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.
Realigning Your Moral Compass / Don’t Be Humble
Remember when “keeping it on the low” was a high-valued asset in the lunchrooms of yesterdays past? It was a glorious and magical time where your ability to not divulge information or “brag” would lend you the trust and respect of all… except maybe the person who wanted said info. Conversely, being known as conceited or loose lipped oft resulted in social suicide. Once you understood and practiced the basic tenets of social operation, you were free to roam about the country. Then along came this thing called life and what was once generally accepted social order now requires constant questioning. Oh to be young again!
These days, you may find yourself at a moral crossroads where keeping information “on the low” could result in literal career suicide and stagnation of financial growth. I’ve seen coworkers get promoted because they would inform the entire world of every menial task accomplished like closing the fridge door in the pantry. I’ve also seen coworkers not be given any credit and as far as to be laid off because no one was aware of their value or responsibilities. Who knew life was gonna be so complicated (besides every single adult?) Of course, “keeping it on the low” a.k.a humility is just one of many self-inflicted moral codes we use to navigate for a majority of our lives. There are many others (selfish, greedy, manipulative, etc…) Now what if you hadn’t assigned a negative or positive value to these sentiments from the outset? Would you still be so hesitant to engage in their practices?
For the sake of proving my point, What if these “negative” moral codes were simply tools that could not be judged but simply used? Is it manipulative to convince someone to put a gun down and not shoot up a room full of people? Was Winston Churchill being manipulative in his efforts to convince the U.S to join WWII? Is it greedy to understand how much financial assets are required to provide the lifestyle you deem worthy for you and your family then pursue accordingly? Is it selfish to know when to tune the world out to achieve a goal that will be to the worlds eventual betterment?
The world is grander than whatever lunchroom your adolescent moral GPS was manufactured in and navigated you through. Once you graduate to encounter those larger moral obstacles, you rapidly realize that what got your through it before may not get you past it now if you cannot realign your moral code. It seems once one masters a particular set of skills, they immediately become obsolete as life advances everyone to the next level. What’s more likely is a majority of our decision making tools (like morals) are choice and should be treated as such and continuously revisited. Good Luck.
Sidebar; To the aspiring entrepreneurs keeping their amazing ideas “on the low” until they blow up, you are delaying your own successes. To those who find the pursuit of money / capitalism as greedy /evil, you are delaying your own gratitude. Sidebar complete.
How to Tell If You’re Motivated by Negativity
We hold in high regard the tactics that allow us to succeed while disregarding that those same tactics stop us from succeeding correctly. When you and everything around you is results oriented, how those results are obtained isn’t scrutinized when they probably should be. Seeing as how we can’t drug test for positive or negative motivators and no one really cares how you succeed as long as you are successful, why should you even care?
Well aside from your eventual therapist and the people who used to love you but have since left due to your unknowingly toxic behavior, your eventual cardiologist and pharmacist who will have to treat you for stress related illnesses, you should probably care also. If you are paying attention and observing the trail of emotional destruction left when using certain motivators, particularly fear and negativity, you would care much much sooner.
With that said, here are some hopefully helpful tips so you can identify and begin to correct.
1. When someone asks you what you want, you typically respond with what you don’t want. “What do you want for dinner?” “Well we had pizza yesterday so I don’t want that and I had Chinese for lunch so that’s out…” Process of elimination is time consuming and quite frankly, if you want pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you should have it. We’ll deal with health choices later. Right now, let’s focus on HOW you make choices in the first place.
2. The first thought that enters your mind after you say you want something are the reasons why it can’t be obtained. “I want to workout but I have no time. I want to pursue my interests but I don’t have the money.” Everything you currently have, you made the time and money for. It is possible for future aspirations as well.
3. The motivator is not the desired result, but the ails that might occur if that result is not obtained. “You better get an education or your friends will leave you behind.” “If I don’t catch the early train, my commute is gonna suck!” Or none of that may occur and you day could progress perfectly fine. Since you can’t recoup emotional capital already extended, better not to expend it at all.
4. You feel you need more in order to begin any task. You just really need to accept that you are enough.
5. You focus on any time frame other than the present. Speculating on future failures only brings you current stress. Speculating on past failures only brings you current stress. Now speculating on past or future successes may seem beneficial but the fact is, if you are speculating at all, you are probably not present and that is the main ingredient required for success anyway. So don’t speculate!!!
The root of all negativity is fear and when fear is your motivation, you will constantly need to be afraid in order to progress. When confidence is your motivation, all you ever need to progress is to remain present.
I wish you all success in everything you hope to accomplish.
Sidebar: Michal Jordan once stated that fear of failure motivated him to accomplish 6 NBA championships. My question to him would’ve been “How much more rings would you have had if confidence was your motivator and not fear?” Sidebar Complete.
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?