Required Reading (Justice and Dissent)

[#kneelbeforeJustice]Colin Kaepernick (r.) and Eric Reed kneel during the national anthem before a 2016 NFL game. (Photo: Associated Press)

“Donald Trump took time out from comparing missiles with Kim Jong Un and ignoring Puerto Rico to declare that the athlete who takes a knee is a ‘son of a b***h’ who should be fired for disrespecting America. He was harder on the athletes than on the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville.”

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

This is not one of those things where I get to say something like, “What he said!” or, “Plus one!” More directly, we can rest assured my part has something to do with paying the fuck attention.

Dear black people:

I guess we’ve messed up again. Seems like we’re never going to learn how to properly protest, no matter how hard conservatives try to teach us.

Right. Ouch.

But that is sort of the problem, isn’t it?:

Okay, okay; let’s try that again: This would seem to be the problem.

Meantime, some observers, including television personality Geraldo Rivera, have griped that politics has no place in sports. Conservatives made similar arguments about comic books when Marvel unveiled a black Spider-Man, and about music when Beyonce performed “Formation” at the Super Bowl.

Me, I’d thought politics was woven into all forms of human expression. I’d have sworn it’s been a part of sports since at least 1910, when a black boxer named Jack Johnson knocked out a white one named Jim Jeffries and white people across America rioted in outrage. I thought it had been part of comics since at least 1941, when Captain America decked Adolf Hitler, and of music since at least 1939, when Billie Holiday sang “Strange Fruit.”

I guess I was mistaken. When Holiday sang “Strange Fruit,” she must have meant kumquats.

There were other criticisms, too. Some said that black men who have been “given” the “privilege” of making big money playing sports, should show proper gratitude to the country before criticizing it. Me, I was unaware there was a requirement that rich guys thank America before griping about it.

There is this: Racism really does transcend color. That is to say, one need not be black to recognize that skin color is not so much the problem as conservatives. And perhaps the only whiff of innovative utility we might in this moment offer is not really so new; rather, when we pause to consider the conservative, white-supremacist formulation the problem is skin color because conservatives are thus bothered, and how dare anyone bother a conservative. While this certainly sounds rather quite juvenile, we might also point out that conservatives tend not so much toward juvenilia, as that characterization insults youth, but, rather, some manner of juvenile delinquency. More particularly, certes there are reasons the characterization makes conservatives sound almost childish, but we are well through the looking glass on this aspect; it would behoove us to recognize such absurdity not only plausible, but also rather quite real. They did, after all, elect Donald Trump. And what are we supposed to make of the prospect that conservatives expect to be shown gratitude for treating people so terribly?

You know, it’s amazing conservatives are still willing to teach us, given what slow learners we’ve proven to be. They criticize Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They once criticized Malcolm X and Thurgood Marshall. They even criticized Martin Luther King, who took a knee in Selma. Come to think of it, there’s never been a single moment of black activism they did not criticize.

Conservatives seem committed to criticizing us for as long as we are committed to vindicating our human rights. They seek to guide us as fathers do children. That is to say, paternalistically. I want them to know their concern is duly noted.

This is really happening.


Image note: Colin Kaepernick (r.) and Eric Reed kneel during the national anthem before a 2016 NFL game. (Photo: Associated Press)

Pitts Jr., Leonard. “NFL players acting ‘uppity’? Truth is conservatives just don’t like black activism”. Miami Herald. 26 September 2017.

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