Saturday, September 30, 2017

NFL Protests

Donald Trump's attack on black athletes kneeling during the national anthem is red meat to a white base which is, not to put to fine a word on it, racist.

Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, say, ‘Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out, you’re fired!’ ”

The Republican voting base not only has a high level of animosity toward black people, just showing them a picture of a black man changes how they think on a variety of issues. This isn't news to anyone who bothers to read comments on stories in their local newspaper or heaven forbid, yahoo. But it's good to have data to back this up. Inevitably whenever a black athlete or other celebrity takes a political stand that questions the status quo around justice in America many non-black people question the black person's intelligence. Additionally they start to call the person "lazy", "spoiled", "ungrateful", "entitled", "pampered", "arrogant", or "overpaid" among other epithets. This language almost exactly tracks the language of white slave owners upset that their former slaves were leaving the plantation or the language of European colonialists bewildered and angered that they were being kicked out of Africa

This view of black progress, that achievement or success is only being allowed or tolerated because of white munificence, is a fundamental building block of white racism, regardless of whatever other politics the person displaying such racism might have. It's found among liberals as much as among conservatives. It's just expressed a little differently.

To recap, in case you have been not paying attention former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a devout Christian, was learning more about police brutality and the status and history of Black Americans. Upset, he decided to bring attention to these issues by taking a knee during the performance of the National Anthem before the start of NFL games. Kaepernick did this last year. This year he's not in the league. Other quarterbacks with objectively worse skill sets have been hired. Nevertheless, Kaepernick was honored by the players union for 
his charitable activities and social conscience. Other black players, and eventually a tiny handful of white ones in various sports leagues started taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and the ongoing lack of equality for Black Americans. 

This was all too much for President Trump, who at a rally in (of course) Alabama, said that the players were S.O.B's who should be fired. He also said that taking a knee during the anthem was disrespecting the troops and the flag, a dodge which was being eagerly pushed by conservatives and racists as a way to avoid dealing with the issue of police brutality. Trump also complained about the new safety measures designed to attempt to spare the players things like degenerative brain damage, early death and a shortened life filled with pain and depression. Apparently in Trump's view the players are to sacrifice their bodies for his enjoyment and shut up.

Trump supporters, thus emboldened, went further and said and did what the Orange One wouldn't say openly, but which they were all saying on comment boards and (previously) in private. A Pennsylvania volunteer fire chief, Paul Smith, called Super Bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers  Head Coach Mike Tomlin "a no-good n****r". After resigning Smith blamed the media for blowing things out of proportion. For good measure he also said he's not a racist. Not to be outdone a Brockton town commissioner, Stephen Pina, called kneeling New England Patriots black player monkeys. Tennessee Titans player Delanie Walker received death threats after he defended the reason for and nature of the protest.

Legendary musician and activist Stevie Wonder took a knee in support of the protests and love of the country. Legendary Deadbeat Dad and noted racist Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted that Wonder was "another ungrateful black millionaire". The head of the Michigan State Police, an organization which has been under scrutiny for well harassing and killing black people, shared a meme on Facebook that said that protesting players were "entitled anti-American degenerates". It's worthwhile to point out that this is a woman making this statement. Colonel Etue is the first woman to head the Michigan State Police. Well. People might want to rethink the reflexive "women and minorities" phrase that is often used when discussing discrimination. People should realize that not every woman identifies as or with "minorities". When the head of a police department is calling fellow citizens "degenerates" what sort of message does that send to her troopers who interact with those citizens or the citizens themselves? We all know what message it sends. An armed agent of the state who is licensed to kill is saying that you are a degenerate. Do you feel safe? Well do you?

LANSING — The director of the Michigan State Police has sparked a controversy by wading into the national debate over whether NFL players should stand for the national anthem through a strongly worded message she posted to social media. A message shared by Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue on her Facebook page Sunday, in an apparent reference to athletes participating in anthem demonstrations, calls them "millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans" and "a bunch of rich, entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American degenerates." The department is also under fire and facing protests in Detroit after 15-year-old Damon Grimes of Detroit died following a state trooper firing a Taser through a police vehicle window at him, in violation of policy, while pursuing the teen, who then crashed his ATV. 

