Racial bias is running rampant in America, with disastrous consequences. From police officers who see suspects as “scum,” “monsters,” and “situations to be dealt with;” to the assumption that African Americans on PWI (predominantly white institution) campuses – these assumptions lead to behaviors which affect individuals. Some bias is overt or explicit, like companies who throw away applicants applications with Afrocentric names while most racial bias is implicit: it is part and parcel of the systems and institutions that make up America. There is no malicious intention with implicit bias or stereotypes but the outcomes can have brutal outcomes on an entire group of people.
Sgt. LaDavid Johnson was living the American Dream. He followed the path that was supposed to lead to what DJ Khaled calls “More Success.” He served as a Green Beret unit stationed in Niger, a world away from the inner city neighborhood where he lost his mom and found hope again in his childhood girlfriend and future life partner, Myeshia. He was taken in at age six by his Uncle and Aunt who raised him. Instead of giving in to feeling sorry for himself and the trappings of crime, Johnson worked hard at Walmart after playing football and graduating from High School. He also distinguished himself in his community by riding a bike that was missing the front wheel. More on that in a minute.
“You need to get up, get out and get something; ‘cause you and I gotta do for you and I.'” – Outkast
Colin Kaepernick has also been living the dream life. A man of few words, Kaepernick chose to let others describe his talent, upbringing and potential. Another American success story. Kaepernick was born to a single white teen mom and an unidentified African American man. Like Johnson, he lost his mother but gained another family who would love and adore him as their own. Kaepernick was a 4.0 student in HS who received multiple scholarships for baseball but only one for football, his true love; University of Nevada, Reno. He went on to excel football and was picked as the 4th pick in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. But that is not the Colin Kaepernick we have come to know lately.
Walking through Circleville, Ohio in mid-October at The Pumpkin Festival, I was keenly aware that I was the minority. And in Trump’s America, that means something different than it did during the Obama Years. I saw a T-Shirt for sale at several different vendors that made me cringe, “I Stand for The Flag, I Kneel for The Cross.” What codespeak is are seemingly innocuous words that give the image of something that is stereotypical or biased. The prime example is welfare queen, urban, inner city. All codespeak for negative images of African Americans. Kaepernick had been a steller athelete who burdened by the treatment of people of the United States by the hand of the police, took a knew during the National Anthem prior to the game. What I saw in that T-Shirt is that it’s not enough to brand Kaepernick un-American, now he is being branded as un-godly. The G in god is not capitalized because the cross they are kneeling at, may or may not, be on fire.
That t-shirt, along with Trump’s alleged comments to the wife of Johnson, that “he knew what he signed up for” really shook me to my core. When Trump said “he knew what he signed up for,” most assume he was referring to signing up for the Army where you may die for your Country. But again, using codespeak, I heard a far more sinister message: this is what you signed up for – being black in America.
Johnson was not given the respect and formailty owed to him by a sitting president. The fact that his wife felt that Trump struggled to remember his name and his comment and tone as she interpreted it was disrespectful and demeaning. Kaepernick has been branded anti-American and the NFL has obviously black-listed him and denied him a career and livelihood.
So we need to get up, get out and get something. But when we do, will we get the respect we deserve? The land of the free, home of the brave, yet who gets to define who gets free and what is bravery? I challenge you to see beyond the headlines and look to the heart.
“I know that the Lord will maintain
The cause of the afflicted
And justice for the poor.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to
The upright shall dwell in Your presence.” Psalm 140:12,13