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The Kaepernick Moment: Reckoning privilege and voice

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Confronting racism is rarely pleasant. It is equally unpleasant for the initiator as it is for the receiver. However, confrontation is necessary.

Some are angry or uncomfortable when racism is the point of discussion. Others simply dismiss the discussion altogether. Unearthed in those responses is fear. A fear of reckoning. That fear manifest itself in two ways. Some people are fearful of reckoning with their privilege. while others are fearful of reckoning with their voice.

To reckon with one’s privilege is to act accordingly in the aftermath of judging said privilege. When I speak of privilege, I mean white privilege. Reckoning that category of privilege is to look at our nation, understand how our history of racism has and continues to hurt people of color systematically, while whites benefit both directly and indirectly. 

It also means dismantling white privilege so that there is liberty and justice for all, not some. An example would be professional sports franchises and collegiate institutions with logos and names that poke fun at indigenous groups changed those logos and names. Fear may accompany the discomfort in doing that, yet having the power to make an institutional change affords you the leverage to navigate the terrain that comes along with any backlash.

To reckon with your voice (speaking your truth) means to act accordingly in the aftermath of the judgment of your voice, your truth. When I speak of voice, I specifically mean confronting racism by speaking against it. Even before reckoning with your voice, you must reckon with the cost of speaking truth to racism. I affectionately call that moment of reckoning, The Kaepernick Moment. 

The Kaepernick Moment is when you have to decide if offending people is worth more than the potential, and sometimes imminent, threat to your livelihood and safety. Discussions of black and white tend to garner more passion than any other racial discussion in American society. Many Black people have had their own Kaepernick Moment where they’ve had to choose between speaking the truth or protecting their livelihood. An example of reckoning with your voice is being prepared to deal with the consequences of speaking out against racism, even if it means potentially losing your job or even your life.

There is great risk when one speaks their voice, particularly when they don’t have white privilege, a privilege that manifest itself into institutional power. The power to disrupt one’s comfort with your voice, while effective for resistance, comes at a cost. Some white people call for those voices to be silenced by threats to one’s livelihood and/or safety. They've chosen to confront their fear with intimidation. Some white people choose to dismiss those voices. They are complicit in the crime of racism for choosing to ignore it. 

Since the election of Donald Trump, some are emboldened to intimidate, or outright harm, in the name of quieting those voices that speak truth in the name of justice. Others have justified the racism of the Trump campaign due to their perception that the political establishment ignored them. In what they perceive as attacks on their way of life, they attack people whose experiences have been marred by the privilege they wish to protect. Those voices, they consider to be incendiary. 

Offending the privileged with one’s truth may hurt feelings, yet one who resist a frank acknowledgement of the racism experienced by people of color on a daily basis only perpetuates the racism they ignore or claim doesn’t exist.


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Educator and writer; a helper of teachers and parents of inner-city and urban school districts in the education of Black and brown students. An avid sports viewer and pundit on the intersection of race, sports, culture and education.