Is there any group of people as divided as the black community? Sometimes, in the way we treat each other, we confirm the cliché that we are crabs in a barrel trying to hold one another down.
Here we have it. A black man criticizing another black man for not being black enough to speak about injustices against people of color (POC). In the midst of the Colin Kaepernick protest, many have expressed their feelings about his decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem at NFL games. Naturally, some agree and some don’t. But for the black people that have an issue with the 49ers’ quarterback, let the qualm be about how he’s protesting and not about whether or not the tone of skin qualifies him to say anything.
This should not be an issue, but Rodney Harrison made it one. In the NBC analyst and former NFL player’s view, Kaepernick is not representative of the people he’s taking a stand for so his actions are null and void. Harrison said,
“…And I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black. He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on an every single [day] basis… I don’t think he faces those types of things.”
The thing about it is after Harrison received a lot of backlash for his comments; he apologizes and tells everyone, via Twitter, “I never even knew he was mixed.” As an analyst for a company like NBC, I would imagine that he’d do his research before making that kind of assertion. His comments, nonetheless, are reflective of individuals in the black community who hold that those who are mixed aren’t black enough to speak for us, in any capacity.
It’s in moments like this that colorism rears its ugly head. I am so tired of hearing black people say that another black person doesn’t possess enough melanin to hang with the rest of us. Harrison is an educated man, which would make one think that he’d look at Kaepernick and know that he is mixed with some kind of ethnicity other than white. Oft times, it’s education that causes a person’s lack of cognizance of how colorism affects their judgment in these kinds of situations. Simply put, some individuals are just too “woke” for their own good. Colin Kaepernick identifies as a POC. No one can take that away from him. White people may have raised him, but there is Negro blood running through his veins as well. As an adult, I imagine after coming into a higher knowledge of himself, he relates to the black side of who he is more than ever and thus is why he’s taking his stand.
In the black community, there is this idea that lighter skinned people do not understand the trials and tribulations of brown and dark skinned folks. It is the notion that the lighter you are the more privilege you have thus your experience as a POC does not align with that of your darker brothers and sisters. Too often, this theory causes strife that leads to bitter misunderstandings that only deepened the divide within our ranks. The people who feel that Kaepernick doesn’t measure up are agents of colorism and probably don’t even realize it.
A person’s “right” to protest is not contingent upon whether or not they can pass the brown paper bag test. If Kaepernick were white, would people say, “He’s not black, he shouldn’t be doing this?” I don’t understand this argument at all. There is too much going on to pick and choose who can try their hand at making a difference for the advancement of black people in 2016. I mean white people rallied for civil rights during the first wave of the movement in the 1950’s and 60’s. Did civil leaders of the day tell them, “Stop this is our fight?” No. Activists embraced their desire to be allies and together, they worked toward a better America. Division is the thing that has kept us from making major strides in our quest for equality. Let’s make better choices.
Kaepernick is going steady in his resolve to bring attention to what has undoubtedly gotten out of control in our society- law enforcement taking their liberty in how they treat black lives. In the wake of people complaining that he’s not black enough to take a stand, he not only rocked his afro unapologetically at the last 49ers game, he also committed to donating $1 million to entities affected by racial inequality and police brutality. What do the naysayers think about that?
Rodney Harrison should make it a point to never make this kind of mistake again. It only embarrasses himself, his bosses and begs the question of what else he’s been wrong about in the past. Furthermore, POC need to get past themselves and work toward the bigger picture of healing our community. Not enforcing one of the most damaging practices that have torn us apart for decades.
We will never get anywhere feeding into adages rooted in keeping us divided. No matter what a person looks like, if they are for us, let them be for us.