Dear Colin Kaepernick,
I recently watched a show called Queen Sugar on OWN, Oprah’s channel. Have you heard of it? It’s awesome! Anyway, there’s a character on that show that shows the complexity of activism in a modern world. Nova Bordelon, played by Rutina Wesley, is the eldest of her siblings and fits into all of the good and bad cliché’s of being the 1st born. She obdurately stands in her beliefs almost to a point of complete arrogance. Her main stance is getting her people “woke.” However, it appears that she’s more concerned about making a statement and making sure that she’s the one to make that statement. In the last episode, her homie/lover/friend Chantal (Reagan Gomez-Preston) started getting people “woke” without her involvement. She was visibly upset that her way of doing such wasn’t followed to the T. You see Nova was more concerned about making her statement rather than making effective change. This is my concern with this generation of activism. All statement. No Change.
Now, I won’t put the title of being self-righteous on you. But I would be wrong not to warn you that you’re on that path by not voting. Don’t get more wrong. This isn’t a loud (very loud) public dragging or a frivolous thinkpiece. (I’d rather save those for the scoundrels who only speak against racism when it directly impacts them…ahem…Richard Sherman and Cam Newton.) For you are doing way more than I am (or will possibly ever do) when it comes to social justice. Yet, I can’t help but wonder why there’s no call to action.
You have the power to not only make a statement but to effectively make change—more power than I or your fans will ever have. You explained that it’ll be hypocritical to vote in a system that oppresses people. I call bullshit! It’s hypocritical to protest a system that oppresses you and not take the necessary steps to stop or change that system. I don’t agree with the pessimistic view that the system will forever make us fail as I sit here with a post-graduate education working for a major corporation with white and brown peers. There were laws passed influenced by activist, the people, my people, and your people. Those people were Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglas, Fannie Lou Hamer and plenty others. And guess what, the system was far more worst for them. They didn’t just protest the system. They leveraged their power, their vote, to get major legislation like the Voting Rights Act and the 19th Amendment passed. Keep in mind that these laws were not passed by candidates who publicly admitted to implicit bias, both systematic and personal. Lyndon B. Johnson and Woodrow Wilson were not civil-rights activist nor did we need them to publicly denounce racism in order to make effective change.
We have to get beyond the status of protesting the system and start changing it. As I look back over the past eight years of living under America’s first Black president, I’m disappointed in myself and my people for not taking advantage of this opportunity. We dropped the ball during elections that mattered the most. We failed to put people into office to uphold President Barack Obama’s legacy beyond 2008 and 2012. Even if we didn’t agree with his policy, we very well could have held his feet closer to the flame through those elections. Instead, we decided not to participate. And I know there are many comparisons of your current stance to Muhammed Ali’s in relation to his protest of the Vietnam draft. Yet, this is not the same thing. Muhammed Ali was known to participate in the political process, from his perplexing endorsement of Ronald Reagan to his shared brotherhood with Bill Clinton.
This is why I am politely asking you to stand your ass up! You missed one of the biggest opportunities to influence legislation and supreme court picks. (Now, we’ll possibly be stuck with Mr. Stop-and-Frisk and Clarence Thomas II, III and IV.) It’s time to stop teaching our children how to survive in the system and start teaching them how to effectively change the system. Tell the children to run for city council, mayor, congress and yes, even the presidency. It’s time to stop relying on black women to save us and America. Kneel. Make your statement. But stand your ass up when it’s time to make a change. If you don’t, you’ll just be a kneeling Kappa with a fro.
A fellow Millennial that looks up to you