By Danie B
Solidarity is defined as unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.
Solidarity is coming together for a common cause and banding together in times of turmoil. Solidarity…
I’ve probably heard this word over 100 times in the past week or so in regards to what’s happening in the NFL. Here’s a recap: Colin Kaepernick had been taking a knee during the National Anthem in silent protest of an unjust system that treats African Americans unfairly. He said,
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
He garnered some support, but he was also ostracized, for “disrespecting the flag,” and now it also seems like he was black balled from the NFL because of all the controversy this caused.
Players like Eric Reid and Brandon Marshall started to kneel during the anthem in silent protest with Kaepernick, and before you know it, more players were kneeling for the anthem.
Some players would hold their fist in the air to show solidarity instead of kneeling, and even high school and college kids started to kneel during the anthem. Long story short, even though Kaepernick is no longer on the field, his impact is apparent.
Fast forward to this past week. At an Alabama rally, President Trump decided to call the NFL players who choose to kneel SOBs and tell NFL owners that they should fire these players for their “disrespect.”
Now the whole NFL seems to be banding together in “solidarity.” Even Jerry Jones, a known Trump supporter and owner of the Dallas Cowboys, kneeled with his whole team before the singing of the National Anthem Monday night. They then stood for the anthem which in my opinion defeats the purpose, but that’s another story for another day.
Frankly I feel like all this is crap. Something that started out as a peaceful protest to bring about awareness to an issue affecting people who look like me, has been turned into an (excuse my French) “f*** you Donald Trump” demonstration.
The NFL isn’t coming together in solidarity, they’re coming together in egotism. No one likes being told what to do, and millionaires hate it even more. Trump telling NFL owners what to do with their organization after they donated big bucks to his election campaign was a smack in the face that they are not standing for, literally.
It saddens me that something with such pure intentions has been transformed into another way for people to stick it to Donald Trump. The real issue, and original purpose, has been lost.
Yes, people have a right to exercise free speech, even if that entails kneeling during the National Anthem or refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance. People argue that the whole thing is disrespectful to members of the military etc., but you have to remember that our armed servicemen and women fight to defend our right to BE FREE to express whatever we want, however we want, within the confines of the law.
People also argue that kneeling is disrespectful and they should find another way to protest. Guess what? Protests are NOT supposed to make you feel good. They’re supposed to be controversial, shocking, and politically incorrect. They’re supposed to make you uncomfortable and grab your attention.
Honestly, if Kaepernick had chosen to protest in a more politically correct way, would we even be talking about this? I think not.
Let’s look at history. Do you think people felt good seeing dogs attack children, and people being sprayed with water hoses back in the 60’s? Do you think people enjoyed watching buses filled with people bombed and children being spit at as they tried to attend school? Do you think lawfully marching miles and miles on city streets demanding the right to vote was viewed as a “respectable” way of protesting at that time? These same people who many argue did it the “right” way still ended up jailed, bombed, beaten and yes, killed. So does a RIGHT way to protest even exist? Again, I think not.
These points however, are not the issue. The original issue that must not be forgotten is the fact that we live in a country where liberty and justice for all is a lie. We have a system that disproportionately targets people of color, jails them, and as we’ve seen time and time again, shoots them out of fear and without cause.
We live in a society where people of color are often villainized from the time that they are children, resulting in them growing up with targets on their backs. We employ police officers and judges who perpetuate this unjust system by profiling and treating people of color differently, resulting in unlawful arrests and harsher prison sentences when it comes to people of color.
This is why Kaepernick took a knee. Because it’s wrong to hinder an entire community of people based solely on the color of their skin. In fact, there’s a word for it. Racist.
I remember driving to New York City for the first time and being stopped by the police. I had no idea why I was stopped because I’d done nothing wrong. Before asking for my license, or telling me why I was pulled over, the officer aggressively barked orders and a number of accusatory questions at me. He asked things like, “Where’d you get this car?” and “What am I going to find when I search the vehicle?”
When I asked why I was stopped, he said, “We’ll get to all that after you tell me what I need to know.” Before I knew it, I looked up and three more cop cars had surrounded my vehicle and four more officers appeared with their hands on their guns. This was literally the scariest moment of my life, especially because I still had no clue as to why all this was happening!
Eventually the officer said that everything checked out and that he stopped me because my graduation tassel was hanging in the rear view mirror, which is not allowed in the state of New York.
So let me get this straight, I get interrogated, and surrounded by police officers ready to shoot if I blink the wrong way all because of a tassel? Hmmmm. I couldn’t help but wonder if that whole scenario would have played out differently if I was white.
Just this summer, State Attorney Aramis Ayala was pulled over after officers said that they had done what they claimed to be a routine tag check. See how that transpired below.
Another time I was stopped while riding with my friend, Dyron. We were driving to Niagara Falls and, honestly, he was speeding. Valid offense, but when the officer asked for his license and registration, he said the car smelled like weed, which was laughable because neither of us smoke. In fact I’ve never even been high!
This “suspicion” led to Dyron having to exit the car and be searched. To make matters worse, the officer then accused Dyron of driving with a suspended license, which was odd because Dyron had just renewed his license earlier in the week. In fact, he still had the paperwork in his wallet. Minutes go by and another officer arrives on the scene for back up, and I kid you not, he literally starts smelling the grass and comparing it to the alleged marijuana scent in my car.
They let us go eventually, and after realizing that I was a radio personality, they even asked me to not talk about what had just transpired on air. After we left we were able to get the DMV on the phone. They confirmed that Dyron’s license was indeed valid. Hmmm. Again, I can’t help but wonder if things would have gone differently if I was white, or if they hadn’t found out I was their favorite radio personality.
These are mild instances, because in both situations, I walked away with my life, but so many people like Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, and Eric Garner were not that fortunate.
So many people have died during routine traffic stops because as a society we’re taught that people of color are dangerous and menacing, so they need to be dealt with in a more aggressive manner.
This is why Colin Kaepernick kneeled. This is the initial issue, and this is what needs to change. The systematic racism that fuels the prison system, the ways we as a society interact with one another, the way people of color are policed, and even the trickle down effect of to how our communities lack the basic necessities of what’s needed to thrive in America, are all things that need to be reformed.
Until then I’m with Kap – not because I want to tell Donald Trump to piss off, but because my life depends on it.