Societal The Word 5 minute read

Kaepernick & Modern Day Slavery


 It’s ridiculous that Kaepernick hasn’t been signed — even as a back up.  Can’t be any realistic debate anymore that he has been blackballed.

“How do I control my slaves?” was the White man’s most paramount concern for 250 years.  How do I dominate and fully control a group of people who have been kidnapped from their own countries, shackled and chained, sold to me for the sole purpose of providing unpaid labor under horrible conditions?  How do I force them to do what I say; although I am outnumbered and smaller than many of them?  How do I ensure that they use their bodies and intelligence to provide me with the best services so that I can earn money?

For slavery to function for 250 years, for White men to become wealthy from enslaved African’s unpaid, back-breaking work — the slave master needed to have domination over those he enslaved (a workforce that was unpaid, unhappy, was brought here unfairly and who understandably, oftentimes attempted to rebel by running away, ignoring orders, breaking equipment, or doing the work more slowly than they were able.

In addition to whippings, moving them to another plantation away from family and friends, torture, and religious teachings, slave masters used intimidation and the slave codes to control the men, women and children they had enslaved.  These tools of public punishment were not solely focused on the offender – but rather also used as very pubic examples to other slaves.

The purpose was to send the message:  Don’t you get outta hand boy.

Not much has changed.  Colin Kaepernick is receiving the latest, modern day public punishment. He probably will never get to play the game he is well-qualified to play because he chose to speak out about police brutality and civil rights.  He used his platform and his voice to try to bring about change for his people.  And many White people, though Kaepernick protested quietly, didn’t like it: those less powerful burned his jersey and threatened violence against him and those in power who have blocked him from having a job, fired him from is endorsements, and reduced his income significantly.

Don’t you get outta’ hand boy. Do yo job and act like you happy Boy. You happy ain’t cha boy?   We treat ya good —don’t we boy?

Dare Black folks show discontent about issues in America, complain about unfair wages, changes or treatment, suggest that we are in any way unhappy about the plight of our people in this country, we are told to: stop complaining, get over slavery, work harder so we can have as much, and that the American Dream is possible for everyone.  We are deemed: angry, difficult, hostile, whiny, hard to manage, belligerent, a distraction, or racist.

Can you name one person who has spoken up and spoken boldly about issues facing Black Americans and been able to stay alive, visible and/or highly successful?  Just one?

So we shut up.  70% of the NFL is Black and 99% have stayed silent and not supported Kaepernick (though you  know that most must have the same concerns about Black civil rights). We go to work the day after a Black child has been shot, on the brink of rage and hopelessness, an act as if nothing has happened; but then participate in a discussion about if the baby in London should be allowed to come to the U.S. to receive treatment.  We only post racially-appropriate things on Facebook because we don’t want our co-workers, White neighbors, and long-term doctor to know that we read and agree with an article about Black work stress, Black Lives Matter, or the O.J. Simpson case.   We don’t mention the “Black” activities or groups to which we belong.  We don’t wear hair or clothes that suggest that we are “in touch with and comfortable in our Blackness (Michael Vick we racked over the coals for suggesting Kaepernick change his hair, but Black American women have straightened our hair for years, Black men have not worn facial hair, and rarely have you ever seen a Black employee in a Dashiki.  We dress to blend and fit in).  We complain to our Black friends and family in private spaces about our inability to move up at work, the way a woman treated us at the store, the neighbor up the street who always crosses to the other side of the street when she sees you, the private school who immediately offered financial assistance for your kid before knowing if you needed it.  We do our best to put on a happy face, to show White America that we believe in the American dream and the fairness the America’s principles.

We do our best to make White Americans feel good about who they are when they see their reflection in our eyes.  A Black person who says that there is no longer racism, that any Black person can make it as easily as a White person, that everyone has treated him well, that he is happy, that he doesn’t even see race, that we are all a part of humankind, that slavery was a long time ago (and after all there were some Black people who owned slaves) is the most acceptable type of Black person and will be lauded on the airwaves.

See, he knows how lucky he is to be here. He’s happy. Look how far he’s gotten. How can anyone say that I’m racist? I love the Blacks.  Smile, Boy.  You happy ain’t you? 

We smile. Most of us do to some extent.  We hide the pain. We hide the anger. We pretend that we are satisfied and happy.

Thank you, Boss.

We stay silent—except behind closed doors, because, if we admit the painful truth, our lives, our livelihoods depend on it.

Just ask Kaepernick.




My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more


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