Kelly finally benched Gabbert and threw Kap back into the starting lineup, I feel this new purpose he created will somehow resurrect his game, and even more, he can continue his message of reminding America that things needs to keep evolving.