This past Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the Carolina Panthers. Prior to the game, Eric Reid – the outspoken activist, friend and former teammate of Colin Kaepernick, and All-Pro safety – ran out to confront Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
The camera caught the two getting in each others’ faces, with Reid seemingly the instigator (as a non-captain, he was not technically “supposed” to be on the field at this time). Jenkins has served as one of the most visible leader of the Players Coalition, a group of socially active NFL players formed in the wake of Kaepernick’s protest. Reid, once a visible member himself, left the group, citing differences in the approach – he believed the group should have pushed harder to include Kaepernick in meetings with the NFL and made his employment by the league the foremost part of their agenda. Ultimately, the NFL responded as all large wealthy institutions typically do – by thinly veiling a PR stunt as social engagement, and donating $90 million in “a local matching funds component to the social justice initiative”.
After the game, Reid cited this incident and called Jenkins a “sellout” and a “neo-colonialist”, in the process accusing him of co-opting the movement for his own charity. The beef and history between the two, which stems from the NFL league office’s hijacking described above, is nuanced and complex. But this confrontation left me with quite a simple, albeit surprising, feeling – sadness.
I respect both players tremendously, and I believe in a world where their differences in approach should be allowed to not only exist, but flourish. In oversimplified terms, Jenkins has been cast in the role of the pragmatic and cooperative activist, while Reid takes a hardline about the wrongs of the entrenched power structure. To some, the Players Coalition failed in not getting Kaepernick reinstated and distracting from the genuine reason he took a knee in the first place. But to others, the Players’ Coalition secured funding from the league comparable to the amount which the league donates in their largest charitable endeavors. These are the types of philosophical differences that we hope the players – and leaders of movements generally – would hash out privately and rally behind, with the proverbially “difficult conversations”.
I believe in a world where their differences in approach should be allowed to not only exist, but flourish.
In this instance, Reid and Jenkins seemed to each serve as strawmen for a frequent divide amongst those fighting for change; the reason being that this divide remains under-discussed. Typically, when we consider our philosophical divides, we do so only as those divides pertain to opposites, whether it be opposite sides of an issue, opposite views of a person, or the “end of civil discourse” (a nebulous proscription that mainstream media loves). Once we’ve identified these differences, the prevailing narrative holds, we must “reach across the aisle”, “try to understand each other”, or “expose ourselves to different viewpoints”. In today’s media, disagreement among “reasonable” people can’t happen because we’re all too hysterical to handle ourselves like thinking adults.
Forget all that. As it pertains to politics and culture, I really have no time for people who defend, directly or indirectly, putting migrant children in cages, sexual assault, or the legal erasure of trans people. After a certain point, it feels I really can’t convince you to care more about others. A more vital discussion would occur between me and those of us who generally agree, but disagree on how to tactically address what needs to change. A successful coalition is one that incorporates people who generally agree on the big picture, but as we are all individuals, naturally tactical differences will occur.
For while the media preoccupies itself with how “divided” we are in the big picture, they scarcely discuss how divided we are in the little picture.
Recent memory abounds with coalitions started on the premise of a shared general belief (or “worldview”), only to fracture due to strategic and/or tactical differences. Though it may be over-reported, the rancor between Bernie Sanders voters and Hillary Clinton voters felt very real; I’m going to guess if you had a strong predilection for either candidate over the other, you would even more strongly prefer that person be president than the one we got. This pattern seems to come up in almost every social movement in history; from labor struggles to racial justice. By the time these splits occur, it is almost always too late.
Eric Reid’s choice to call Jenkins a “sellout” was particularly fascinating. For while the NFL certainly acted cynically in co-opting the promise of the Players’ Coalition, are we supposed to believe that when Nike – another large, multinational corporation – released an ad with Kaepernick, they had suddenly been paid a visit by the altruism fairy? Powerful though these ads were, corporations don’t do things that are not in their best interests! And both Nike and the NFL reinforced this: Nike wouldn’t have made Kap the face of its campaign if they didn’t think he was marketable (Nike stock rose significantly in the wake of the ads), and the NFL wouldn’t donate to any charity if it didn’t garner good press. At the time of the Nike ads, some called Kaepernick a sellout, as if partnering with ANY corporate brand tarnishes his reputation as a fighter for social justice, even as the advertisements brought greater awareness and spotlight to his desired goals (and greater financial means to devote to them).
