I’m afraid of having a son. Imagine uttering those words.
Who would ever think that a black woman in my generation would be afraid of having a son? A son that scares people because of his skin tone. A son that may not make it home from school because his skin makes him a target. I never thought I would be writing these words in 2016, but with people being unapologetically racist, I have to think about these things. Some of you reading this will never understand that fear; nor do you know how to empathize, because it’s something you’ll never have to experience.
Growing up, you’re taught that black was bad and white was good. You choose the lighter-skinned Barbie because you were taught they looked better and their hair was more manageable. Can you imagine being a kid told to emulate a different race because it looks better? Or, if you’re not as good as them you’ll never be hired? Simple things like that are what’s taught in black homes: “You have to be twice as good as them to compete.” Imagine telling your child you had to excel at an exceedingly higher level to be looked at beyond your skin color.
I’m also the daughter of a veteran. My father pledged to protect this country with his own life. During my earlier years, my father was never home. Between Desert Storm and being stationed in Korea, I was reminded that my father was apart of something bigger than his family. He was not only protecting our welfare, but also that of my friends and their family; dad was a part of the best army in the world. He’s a superhero in my eyes. The amount of pride you feel singing the national anthem and admiring the flag that stood behind wars is indescribable; your father protected that flag and sacrificed for it.
I guess you can understand my dilemma. How does one choose between defending a country your family fought for while also oppressed you at the same time? If there is anything America has taught me it’s that you protest for your freedom and your right to be who you are. It is a country that was founded on the principles of being a safe haven for immigrants who wanted freedom and peace. Immigrants who wanted to create a country that stood for justice and liberty. A country that was meant to show the world that no matter what ethnicity you are, you are born to be free. And I believe that’s what that flag and national anthem stand for.
Activism isn’t easy, especially when you are a million-dollar athlete and looked upon as though you have no right to speak on political issues. But to some, athletes serve as the voices of people who can’t reach a large platform.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest isn’t anything new. If you follow the quarterback on social media, you can see that his activism has been brewing for the last couple months. Since police brutality seems to be on an impending rise, activism amongst athletes has also seen a spike. But there was something about Kaepernick that made you think this was more than a request to speak at an award show; he did this alone.
The term “role model” is thrown around too often and not given to the right people. I believe Kaepernick has earned that title. He’s standing in his truth without worrying about being rescued. The attention and support Kaepernick has gained has placed him on a pedestal I hope he can withstand. Kaepernick has gone beyond just sitting on a bench, he’s spoken to veterans to not only pay his respects, but to find a medium to show his gratitude during the national anthem by now taking a knee.
Kaepernick isn’t alone. With the number of active supporters rising to 18 strong in the NFL, including names such as Arian Foster, Marcus Peters, Kenny Stills, and Jelani Jenkins, this has become more than just Kaepernick’s protest; it’s now a national protest. Seeing these images across our screens has migrated from the playing field to our homes and projecting to our children the symbolism that there is strength in numbers. This protest isn’t about the military or the national anthem, but coming together for a common cause to stop violence. People shouldn’t be confuse about what the goal is of the athletes when it’s simple: Equality is needed in our country in every aspect of what it means to be an American.
“If kneeling for your flag is disrespectful then kneeling for your God is disrespectful,” Arian Foster said. pic.twitter.com/hpfzxw4meW
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 11, 2016
Kaepernick is displaying something I thought my generation lacked; he’s committing to something bigger than himself for his community. The racial injustice in this country has plagued us for centuries, and it’s obvious that it’ll take more than marching or taking a knee. We need conversations. Hate is a learned action. We can never progress as a nation until we can all come to an understanding that underneath all the melanin, we are the same. Word to Cam Newton.
My generation is tired of being plagued by the silliness of skin tone, and with strong voices like Kaepernick we can make attempts to heal ourselves.
Kaepernick may have struck a nerve in some, but he is now a catalyst for change. A conversation that we are so scared to have as a nation is now being forced into news headlines. We need that. We pledged to protect every person under the flag of the United States. Let’s stay committed to that notion and strive for the America we all know we are capable of being.