I really want to explore the real narrative in the new environment of America. In this case, I am specifically referring to people of color speaking up in spaces of influence and being shunned, financially or otherwise.
Yes, Colin Kaepernick is the most readily visible person on the receiving end of this, but he is not alone. Far from it. In fact, his very public black-balling confirms the precarious notion that people of color need to exist in a purgatory of sorts when they have enough influence to… influence. They are called to be visible, but silent.
We see this all the time; someone intelligently speaks up and loses a sponsorship, or is suddenly out of a lucrative position. I can understand protecting the positive face of a brand, but there is a pervasive idea that if you’re Black, you should relegate yourself to that of an entertainer only, as if your intelligent thoughts would disrupt a delicate ecosystem. I often notice that when people of color speak up about socially-polarizing issues (insert police brutality, economic policy, redlining, etc.) they are readily met with resistance, and an overwhelming plea to “sit down and shut up,” for lack of a better phrase. What the resistors mean to say is, they cannot possibly listen to your plight, because it is not their own, and that fact alone is enough to negate the depth of your statements.
If we consider the colonial origins of this hush culture, we also have to consider that people of color were expected to be entertaining fare, not master scholars. Though they were present, the scholarly within our communities were stifled as a preventive measure. To make us entertainment is only standard in the process of dehumanizing us and normalizing disregard. It is only by devaluing what we have to offer that one can solidify their contempt.
In many ways, there still seems to be a genuine fear of our culture, power and rhetoric when we look inward from without. From a war perspective, the imperialists’ objective is to swiftly break down the mental resolve of the locals by taking away every opportunity to lead, learn, advance, commune and create. Practically, this transalates into crackdowns on reading and critical thinking, curfews, censorship, and degrading familial bonds. The danger we inherently possess lies in our refusal to be subdued as a people, although we have assimilated to and even expanded American culture. Black people remain a vocal group, and though this is our greatest strength, this is the very reason our voices are being quieted. Because we are vocal in an environment demanding our silence, many Black-centric issues are muffled, and we find our stories directed by stakeholders all too ready to morph them into divisive headlines.
Our stories cannot be molded by anyone other than us, and still be expected to retain their bones. Even more still, we must speak. We must write. We must produce our stories, and allow our rhetoric to live in public spaces if we want to control the Black narrative around the world. Black is not bad. Rather than lament over the intrinsic role of our domestic media in fostering this anti-Blackness, I want us to be the antithesis to it. Everywhere. Black is not bad. We need to unlearn the subconscious beliefs we hold that affirm imperialism and its very intended consequences, then we need to share. As our real stories disseminate, we can create an environment of Black appreciation, rather than admonishment. The object is not to avenge, the object is to increase the pool of information. Our point is to rebrand black by humanizing ourselves with our stories, and with our pain, love, struggle and insecurity, perhaps we can become human enough for these experiences to resonate.