Captain Of My Fate. Black As My Soul.
When I got into a near fatal car crash in mid June, someone said to me that “there is light at the end of the tunnel”- implying that I had entered darkness and was struggling to find light. What they did not know is that as an African American I lived in darkness- literally.
Some Black people are prescribed a light at the end of their “tunnel”, some are not. Most are forced to find beauty in darkness, even though this absence of light has naturally blinded some of us. Either way, every Black man and woman has journeyed through this tunnel whose walls are graffitied with images of slavery, oppression, and lessons of self hate. Some of those who find this “light” use it to illuminate these issues but some choose to ignore it, simply to become a minority in the light.
Of course, there is no actual tunnel. It is just a metaphor. The point is that when a Black person reaches a point of success, inherently, they must ask themselves ‘Do I keep my light as a reserve for upcoming dark times, or, do I go back in the tunnel and help other Black people come out of theirs?’ Many choose the former, although they are very aware of what is happening in those unlit, gloomy tunnels filled with echoes from mothers crying because their son died trying to get a bag of Skittles from his local convenience store or died trying to hustle some cigarettes. These tears are darker than our skin. These tears resemble the sweat of our unwanted and daily, psychological exercise. The reverberation of these tears hitting the ground ring louder than any wail a human can make. Inhumanely ignoring these cries for self security shows self hatred towards humankind.
You want to know what it is like being black? Grab your light, go back in those tunnels, wipe the tears off of those mothers’ faces and say follow me.
In 2016, one man kept this in mind and decided to take a stand against black oppression- or rather a knee. This man is black, but also white. He was adopted by a white couple at a young age to live in a principally white state, attended a predominantly white university, played positions in two sports that are historically and dominantly occupied by white men, and made millions of dollars as a result of it all. This man, Colin Kaepernick, succeeded. But in the 2016 NFL season, Mr. Kaepernick did something that many people did not expect. He took a knee during the playing of the national anthem before the start of his San Francisco 49er’s team taking the field to play professional football. Usually, a player takes a knee to pay respect for an injured player. But instead, he took a knee for the oppressed Black American.
Of course this premeditated gesture caused an outpour of opinions. Some agreed with it and argued that he had a First Amendment right to take a knee. Others interpreted it as disrespect toward those who died for the right to do so. Either way, everyone argued that he stood a stand.
In 2016, although black males made up 6 percent of the population, 34 percent of those killed by the pull of an on-duty police officer’s trigger were black. According to the Washington Post in 2015, African Americans made up close to 13 percent of the United States population, yet 24 percent of those fatally shot by police were African American. And in reference to a BBC article written in July of 2016, black people are 2.5 more likely to be fatally killed in a police shooting than whites. These statistics are not here to draw a further divide in our country because as far as I know, that job has been filled since January 20, 2017. These statistics rather serve as a baseline of understanding as to why a man like Colin Kaepernick decided to use his platform to attempt to “lift every voice and sing.” Colin Kapernick did it for the men and women harmed in Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Baton Rouge, Chicago, and, most recently, Charlottesville. Black issues matter because they are American issues.
Most Black people have deeper roots in America than the millionaire who dresses up at night to save a fictional American city in your favorite DC film. But more Americans relate to him than their black neighbors. Some Americans even travel hundreds of miles to see nature’s change in color, but decide to move thousands of miles when the people in their neighborhood do the same. In fact, in some colleges, universities, and academies — it is in the core curriculum to take a semester of United States History, where in these classes you may have a week to learn about common Black achievements. But in some of these same schools, if you want to specialize in Black history you have to go to a department and be approved to major or minor in it, if they are even options. In 2017’s America, you still have to go out of your way to learn about Blackness and its heritage in this country. Many Black students are told they have to learn about your history to be a part of this school, but you never have to properly learn mine.
The divide I mentioned earlier was not created by our President or can even be traced to a single person in history. It’s systemic. And because Colin Kaepernick took a knee, we now are beginning to seriously talk about it. For that, Black America is applauding you all over the globe. Our claps echo across the stadium consisting of 50 states, 16 U.S. territories, and multiple countries. You are currently serving as the captain of the greatest professional team of change- Black America.