Editor’s note: This is not about the Falcons. If that doesn’t interest you, you don’t have to read it. Have a good day.
Minneapolis. Los Angeles. Atlanta. Columbus. New York. Philadelphia. Washington, D.C. Everywhere you look, everywhere you turn, the United States of America is entrenched in protest, rioting, turmoil, hostility, defacing, and chaos. The central cause of it all is a particular entity that has stained this country since the birth of its very existence: Racism.
I refuse to sugarcoat that. Racism is the biggest black eye on this country, to this very day. The impact of it all can be felt at this very moment and quite honestly, will be felt over the next 20, 30, 50, 100 years. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in recent weeks are small pieces of the problem you see before us today. The very grand issue is brutality, fatality, and complete disregard for humanity deployed on African-Americans in waves and droves within this country, largely from law enforcement and/or racial hate groups.
I’m only 31 years old. But I have studied my people and our history. Names such as Emmett Till, Rodney King, Latasha Harlins, Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Terence Crutcher, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castile are just a few on a long, extensive list of victims of police brutality, police fatality, or racial mistreatment in a country that prides itself on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The uprising of civil unrest in this country in recent days is the result of years and decades of peaceful protesting going unmet. The civil rights march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, in March of 1965, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was birthed after the beating and eventual fatal shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson on Feb. 18, 1965 by Alabama state troopers. The march concluded as an incident known as Bloody Sunday. The peaceful approach by African Americans ended in violent fashion as African Americans were beaten, killed, or arrested. Completely humiliated and devalued.
Fast forward 51 years and we encounter former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick demonstrating his way of peaceful protesting. Not causing any physical harm, not even disturbing any public events or voicing his opinion in a violent manner. Instead of seeing significant changes in the decline of brutality and wrongful murders to African Americans, he was met with discriminating point of views, from being called, along with other players who joined his protest, “sons of b**ches” by the President along with suggesting he lose his way of living (playing football), to being called just short of a terrorist by some.
So when someone suggests peaceful protesting as the way to go, I frown. Because up to this point, peaceful protesting has resulted in very little in the way of change.
I am not the voice to speak on the black community as a whole. But I do understand my people and their way of thinking. Is looting and rioting the best solution to all that is going on in this country involving racial tension? Probably not. But when you’ve exhausted every option to get your voice heard with no to minimal results, the element of emotion takes over and in that instance, any and everything is possible.
I am a proud African American, born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. I recognize that my people are as powerful now as we have ever been. We have already reached the once unheard of pinnacle of placing an African American in the most powerful position in the world. We have produced other promising politicians, overtaken a number of sports with rare athleticism and ability, started lasting trends in music and fashion that capture the attention of other cultures. But even at this time, we are still uneasy. Why? Because we still breathe a little harder when flashing lights from law enforcement are behind us. We still avoid certain locations and destinations knowing that racial profiling will occur. We still partake in everyday endeavors knowing the color of our skin places us behind the eight ball in some cases.
There is no sense of full comfort for African Americans. There never has been. Because the society before us can easily be clothed with the dirty garments of racial tension. A shared sense that there is no hope, no silver lining, no brighter days ahead.
I’m not putting together this column with the notion of telling people to go burn buildings, to go damage property, to turn to acts of violence. Quite the contrary.
But the country did not listen nor understand why Kaepernick knelt. The country told LeBron James to shut up and dribble when he echoed our sentiments. The country allowed Martin Luther King’s words to go on deaf ears, to turn into quotes that meant the opposite of his message. The country viewed Malcolm X as more of a threat to society instead of an activist who ultimately wanted change for his people. How else will you listen and understand when you barely take notice when we’re speaking peacefully?
Despite the substantial changes in society over time, the message has always been the same. Regardless of how black Americans execute their desired actions to combat racial issues in this country, the message has always been the same. After centuries of slavery, an entire civil rights movement, and decades of more inequality, the fact that in 2020, a particular race is asking when change will come is damning on its own. The protesting and rioting is a loud cry for change. For once, just listen and understand the message.