In a country where then presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, was ridiculed for not wearing a flag pin, the backlash Colin Kaepernick is receiving, makes perfect sense. After all, like Obama, Kaepernick is also black. And, as whiteness would have it, black people in America, should be forever thankful to be American. Because, of course, if we weren’t rescued by white men in their pretty cruise ships, life would truly suck in Africa.
Thank you White people
Yeah, because living in huts and fighting starvation as well as the occasional lion would not be the move. Right, because that’s what real oppression looks like. Which of course means that we, black people, should reject all claims of racism, and wear our national pride on our chests. In fact, we should rub it on our skin like cocoa butter – or, whatever we use to prevent ashiness – because, there’s only so many African kids that Angelina Jolie can adopt.
What I described above may sound a bit far-fetched. However, I’ve literally heard people opposed to Kaepernick sitting during the playing of the national anthem make similar arguments. One person, in particular, was the conservative commentator, Ben Ferguson. When the story first broke, I watched Ferguson on CNN argue that Kaepernick should be happy to be a black man in America. Because, according to him, Kaepernick had the good fortune of being adopted by a white couple.
The implication was that there’s nowhere in this world where such an adoption would be possible. And quite naturally, being adopted by a white couple was all it took for Kaepernick to become a football player, good enough to earn millions professionally. Again, where would black people be without white folks.
While I should have been offended by this line of thinking, I found it quite hilarious. Why? Because Ferguson forgot to mention that Kaepernick’s birth mother, like his adoptive parents, is a white woman. I guess if we overlook that fact, Kaepernick’s story becomes more of a charity case that fits perfectly into the “white savior” narrative. Which, for some reason, seems to help the argument that Colin Kaepernick – like me, and many other black people who speak out about institutional racism – is just another ungrateful black man.
Apparently, Black people are really ungrateful
How ungrateful? So ungrateful that the white woman who gave him up for adoption publicly blasted him for taking such a stand. When the white mother of a biracial black child blasts said child for taking a stand against institutional racism – garden-variety racist comments on social media aside – that’s when you know that Colin Kaepernick is the blackest man in America.
Which is hilarious, to me. It is, because when Kaepernick first came on the NFL scene, I had no idea that he was black. Honestly, I thought he was a white guy with a bunch of tattoos on his arms. In my mind, the last name Kaepernick didn’t quite sound like the name of any slave master ever. And, I just assumed that Kaepernick was the white man’s latest upgrade to the failed experiment that was Tim Tebow. You know, like a poor man’s Robert Griffin III, or a Mike Vick without the dog fighting baggage.
But as you can see, now that Colin has decided to make life harder for light-skinned brothers out here. There is no doubt in the minds of anyone, that Colin Kaepernick is indeed a black man. If he was a white man, he would have been ignored. Ignored much like Kaepernick’s gesture was ignored during the first two games of the preseason. And once he spoke about it, he would have been on Dancing With The Stars, like Ryan Lochte. Yes, because that’s how it goes in America, folks.
Kaepernick’s backlash is more of the same
Being black in America is quite the paradox. You can’t be “too black,” all the while not being “black enough.” Like Colin Kaepernick, you can’t sit during the national anthem to protest ongoing institutional racism. To do so is unpatriotic, and forces whiteness to be uncomfortable in their privilege.
Similarly, like Michelle Obama, you’re not allowed to publicly state that you’re prideful to be able to wake up in a house built by slaves. Such a declaration or testament to how far we have come as a nation warrants ridicule. Yes, unfortunately, this is what it is to be black in America.