You see, often times we don’t realize greatness until folks have passed away. Legacies aren’t cemented until decades later when society decides if a trailblazer really accomplished something noteworthy or not. That’s NOT what I have made up in my mind is going to happen when it comes to Colin Kaepernick. This young man sacrificed his NFL career to stand up for something he, and millions of other people, believe is injustice and discrimination on behalf of rich, white America. Whether intentionally or not, Kaepernick made a decision to kneel for the National Anthem and in turn, speak up for those who don’t have a voice. He lost his job for it.
What he may not have realized was that he inspired generations of activists and forced thousands, if not millions, of people to face the hard truths about America and society as a whole. Why do folks get behind women’s rights movements and gay issues, but stay silent on black issues? You can say, oh he should be quiet, he’s making millions. But I see it a bit different. Yes, he’s making millions, but Kaepernick also has a platform: Scream young king! Let your voice be heard everywhere. For every professional athlete making a substantial income, there are hundreds of thousands of people of color living in poverty, in a disadvantaged position.
Kaepernick is a black man with a white mother who knows a little more than most how color can play a role in someone’s life and their maturation and development. Kaepernick is my fraternity brother in Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., an organization founded on the campus of Indiana University in 1911 when brothers had to stick together because the bond was all they had against racism, discrimination and bigotry.
Kaepernick isn’t perfect nor does he have to be. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t have a perfect life, but I would challenge anyone to say his impact was less received.
Kaepernick represents integrity, boldness and power in the face of adversity. He represents representation and accountability. Kaepernick represents being black in a white America. Kaepernick represents me. Life hasn’t been peaches and cream for anyone that I know and it likely will never be. But who’s to stop you or I in this lifetime from making it a better place. Each and every day as Kaepernick has been ostracized from the NFL and fights for rights for all, each and every one of us can figure out a way to fight in our lives. Kaepernick was just a football hero, but now he is a living pioneer.
It's been a long week for the state of Missouri. First, a graduate student at the University of Missouri went on strike because of racial issues having gone unaddressed. Then, a group of African American football players on the Mizzou squad said they would no longer participate in any football related activities until the school president stepped down or was removed. This morning I woke up to the news that school faculty would stage a walkout at some point today standing in solidarity and support of the students on the campus and the issues they too saw on campus. But that walkout never happened. It wasn't necessary because late this morning the president of the University of Missouri system formally resigned. It was a shocker to most, coming just one day after President Tim Wolfe released a rather adamant statement that he would continue his job and somehow work through the issues that he never felt the need to be addressed previously. But ultimately the voice of students prevailed. And the onslaught did not stop there. Late this afternoon the school chancellor said he too would resign. It's the beginning steps in the healing process to a school and a community that has gone through so much.
Less than three miles away Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer in August of 2014. But there were no school statements, no school wide discussions, nothing. Students shared incidents of racial slurs being called the "n-word" while walking to and from class. Another student said a professor once said she was there because of affirmative action. It was incidents like these and others that led to built up frustration on the campus. Then, the tipping point came when a swastika was drawn with feces on the wall of a campus building. Many students had had enough. The school was not doing anything, so the students would make something happen.
The voices started small with demonstrations. They grew louder as time went on. There was the time when a group stood in front of Wolfe's car during a parade in a peaceful demonstration. Wolfe's driver revved the engine and had police escort them away. But still no conversation and little to no acknowledgement. The football team decided to step up and step up in a big way. Their sacrifice made this a national issue. The SEC football team said they would stand up for what they saw was right. Their head coach supported them. It was unbelievable to watch the number of events that unfolded. It was inspiring. It make so many people feel hopeful, but we must understand it's the beginning steps. There are real issues. There is teaching that needs to take place and there are demands that need to be met.
When people question diversity, they question true growth. Much of the ignorance going on around the world is rooted in the past and/or rooted from a place of misinformation. When people say black students take up most of financial aid, they're wrong. When they say all black people benefit most from affirmative actions they're wrong, women do. There are a lot of disconnects. It starts with education of facts and the education of different cultures from a young age. Then things will not be so foreign. As the University of Missouri enters into its second phase of healing, there needs to be an entire culture shift at the school. All the students need to be treated equality. All issues to any group should be treated with haste and seriousness. No student should be marginalized or like she/she does not belong. This is America we are talking about in 2015 and we continue to deal with real issues that should have been addressed a long time ago, but we push on. We learn and we grow.
We see what true democracy looks like. We see what real unity is. We see what we can do when we stand up together for a cause. We see our voice matters. If this is what we can do on a school level, imagine what we can do on a national stage.
lives by one word: achievement. in anything and everything, achieve.