Dear Black Person, You Have The Right To Remain Silent (Actually, It’s an Order)

Dear Black Person,

You have no right to advocate for, speak about, or protest on behalf of any issue that makes White people uncomfortable.  Should you choose to do so, you may face at least one of the following punishments: being reported to Human Resources; being viewed as a distraction, difficult to work with, or hostile; not promoted; ostracized by neighbors, friends, co-workers; unfriended or unfollowed on social media; loss of job; loss of customers, loss of opportunity, blackballed.

You’ve unconsciously or consciously always known this rule.  Your entire life, when a White person says something like: can I touch your hair; how often do you wash your hair; look at my tan . . . now, I’m darker than you; you aren’t really Black; you talk white; affirmative action has been good to you; you people; you must be so proud of Obama; there is no longer racism; we are post-racial; I don’t see color; I don’t care if a person is black, White, Blue or Green; everyone has an equal chance in America; don’t play the race card; he/she/I didn’t mean to offend you; slavery was a long time ago; I didn’t own any slaves; just get over it; why does everything need to be about race; Black people kill Black people too; my parents were immigrants and worked just as hard as your people to get what they have; thugs, baby mommas, ghetto, etc.  — you’ve said nothing.

When you were passed  over for promotions, followed around store after store; stopped by the police for doing nothing; asked to quiet down or leave the premises; questioned about how you got “there” (job or neighborhood) you’ve said nothing.

When the only thing on your mind was the latest unjust killing of a Black man, how some people whom you thought were liberal voted for Trump, how you friend or family member just got accosted by the police; how your kid never gets calls for playdates, but he always gets calls to play on everyone’s sports team; or how the cashier at Safeway never puts your change in your hand—you said nothing.

You said nothing. You’ve been silenced.  You are controlled.  You are Kaepernick.

Let’s be very clear: Kaepernick does not have a job because he is being punished for speaking out about the civil rights of Black people and that topic makes White people uncomfortable.

Had Kaepernick spoken out about spaying and neutering pets, he would have a job.  Had he taken a knee to protest the oil pipeline being built in Alaska, he would have a job. Had he started a camp to help support gay teens, he would have a job. Had he refused to cover his heart with his hand to bring attention to the homelessness in America, he would have a job.

Athletes have frequently used their platform to bring attention to causes. Heck, the entire NFL wears pink for breast cancer awareness, the Dallas Cowboys are big sponsors of the Salvation Army (remember Ezekiel Elliot jumping inside the giant red kettle?), Kurt Warner and Jim Kelly became huge advocates for autism.

But Kaepernick spoke about race in America and many White people would prefer to face any other world problem: aids, animal abuse, disease, the environment, hunger, or anything else – rather than to discuss race; the abuses of Black people from slavery, Jim Crow, the prison/justice system. It’s particularly a touchy subject for White men who inherited money earned during the days of free labor; and who are profiting  as “owners” of mainly Black men whom they selected and drafted to perform back-breaking labor for an average of 2 years until they are traded for newer, stronger men. These owners would never allow their sons or any other family members to play this sport.  The players, who often come from situations where football was their only option,  will not make a fraction of what the owners make, will have a lifetime of serious physical damages, and are typically bereft of any other job opportunities following their short career.

The “UnAmerican” thing that Kaepernick did to offend some has nothing to do with the anthem and everything to do with the racist structure of America that started with slavery and continues today. Some Americans believe that if Black Americans are at all disillusioned about the American dream, we are un-American.  And at the root of their anger is the belief that we are lucky to be included in their American Dream (how dare Kaepernick complain. We LET him play. He makes millions). Black people are quasi-American; guests, so to speak. Guests are supposed to be grateful.  We are living a nightmare (unequal pay, unjustifiable killings, inequitable job and housing opportunities, unjust justice system) but expected to behave as if we are living a dream. We can’t cry out.

We are repeatedly reminded to remain silent.  The team’s owners’ message-by blackballing Kaepernick- is intended for an audience far broader than Kaepernick.  Indeed,  the main audience is the other 1,500 NFL players (70% of the NFL is Black. You know that they must be concerned about civil rights for us; yet, they remain silent).  But the message is also for you. You hear it; You feel it. It’s a reminder of what can happen if you step out of line, express any discontent or threaten the establishment – your livelihood can be revoked.  Similar to cutting off a runaway’s foot or the public whippings and hot boxing of the plantation era.  This can happen to YOU if you don’t stay in line, obey the rules and remain compliant.












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About Randi B.

Randi is a diversity and inclusion strategist, speaker, trainer and writer, focusing on making connections and cultivating empathy in this diverse world one trip, speech, article, book and conversation at a time.

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