During a preseason game, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem, citing “black oppression in America.” Kaepernick is a biracial NFL quarterback worth an estimated $22 million, yet he feels America has oppressed him. He’s sent out a statement preemptively bracing for the “backlash” to his heroic gesture. We should all be so oppressed.
Kaepernick is just the latest in a string of black multi-millionaires who have decided that the same America that has made them wealthy beyond their wildest dreams is now oppressing them and other blacks. Beyoncé Knowles, Jay Z, Russell Simmons, all those who tout the mantra of “Black Lives Matter” when it’s economically or publicly convenient for them may need to rethink their tactics. Their behavior has the exact opposite of its intended effect nearly every time.
Instead of talking about the real problems in the black community we end up talking about the celebrities’ upcoming contracts or projects. So maybe the plan works out perfectly for that black celebrity, just not for the blacks living below poverty level buying their music, jerseys, and swag.
Free advice for Kaepernick and his celebrity-lecturing friends: America has been good to you. Show some grace for the blessings you’ve been given. Give back to your community in more than just “protests” for personal gain. Write some checks, get involved. Start a charity. Use your platform to enact real change for those less fortunate than you. Your colleagues do it all the time without the cameras running.
Don’t Hate What Made You Great
Beyoncé made headlines earlier this year with her Super Bowl performance highlighting her upcoming “Formation” tour. The tone, language, and costumes were an ode to the Black Panthers movement, or so some thought. Beyoncé fueled the speculation to the tune of millions of dollars as she moved from that free publicity to that she generated with her “Lemonade” hour-long promotional video. “Lemonade” then consumed the news cycle long enough to pay off the debt incurred by her husband’s flailing streaming company.
Since “Lemonade” was released, we’ve heard more about “Becky With The Good Hair” than we have about Black Lives Matter from the BeyHive. Knowles has been working since she was old enough to sing. Her dedication to performing brought her from black middle class to one of the wealthiest women on the planet. That is a fantastic American success story. Why isn’t it enough?
Recently, Russell Simmons spoke out about the oppression of blacks in the entertainment industry. Billionaire media mogul Simmons was heralded for his brave stance against oppression. Meanwhile in the real world, Simmons is a perfect example of American exceptionalism. His role in music history is unquestioned, as his production gave rise to what we now know as hip-hop.
Simmons co-created one of the largest most successful labels, Def Jam Records, which launched hundreds of careers. Def Jam became one of the first “brands” in the black community. Simmons expanded his brand beyond music to comedy, clothing, and lifestyle products. He even married a beautiful teenage supermodel. He is literally living the American dream. Instead of talking about that and encouraging other young blacks to work as hard as he did, “Uncle Rush” wants praise for his passion for the struggle as he sips Moet on his oceanside veranda and tweets. This makes no sense.
Stop Exploiting Violence and Start Addressing It
Speaking of things that don’t make sense, Quentin Tarantino. Here is a dorky white guy who loves violent, sexual comic books and is now worth millions for bringing them to life. His films include more use of the N-word than any other movies I’ve watched in three decades, including those about actual gangs and the civil war. Tarantino is every nerdy white guy’s id come to life, and he is beloved for it. He likes to use words that make people uncomfortable. Black actors line up to be involved in his films.
It was no surprise that people applauded him for showing up at a Black Lives Matter protest. What was shocking was that no one pointed out the glaring hypocrisy—not even actual black people. Perhaps those in black communities are just thrilled that someone, anyone is paying attention to them, even if it’s this crazy white dude who uses the N-word all the time. Other than exploiting the black community, however, what has Tarantino done for them?
Dwyane Wade, the NBA superstar currently with the Chicago Bulls, has been vocal in supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet he has unfortunately lost a cousin to what appears to be gang violence in Chicago. Our hearts go out the family and friends, and we hope this makes Wade speak out about violence within the black community as well. It’s a complicated time to be alive.
Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, have outspokenly supported the families of the famous Black Lives Matter martyrs. Both seem genuinely interested in helping their communities, so perhaps this will redirect their energies to something a little closer to home. Neither would commit the crimes or violence being perpetrated in the black communities; they shouldn’t have to defend it, either.
Some black celebrities would obviously like to use their fame to draw attention to black communities in crisis, yet they don’t get as much press as those who prefer to lecture us. These lectures grow tiresome, and eventually America will tune out. The movement will fade into oblivion as will the spotlight. The celebrities will go on to their next project, and the black community will continue to deteriorate. There are real problems within the black community, and real leaders are needed, not just people seeking media coverage.