White people don’t like it when black folks take a stand against their oppression. White culture expects black bodies and minds to be servile; existing for the sole purpose of entertaining, educating, or otherwise being in service to white people. White folks think that by ‘allowing’ black people to participate in ‘their’ stuff they aren’t racist. In reality, participation is often predicated on the unspoken expectation that ‘exceptional’ black people are only granted access to these spaces in exchange for their silence on the race issue.
We must always be thankful and express our gratitude at every turn. We must always pay obeisance to the benevolent white people who ‘gave’ us a chance.
Never talk about history; always focus on the present.
Be black, but not too black.
Never speak about current issues, unless you’re talking about what’s wrong with the black community.
Never call white people to account for their present racism.
Never make white people feel like they’re racist. Never speak out about your own or others’ oppression.
Do whatever it is that you’re being allowed to do without saying a mumbling word about how you’re being treated. Woe be unto you if you break this silent contract.
When Colin Kaepernick decided to take a knee during the national anthem, he broke the contract. What’s worse is that as a biracial man who was adopted by a white family, he broke solidarity with any claim that whiteness could make on him. In White America’s eyes, he had chosen a side. He could not play the role of the ‘ambiguous other with white parents.’ He was no longer a white man by proxy. Whiteness had been willing to grant him a pass until he took a knee on the sideline, his Afro advertising his bold blackness that could not be buried.
When Colin kneeled, White America stopped seeing his whiteness. They could only see a black man who had broken the contract, who had made them feel racist. They could only see an “ungrateful n——r” who deigned not to participate in America’s civil religion. Whether or not he intended to, Kaepernick chose his blackness on that day. Not that he should have had to (because he shouldn’t have), but a side was chosen for him.
When white people decide to stand up for the dignity of black people, they still retain their whiteness. Other white folks might call them unsavory names and attempt to cow them back into white solidarity, but they still carry white privilege everywhere they go.
But when black people, even those of us who carry multiple racial identities, stand up for black lives, we lose. We lose friends. We lose employment. Some of us even lose our places of worship or connections to family members. We become pariahs.
When white people can no longer buy our silence and acquiescence about white supremacy, they turn on us. They try to destroy our reputation. They make us out to be mentally ill. They sanction us for failing to pass their litmus tests for orthodoxy. They attempt to gaslight us and make us feel guilty for ‘changing.’
The reaction that we see to Colin Kaepernick’s Nike endorsement has nothing to do with patriotism, ‘the troops,’ or any other red herring that is being bandied about. People aren’t burning their shoes because they feel that our country is being disrespected. They aren’t cutting Nike swooshes off of clothes because they feel a deep sense of patriotism. White people are ‘protesting Nike’ because they are upset that a black man has called attention to how racist America is (and them by extension).
Any black person who is participating in this so-called protest is doing so because they have bought into the idea of their own exceptionalism above the rest of the black community. They are a contract player for white supremacy, and their actions should not be seen as a cachet of black approval for white folks’ racism.
White people’s anger shows that they do not believe that the First Amendment (or any other rights for that matter) applies to black people. Their rage shows that they feel that their whiteness is not being adequately respected and revered by someone who they believe is beneath them.
If this were really about the troops, they never would’ve voted for a president who blatantly disrespected a veteran and prisoner of war. If this were about loving our country, they would listen to citizens who say they are being marginalized and oppressed instead of attempting to silence them and those who protest on their behalf.
White people feel entitled to the physical, mental, intellectual, and emotional labor of black people. They expect us to be subservient to them in all things and to never make them feel bad for their racism. When black folks decide not to go along with the program, we experience all manner of abuse and manipulation that is intended to remind us of who we are and to put us back in our place.
Call it patriotism, respect for the troops, law and order, or anything else, but when white people attempt to curtail black people’s right to protest, it will always be racism.
Telling someone to shut up and play ball is racist.
Burning your shoes because Nike endorsed Kaepernick is racist.
Demanding that black people stand for the National Anthem is racist.
Getting mad because black sports figures are being ‘disrespectful’ is racist.
Silencing black protest is racist.
Only listening to the opinions of one or two black folks who agree with you is racist.
Fining black football players for protesting is racist.
Feeling entitled to entertainment, education, service or anything else from black people is racist.
Feeling entitled to the various labors of black people but getting mad when they speak out about racism is racist.
It’s time that we call a thing a thing and stop letting racist people dictate to us the terms of our liberation.