Leonard Mungo, a Detroit attorney who has represented about a dozen black and white troopers in civil disputes with the department, said the posting demonstrates "kind of a dangerous mindset for someone in her powerful position." It's "scary that they don't understand that America is defined by its freedoms, and one of these freedoms is freedom of speech," Mungo said. It also "has implications for why the state police ... don't have representative numbers of African Americans in their ranks," he said.

Etue says she "apologizes to anyone who was offended" which is exactly the sort of mealy mouth mumbling people spew when they are most definitely NOT sorry for what they said.
And during the time I was composing this post Free Press columnist, author and radio show host Mitch Albom stated on his radio show that Colin Kaepernick was the wrong person to be involved in any protest because he was raised by white parents and was a millionaire. Hmm. No word yet from our Lord and Savior Mitch as to whether those two characteristics should have prevented people like Bob Dylan, Charlton Heston, Jean Seberg, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman or many others from standing up to be counted on the issues of their day. In related news a female teacher assaulted a black preteen boy who does not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Probably before this post is published there will be other racial slurs and death threats made to politically active black celebrities.

Now just stop and think about this for a moment. Trump, and many of the people getting angry about NFL players taking a knee, regardless of whether they are Democratic or Republican, do not show the same anger at display and veneration of the the Confederate Battle Flag, though people waving that flag started the bloodiest war in American history. They committed treason. They killed American soldiers. But that's apparently ok.

We haven't seen this sort of anger from the white community when a police officer insults, harasses, beats, illegally arrests, rapes, or kills a black citizen. I am not Facebook friends with Colonel Etue but I would be surprised if she called the cops who killed Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy, "degenerates". Certainly other cops and law enforcement officials didn't make death threats against the cop who murdered Philando Castile. When Mark Fuhrman boasted about stopping interracial couples on any pretext or none at all simply to harass them or a police department near you makes news because its officers used racial slurs in text messages, none of that seems to get serious national condemnation. If they did get notice and outrage from the larger community then protest wouldn't be necessary would it? It's precisely because people don't know and/or don't care that protest is required. 

And that brings me back to the first point. No matter what Mitch Albom or Jason Whitlock or Jason Riley might believe, each and every one of us regardless of our race, sex, sexuality, wealth, social status, or income has the right and duty to stand up and point out things we think are wrong. Period.

A person's success doesn't inoculate them from racism. Ask Michael Bennett or James Blake or Serena Williams or Bill Russell about that. Additionally, a black athlete's or writer's or actor's success is emphatically not some gift given to them by white people like a bone thrown to a dog. That so many people have described it as such shows that many white Americans don't seem to understand that those black people worked, struggled and bled for every bit of success they accomplished. You don't get to the top of your field, let alone stay there, without a fierce internal commitment to excellence and sacrifice. That's true in every field of human endeavor: music, business, law, medicine, science, and yes sports. It's offensive and ignorant to describe black athletes as "ungrateful". I think the real problem is that some racist egos can't deal with black success and so seek constant affirmation that black excellence is contingent on white permission.

I can certainly understand why a person might not care to know an entertainer's politics. I have been disappointed to discover political views of certain authors, musicians and so on. But they are human like everyone else. And in a time when police are downright trigger happy against black men and boys it would be foolish to expect athletes in team sports, many of whom are Black, to remain silent about that. This tradition of athletic political engagement isn't new. And neither is the racist backlash. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ask John Carlos and Tommie Smith. This is a rerun.

"We were not Antichrists. We were just human beings who saw a need to bring attention to the inequality in our country. I don't like the idea of people looking at it as negative. There was nothing but a raised fist in the air and a bowed head, acknowledging the American flag – not symbolizing a hatred for it.

blog comments powered by Disqus