College football kicked off last night. Well, kind of. Technically speaking, the chase for the 2016 College Football Championship started last week in Sydney, Australia when California mollywhopped Hawaii in what can only be described as an utter disregard for team defense. Nevertheless, this weekend, football stans across the country will finally be able to mirth at the violence and rage they’ve been hankering for, even if it exploits young adult men for massive profit. Personally, I’m only looking forward to football because I desperately need to watch something other than baseball. Tim Kirkjian’s voice is about to drive me up a stone wall.
The Olympics was cool and all, but it was only a few weeks, even less when you consider that, competitively speaking, there wasn’t much worth watching. The sheer domination courtesy of the US Women’s gymnastics, basketball, and 4×100 relay teams, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, was an enjoyable spectacle, but it’s fascinating watching equally matched competitors. Unless of course, you’re Canadian Diving specialist, Jennifer Abel. I certainly wouldn’t mind watching more of her, just because. Lawd, have mercy. I’m digressing.
Anywho, because of college football, we’re privy to more paid talking heads spewing their seemingly endless, dumb-ass, ‘I really want to say something provocative’ takes like fertilizer. One of the best shit-talking provocateurs is none other than Paul Finebaum, a man who’s cul de sac hairline and thick Browline glasses suggests he knows more about binary code and econometrics than zone blocking schemes and coverage shells.
Since Colin Kaepernick’s decision to peacefully protest the oppression of brown people in America by defiantly refusing to stand during the national anthem, there has been no shortage of viewpoints. Most of them have been misguided, choosing to focus solely on Kaepernick’s antics and perceived lack of American pride rather than the issues he’s protesting. Others have been deeply rooted in nonsense, with claims that Kaepernick is too privileged to understand oppression given his upbringing, high-paying profession, post-game attire, and overall lack of Blackness. (He’s a Kappa. So, that’s Black enough!!!) There was also the typical, faux outcry as to why Kaepernick isn’t protesting “Black on Black” crime too. It’s amazing how people can be amazingly shortsighted in their opinion of things.
One of the most fatuous takes came from the aforementioned Finebaum, who questioned Kaepernick’s motives altogether, insinuating that the oppression of Black people doesn’t exist. Of course, this is the most absurd. Black people have been, and continue to be, oppressed by America’s pro-White culture. We’re still being hunted, face disadvantages, and are regarded as cattle, mainly due to prejudice. I could provide a myriad of statistics as proof of this thesis. I can even point out the obvious fact that White men (and White people, in general) are the least qualified to determine other people’s level of oppression, given their historically archetypal role as the oppressor.
Instead, what concerns me about Finebaum’s, and other’s, response to Kaepernick’s actions is the tone; the notion that if a person’s thoughts or beliefs vary from our own, they must not only be wrong, but inherently deficient. It’s a dangerous conviction, one that is regularly perpetuated and has precipitated the racial, religious, and moral tension within our society.
We must stop regarding alternative perspectives as a point of contention and judgment. Instead, we must perceive our differences as a means of improving ourselves and our society.
During my time in college, I befriended an Agnostic, Republican. I know, the mere existence of this individual is unbelievable. (It’s like befriending a fucking unicorn. But I assure you, he exists.) I identify as a Christian and Democrat. Add in that he is White, comes from money, attended Florida State, and is a vegan. I, on the other hand, am Black, with middle-class roots, have an FAMU diploma, and avoid anything green by eating as many animals as possible because they’re delicious as fuck.
At first glance, this relationship shouldn’t exist. Conventionally thinking, it definitely shouldn’t have cultivated respect and admiration. But it did. In fact, it’s one of the most fruitful relationships I’ve had during my short lifetime.
You see, while we are gravely opposite, we were open to understanding each other. We asked questions without being judgmental. We attempted to inform one another without being preachy. We challenged each other’s doctrines by seeking clarity rather than just proof.
And I became better for it. It forced me to dig within myself and cultivate an acceptance for others. In the process, I became motivated to take a course on religion, grow my understanding and relationship with Christ, and gain some perspective on Republicans. (Contrary to my Pop’s sentiments, they’re not all racist, rich & White. Some of them have some gotdamn sense and progressive ideas. Which makes this election so disheartening.)
Too many times, we’re taught that “birds of the same feather flock together” as a reason to surround ourselves with well-meaning, like-minded people to obtain success. There’s some truth to this. One should avoid destructive individuals who desire nothing for others, or themselves. Also, fuckboys who indulge in fuckshit should be averted at all costs. (Note: I love being around Black people who love being Black because it’s comfortable and invigorating.)
But that doesn’t mean we should suffocate our growth by sterilizing ourselves from variegation. (Note: I also love being around a diverse group of nonjudgmental people who love being human. It’s an awakening experience.)
If Obama’s Presidency has taught me anything, other than that a Black President is a sure fire way to bring the racist out of folks, it’s that we are becoming increasingly disinterested with accepting one another. We have adopted this mantra of converting as many people to our respective causes as possible. And should they reject, we shall condemn them for their “unpleasant” ideas. Simply put, we are putting too much in the value of being right.
Colin Kaepernick’s actions were not about condemning or dishonoring his country. His message was about igniting focus towards an issue that has plagued our nation for far too long. Disagreeing with his actions is okay. Not everything everyone does will jive with what we believe. But there’s a way to be disagreeable without sullying someone’s character.
More importantly, we must focus on the issues aroused from this revolt and be willing to have frank, uncomfortable, unbiased discussions to elicit solutions. Otherwise, we’ll just polarize ourselves further apart, with growing factions of people who are unequivocally convinced they are right while everyone else is wrong. That’s not an America that I wish to live in, nor the one any us of deserve. The of multiformity of thought, religion, ideology, and freedom of expression is the underpinning of our democracy. As a preacher once told me, “It’s not about being right, it’s about being effective.”