In addition to the disagreement itself, I felt sadness at our tendency to even lump Jenkins and Reid together, as people who are fighting for social justice in the first place. We should all support justice for those murdered at the hands of the police and the civil rights of people of color, yet because they happen to have pointed this out in public, they are grouped together as “fighting for the same thing”. Again, nuance matters, and it remains possible that their individual versions of justice and the steps to take towards it may differ, even within the context of something we should all agree on. The range of discourse is so narrowly defined that we can’t even adequately spot the difference in people who generally want the same thing through different means, and people who are truly allied in the same fight. This flattens our discourse and makes us think everyone agrees, and thus we are simply unprepared for the inevitable moment when they don’t.
When does one become a sellout?
Clearly, the entire episode here provides more questions than answers: When does one become a sellout? When do the amoral motives of organizations looking to capitalize on a moment outweigh the benefits of their actions? At what point have those with whom we share a general goal turned their back on that goal enough to warrant aggression or excommunication? And most importantly: if our struggles are overwhelmingly interconnected, how do we address them in a way that satisfies both of our goals and moves the needle? I don’t have answers to any of these, but I hope we navigate the difficult arrival of those questions with awareness and civility.
Just a Long-Ass Thought About Spirituality, Forgiveness, and Black America
Walk with me on this Amber Guyger and Botham Jean family story…
We all see life as the longest thing that we will ever do… so we should get the most out of it and we should damn sure not settle for suffering while we’re here. I agree. Do not settle for suffering. But try as we might, we will all suffer at some point. Pain is inevitable. Such is life. The only difference between people of faith, and people who are just grinding, is perspective. If you’re a Christian, like the huggy brother, you believe in your soul being eternal. Whatever hardships we face in life, no matter how unfathomably difficult or negative, you believe that if you live righteously -and that means not living in revenge and resentment — your soul will live eternally in paradise. People can’t comprehend that. Life is the longest thing we’ll ever do, but if you have real faith, (not that every Sunday faith) life is short compared to eternity.
Now some of your eyes just glazed over when you read that last part and you made the face. It sounds silly and Pollyannaish when you look at the history of America. Black folks have been killed, massacred and overlooked everyday since we got here and it continues to happen. Forgiveness sounds helpless. It sounds foolish. How can you be weak enough to be forgiving of those who hurt you -especially when it’s is systemic and woven into everyday life? And there’s the part about the same people that enslaved us introducing us to a God that will save us? How do those things go together?
Perfectly reasonable questions. If you don’t believe in God or Jesus or an afterlife then forgiveness sounds like bullshit. Hard to believe in what you can’t see, especially when you CAN see oppression everyday. I get it. I truly do.
Some of my closest friends mute me on here because I’m always on political shit. 🤣 I share a lot of it. I am frustrated by inequality and oppression and I fight it in my own life in every way that I can -with my wallet and my time and my purchasing. I speak out on it in uncomfortable personal conversations with friends or acquaintances when I feel people are bullshitting or are blind to -isms. I hate inequality and I don’t avoid it. I wade into it and stress myself out everyday. I’m not for punting on life and settling for what happens after we die. That’s weak. Fight for your joy and your prosperity. Period.
Forgiveness isn’t my mantra here. It’s just part of the story because the story isn’t one dimensional.
None of us are just one thing or one way. Just for a moment stop and try to release your bias against the idea of forgiveness and ponder this blip in time that we call life, versus the reality of eternity. Physics says energy doesn’t stop, it just changes. Think of your life and your soul scientifically. When we die our energy and essence does *something.* Why can’t that something be what people of faith believe? If the Jean family truly has that kind of faith many people will mock it beacause most can’t comprehend it. But if you really have faith and can imagine the notion of eternity then you get it. Meditate on that. You know that that young man getting murdered in his own apartment was horrific and unforgivable and the trial was a signifier of white power vis-a-vis black bodies in America and that’s why the verdict meant so much to us. She was found guilty. And not just of manslaughter or negligence. But murder. That meant something.
However, the sentence was light. That meant something too. But the family’s forgiveness means something too.
Don’t @ me. @ your therapist.
The unfortunate part is that that image of the hugs and the tears is what will be tied to the administration of justice here. Was it necessary for the family? Absolutely. Was it good for America when we so rarely see justice in the killing of black people at the hands of white cops. Hell no! The image that we should have walked away with from that trial was her walking away in shackles. We don’t want to see oppressors feel comforted when it should be our moment to feel some measure of justice. But would an image of the family celebrating have nourished us yesterday? That wasn’t the answer either. I hate that the image of that killer cop being comforted after she murdered a black man in his own home was what represented the story in the news. The angry me gets it and I was pissed yesterday. But so does the person inside who believes that there is an unbelievable strength to that kind of faith and a reason for our resilence in this country is the strength of our collective souls.
But what do I know?
WILL THE NEXT BE THE LAST?
