I had a conversation with one of my mentors regarding the latest hot topic of the week, San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the National Anthem/Pledge Allegiance to the American Flag, and I wanted to share my thoughts.
For those who are unaware, Kaepernick is participating in a protest to sit during the National Anthem in an effort to combat a lot of the police brutality towards people of color. After reading about this I gained a newfound respect for him because, in his position, he has a lot to lose for standing up to the social injustices that still plague this country. But I still became annoyed with a lot of the backlash that other celebrities (particularly athletes) received for either having a dissenting opinion or for not speaking up to support his protest.
“I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black. He can not understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a every single (day) basis. When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. You know, I don’t think he faces those type of things that we face on a daily basis.”
– Ex-NFL Player Rodney Harrison
“Who am I to say that it’s wrong? Who am I to say that it’s right? Either or, it’s still personal.”
– Carolina Panther’s QB Cam Newton
When those two athletes said that, all HELL broke loose on the internet. They were called every name in the book, particularly from the black community, that one could imagine. And I wasn’t surprised because this happens anytime someone voices an opinion that the majority doesn’t like. Even Stephen A. Smith — of all black people — called himself trying to give Cam Newton a history lesson on racism in America. The same man who told the students at The University of South Alabama that “racism doesn’t exist anymore” and the same man, who on numerous occasions throughout his tenure at ESPN, has told black people (in no uncertain terms) that we need to get our sh*t together, now has so much to say about racism to Cam Newton. Mr. Smith, go take a nap. You’re in the same bracket as Charles Barkley and Stacey Dash in regards to racial commentary about black folks, but I digress.
My question (well, questions) for those who are so upset with the celebrities who may not be in support of what Kaepernick is doing are as follows:
- Are celebrities, mainly entertainers and athletes, responsible for speaking out on social/political issues?
- If they choose to speak out or not to speak out, why does their voice affect you so much?
I’ve never understood the obsession that so many folks have with those who live a lifestyle that the vast majority will never live or the obsession with folks who the vast majority will never meet or have any sort of personal relationship with. Athletes and entertainers are just that, athletes and entertainers. If they choose to speak out on social issues, great; if they don’t speak out on those issues, continue to pay your bills and go about your day. Why are so many folks so pressed about someone else’s ideology?
Rapper/Actor Bow Wow received backlash when he advised that he is not into politics, or that he even cares, and implied that he is mixed so he doesn’t know what his ancestors were doing. Nicki Minaj received backlash when she didn’t speak out on the Orlando shooting that killed many within the LGBT community. Michael Jordan, the symbol of all symbols, hasn’t spoken on racial issues within the two decades that he’s been the pinnacle of black success, but now that he will donate over $2 million to the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, all is forgotten. It’s just pathetic to me. These celebrities are not politicians and most of them aren’t scholars, so stop putting so much weight on their perspective because, truth be told, they know just as much if not less than you do.
This follow-the-leader/savior complex is extremely problematic and it’s not going to help cure our society of its problems. If you are unable to use discernment and address certain topics from an objective point of view, without the help of your favorite symbol, I suggest that you start reading more. And I’m not saying that you shouldn’t admire or even respect the philanthropy of your favorite idols because I respect a lot of them. But questioning or even disagreeing with some of the things that they do isn’t a bad thing. I mean, as admirable as Kaepernick’s protest is, what change is that going to bring within the black community that he’s protesting for? And if every black person decided not to stand during the National Anthem, systemically, what shift would that cause in black economics and black politics?
I don’t see any.
So I’m glad that he along with other celebrities are taking stands on issues that they feel strongly about, but you can stand for something as well. There’s no need to wait on your favorite celebrity to make you feel good or get your emotions all tangled up in order to move. You have a unique story and talent that is needed to help make our society better, so embrace that, formulate your own thought, and go help your community. And for those who argue that celebrities have more of a reach and influence compared to “regular” folks, that may be true but stop silencing yourself. There’s someone that you can reach too, and it’s going to take work from all of us in order to change things.
Until Next Time…
BOW WOW FACES BACKLASH OVER HIS VIEWS ON POLITICS AND RACE. (2016, July 28). Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://www.rap-up.com/2016/07/28/bow-wow-faces-backlash-over-his-views-on-politics-race/
Heck, J. (n.d.). Rodney Harrison on Colin Kaepernick: ‘He’s not black’ Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/news/rodney-harrison-colin-kaepernick-not-black/172krqv16ji66153ho89cy75i5
Martin, J. (2016, July 26). Michael Jordan breaks his silence on social issues, donates $2 million. Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/25/sport/michael-jordan-comments-race-police/
Pruitt, S. L. (2016, June 17). Nicki Minaj Didn’t Offer Condolences For Orlando Shooting, And Her LGBT Fans Are Angry. Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://www.oxygen.com/very-real/nicki-minaj-is-feuding-with-lgbt-fans-over-the-orlando-shooting