My classmates used to unaffectionately call me an “Oreo brotha.” Thus, having started out in life with only half a black card, I am especially empathetic to someone who has had his black card revoked in the name of “the struggle.” What does it mean to be told that one is black on the outside but white on the inside, anyway? What does it mean to question a person’s allegiance to one side of the race equation or the other? It seems the idea of race has gone far beyond skin tone or the one-drop rule. Perhaps therein lies the crux of the racially charged issues we face today.
After reading some recent articles on The Root’s website, I was struck by the smack-down that Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton received for speaking out about two issues at one time. The contributors on The Root didn’t mess with Shaq too much, though they said that he had gone on Fox News recently, to shuck and jive. This was in response to Shaq questioning Colin Kaepernick’s protest methods on the network that most blacks are led to believe is unfriendly to them.
If only those attacking Newton and Sherman had as much respect for free-thinking black people who don’t march in lock-step with them as they do for the gang leaders who are raping inner-city communities all across the nation. Everyone knows that drug pushers, wanna-be pimps, stick-up kids, and real-life bullies are destroying black lives with impunity; yet those who stick their necks out to challenge them, even in coded language as Newton and Sherman did, are suddenly not black enough? One is only black enough and down with the struggle if he speaks out against police violence and has mad love for “street soldiers,” saying nothing of their actions?
Imagine if we actually listened to the substance of each other’s comments and abandoned the racial litmus test that has polarized and failed us for far too long. What would happen if we simply cleaned up the streets? Gang bangers, drug dealers, murderers, crooked cops, and crooked politicians would have no place to hide. They do now. Some of them are hiding behind our banners as we march against “the man.”
One of The Root’s senior editors, Stephen A. Crockett, Jr., criticized Cam Newton in his article entitled “WTF Happened to Cam Newton?” Crockett stated, “It’s odd watching a flamboyantly dressed man who plays with reckless abandon become so docile when discussing the deaths of black people at the hands of police?” Newton’s offense? He commented on the September 20th killing of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte, NC, police officer, stating, “I’m an African American. I am not happy how the justice has been kind of dealt with over the years. The state of oppression in our community. But we also, as black people, have to do right by ourselves. We can’t be hypocrites.”
What is odd is the fact that Newton’s remarks seemingly didn’t pass Crockett’s blackness test. What is odd is that Crockett is selectively bothered by Newton’s comments and silent about the full extent of the oppression in our communities, which Newton mentioned. Newton didn’t excuse the officer’s actions, nor did he place full blame on the black community or divert attention from police brutality to black-on-black crime. He simply stated the obvious. When did it become acceptable for right and wrong to be arbitrated along racial lines? Cops behaving badly are wrong. Black people, white people, or green people behaving badly are wrong as well. Wasn’t that the struggle, that all men should be judged by the content of their character?
I know exactly WTF happened to Cam Newton. Newton’s real offense was wearing his limited-edition, MLK, color-blind glasses. For many, Martin Luther King, Jr. is simply a dead saint — revered, but not followed. No doubt, Crockett would surely find King docile as well. What Newton did was challenge the racially codified system that’s imbued with Marxist ideology and promulgated by many well-meaning, though unknowingly manipulated pawns and by many individuals and groups who think America and her capitalist system need a visit to the undertaker to have her makeup redone. Newton forgot that it’s more advantageous to be black and have selective vision than to be color-blind and see the mess that’s stuck to the bottom of one’s own shoes. We all smell it, but if we throw away our color-blind glasses we can focus clearly on “the man.”
In Lawrence Ross’ article about Richard Sherman, he tells us to ignore Sherman and focus on the black athletes who are “risking all for a cause.” Is Sherman not risking it all for a cause as well? He’s been shamed, ostracized and metaphorically lynched by members of his own race, lest other dark-skinned millionaires or common folk get too uppity and share an introspective word with black people.
Has it become taboo to challenge some of the cultural practices of people one may be able to influence with his story of success? Is it off limits to turn the mirror on attitudes that suggest America is inherently, irrevocably racist or that it’s impossible for a black person to get ahead? Are we not allowed to ask if such attitudes are serving us or crippling us? Is it wrong to ask why some blacks are only outraged when black people are killed by police and not when black children are killed in unprecedented numbers by thugs? Is one of these outrages sanctioned and the other hushed away like dirty laundry?
I’ve stuck my neck out and declared that ALL black lives matter. It may not be black enough of me to say so, and what’s left of my half a black card may be fully revoked. Unfortunately, I’m not as big as Shaq, so I’ll probably have my head chopped off by one of Crockett’s cohorts eventually as well.
You want a cause? Let’s speak out against all the violent injustices that are oppressing our communities, as Newton said. You want a cause that’s worth fighting for? Let’s go out and address the anti-American poison that our kids are ingesting every day. Some people, unfortunately, are too busy to do these things because they’re deeply involved in disrespecting and branding our brothers who have tangential or divergent opinions and they’re tied up with the work of excommunicating such people from the club.
Perhaps, however, my soft, white middle is just coming out and I’m asking too much of a people with such an incredible heritage of achievement. Perhaps black people can’t tackle two important issues and chew gum at the same time. Cam will be fine; WTF happened to us?