Wednesday, October 12, 2016

That's All I Can Stands, And I Can't Stands No More...

Much has been said and made of Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the national anthem. It seemed like such a long time ago when the "old" Kaepernick was kissing his bicep after each of his rushing touchdowns...at a time when NFL defenses were still trying to crack the code of his athletic gifts.

Now this new version of "Kaepernicking" - which now takes place on the sidelines instead of the end zone, before the game rather than during, and despite him playing not one down of football as opposed to being the face of the San Francisco 49ers' offense - engenders more vitriol from mostly non-Blacks and decidedly more support from mostly Blacks.  (Update: He will be starting for the Niners this Sunday.)
 

And the ripple effect of his new symbolic posture is concurrent with the other event-based rocks thrown into the sea of Americana, creating a disturbing shimmer of concentric circles, all crashing into each other, as the perfect storm of events in the past 3+ years creates an even more tense racial atmosphere not witnessed by African-Americans since Jim Crow gave way to the Civil Rights movement of the '60s, which gave way to the pedestrian progress of the '70s, which gave way to the "drug wars" of the '80s, which gave way to the somewhat misguided affluence of the '90s...I think you get the picture.

So Kaepernick deciding not to stand for the national anthem now weighs heavy on the conscience of a nation - a nation still struggling in many ways to admit that racism is unfortunately embedded in its DNA. And the ones who bear the brunt of the deplorable "genetic mutations" are those in the African-American community, of whom Colin is set forth as one of a plethora of contemporary symbols of the struggle...including Trayvon Martin, who can easily come off as a neo-Emmett Till.



Many have joined Colin in his new "Kaepernicking" move. And it's particularly significant for Black folk. Not to discredit what other ethnicities have done in their invaluable support and advocacy for the rights, respect, and lives of African-Americans. God bless their lives. Yet no one besides African-Americans can fully appreciate the gravitas, courage, and righteous audacity of Kaepernick to not stand...as well as other African-Americans like him.

It's not that they won't stand. They just can't stand. There's too much on their shoulders to weigh them down.

African-Americans are expected to stand out of respect for the freedoms and opportunities allegedly endemic to American citizenry, as well as those who have fought for it. For those who expect Blacks to stand, it is a show of patriotism...and, for them, probably the ONLY show they require to disprove any lack of patriotism on the part of Blacks. Dissent doesn't count. But when a country fails to stand up for those who have fought on and off American terra firma for that which is supposed to be inalienably theirs, the weight becomes heavier. It makes standing for the anthem more burdensome than before.

And every time there is an incident such as Tulsa or Charlotte (for starters), the weight becomes even heavier. And with that comes this thought: Why should I push myself to stand for this? My legs are shaking too much from the weight. I paid money to see this sports team play...or I worked out all day/week/month to play...and these incidents remind me that, after the game, I just may be the next Philando who obeys the laws of the land yet become the next Philando who doesn't make it home. And in between, I struggle metaphorically to stand for the anthem that represents defensibly more than just the military and those that fought for our liberty. If I matter that much to all of you on the field/diamond/hoop court...or in the stands/arena/ballpark, then my feelings, worth, and very life should matter to you and this society. All lives matter...in theory only, not in reality. Because when it's Black folks turn to matter, the jury selected by the court of social opinion remains in perpetual deliberations. Put on hold. Be patient...wait your turn...the wheels of justice grind slowly...your time will come. But don't call us...we'll call you. 
 
Then there are the attempts to guilt-trip...armed with such comments such as, "You should be thankful" for what liberty you have. In the case of Colin, "shut up and play" to justify the millions of dollars we pay you you make. Be the millennial version of Bojangles. Dance I say...do Michael Jackson...

Jesse Owens and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson circa 1936. Both "danced" for a living. Bojangles was paid very well. Jesse? Not so much.

Then comes the age-old, "Go back to Africa" refrain. You can just leave if you don't like this country. The typical hair-trigger, tone-deaf, lack-of-context response from the societal jury. What these individuals invariably fail to understand is that the plight of Blacks in America is far too complicated to dismiss with a flippant retort void of any intellectual or thoughtful pause. 

For Blacks, it's not a matter of will or desire, but a matter of weight.

Go back to Africa? Get real. Our ancestors were intentionally interfered with on the African continent during the Transatlantic/triangular slave trade, and - just as the baby bison was unintentionally interfered with by humans in Yellowstone Park earlier this year - it is not guaranteed that the Motherland will warmly receive its long-lost progeny. Besides, to suggest that African-Americans should voluntarily leave when our ancestors did not voluntarily come here is completely irresponsible and dangerously obtuse. ("Sorry", Mike Ditka.) So we have no place to go. And...when have African-Americans en masse ever said we wanted to leave the country and society that we helped to build, died to protect, lived to hopefully transcend, and unfortunately were born to perennially endure in?  And endurance typically implies a weight or burden being carried (cf. Rom 5.3; Heb 12.1-3; James 1.2-3).

All we are expecting to do is stand just like most any other person not of African descent has the opportunity to do...weightless. Until that day comes, the symbolic "Kaepernicking" done by all Blacks for upwards of 400 years may end up looking like this: down on two knees instead of one. Which is not an unfamiliar position to us. Just one that we shouldn't have to assume any longer. But every current resetting of racially-biased verbiage founded on implicit bias with a view to oppress African-Americans increases the weight already borne. 

It's just immensely surprising that we yet have the ability to summon the collective spiritual and mental strength to still keep one knee from getting dirty...

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