Mass shootings in America was the first line I began to write on Sunday November 18th. Before I was able to complete additional research on the subject, Monday November 19th arrived and two more mass shootings occurred. That time a hospital in Chicago and the streets of downtown Denver got their turns in the game of American roulette.
Thoughts and prayers aren’t saving lives
Now on Monday August 5th 2019, we’re in the midst of recovering from three more mass shootings in the span of one week. One in Gilroy, CA that is suspected to be racially motivated. Another in Dayton, Ohio whose motives are still under investigation, and lastly in El Paso, Texas which was definitively motivated by white supremacist views. In total, over 30 innocent people were killed in these terrorist attacks on American soil by young White male American citizens within a matter of days.
Like it or not, we’re all playing this deadly game of chance whenever we decide to go shopping, catch a movie, show up for work, attend a concert, worship at church… I think you get the point. The bottom line is the leaders of this country have made it abundantly clear that they aren’t willing or capable of protecting us. The public safety of all of our citizens is not the primary concern of too many of our public officials. Their priority is re-election and the spoils (money) attached to it.
Thoughts and prayers aren’t saving lives. The time has come to expand our thought process to increase our odds of survival. Below are two possible solutions that we can enact to force changes expeditiously.
- Boycotts of areas of mass gatherings could significantly effect the economy which in turn would motivate the Government to act.
- Minorities under attack need to significantly increase their own arsenals which would motivate the Government to act.
Either of the two aforementioned solutions tend to be more alarming than the reality of white supremacist terrorism and the possibility of an economic downturn. The sooner we collectively stop waiting for change and force it through bold action, the more innocent lives will be saved.
Why You’re Racist and Don’t Even Know It
All of the people reading this currently were at some point, mindless, dribbling idiots who didn’t know their asses from their elbows. Some of you may disagree. Now if I said everyone reading this was at some point, a baby, no one would argue that point (except for those who believe their children were self-sufficient Einsteins right out of the womb). Behold! The power of labels! It’s easy to accept or disavow labels simply because of the generally perceived connotations they evoke, especially when that perception is negative. But if you study the parameters that define those labels and compare them to your own behaviors, can you rationally dispute that you are what they said you were? With that said and before you continue to espouse that you are all rainbow hugging flower children who loves everyone equally, have you ever truly defined what being racist is before you professed you weren’t?
- prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
Based on the contextual definition of racism, I don’t even understand why there’s a contextual definition of racism. The definition may as well just say “Human” because quite frankly, I haven’t met one person who hasn’t discriminated or been prejudiced based on race. Just look at your spouse, friends, living environments, etc.. We have all knowingly (sadly) and unknowingly (best case scenario), made these types of decisions. Now does making decisions based on race make you a bad person? YES!!! It absolutely does!! And the only way you can be a good person is if you first accept that you are racist, then remain aware of that so it doesn’t affect your future decision making. Once you acknowledge that you have a preference, it becomes easier to entertain the ideal of equality and not succumb to personal preference.
Some people would agree that racism has benefited far too few in America and disenfranchised far too many. I am one of those people. The oddity of that is some unknowingly suggest racism as a solution to… racism. Can you truly level the playing field without being temporarily racist however? Can you justly deny anyone opportunities in 2019 to atone for denying a different race of people opportunities 200 years ago? As an example (and I’m sure an unpopular one), is it really fair to deny any Caucasian any opportunity in the name of correction when A) that specific Caucasian did not cause the issue and B) What the hell does “equal” mean in the first place? Physics clearly state that 2 objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. So if there is only space for one thing at one TIME (extreme emphasis on TIME), can the concept of equality even exists if we have to remove one for the other to catch up? If you practice deliberate discrimination in the name of aggregate equality, contextually speaking, how are you not a racist?
We were all raised by someone with less refined social ideas of and experiences with other races. This means our baselines for interactions with other races were predefined by those who were also unknowingly racist. It’s OK. It’s not your fault or theirs. You didn’t choose the world you were born into and neither did they. You do have a say in the world you leave behind however. If you don’t acknowledge that you do have a say, you probably won’t say anything and leave the next generation to repeating the same hate speech.
We can never get to a point of resolution if we haven’t accepted and can’t publicly admit that we are ALL susceptible to stereotypes and prejudiced. Seeing as how no one except for the KKK is admittedly racist, yet racism is still prevalent, I don’t believe anyone should be excluding their personal behaviors and choices from racial evaluation.
Sidebar; For those who say African Americans can’t be racist because we are the marginalized population, even the contextual definition states “typically” but not solely. So sorry to burst your reverse racist bubbles but although you may not be as savage, you may be just as prejudiced as those who weren’t marginalized. Sidebar Complete.