Dear White People Who are Outraged at Colin Kaepernick….

Dear White People (who are outraged that San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the singing of the National Anthem):

Could you please be as outraged by how *some* white police officers treat black and brown people in this country?

Could you please be as outraged by an educational system that often leaves poor white children and children of color at a stark disadvantage for most of their lives?

Could you please stop saying that “soldiers died for this country so how dare Kaepernick disrespect the National Anthem” when these soldiers actually sacrificed their lives for people like Kaepernick to protest the injustices he sees in any way he sees fit? This is America, after all, and not Iran or Syria.

Could you please reread (or just read) the history of Francis Scott Key and the “Star-Spangled Banner,” where you might learn that Key was not fan of black folks and the third stanza of our national anthem actually encourages (and sort of celebrates) the murder of African Americans during the Battle of Ft. McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812?

Could you white folks who are still so “outraged” please stop saying that Kaepernick should be “grateful” that he lives in a country that “allows” him to make millions of dollars just to play football? Stop being ok with “allowing” black men like Kaepernick to entertain you while this country systematically incarcerates—and kills—too many black and brown men who aren’t good enough to entertain you on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

To those who question Kaepernick’s motives—after all, he’s just a rich black dude who’s supposed to just throw a football up and down the gridiron (preferably without throwing an interception) and keep his mouth shut unless he’s talking about football—let me tell you what Muhammad Ali said: “I know I got it made while the masses of black people are catching hell, but as long as they ain’t free, I ain’t free.”

Kaepernick says that he will continue to sit during the National Anthem as a show of solidarity with “the people that are being oppressed…. When there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents what it’s suppose to represent, this country is representing people the way that it’s supposed to, I’ll stand.” Thank you, Kaepernick, for being the voice to the those on the margins and for speaking out when so many other black athletes choose to remain silent to the injustices of people of all colors. “To me,” Kaepernick says, “this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” If you’re more outraged by Kaepernick’s protest than by his message of how America continues to treat some of her black and brown brothers and sisters, you, my dear friend, are part of the problem. Try to make yourself part of the solution, please. Talk to someone who doesn’t look like you because you might hear a perspective you would have never considered. Find a black or brown person and have an honest dialogue about race and racism in this country. Read W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk or Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Turn off Fox News. Educate yourself.

Before his death in 1993, Thurgood Marshall said:

“I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”

Whether or not you agree with Kaepernick’s decision to sit during the National Anthem, please turn the volume of your outrage to the left and consider the point he’s trying to make—that America (still) has some work to do to make it the “land of the free and home of the brave” for everyone. Perhaps Kaepernick’s protest will spark some painful but brutally honest and maybe even some fruitful conversations between white folks and people of color.

It’s 2016, America. It’s way past time to do better.


Your Black Friend (and Nubian Princess) When You Need One

P.S. Just for the record, I always stand when the National Anthem is playing, but I completely respect Kaepernick’s decision to sit.


My Brother’s 49th Birthday

Today, my brother would have turned 49.

His death six years ago was shocking enough, but to learn he had committed suicide made his death that more difficult to grasp. Why would someone as happy and as jovial as he purposely end his life?

There are still no answers to the why, as he never left a suicide note. Of course, I have my own ideas, but I have no evidence to substantiate any of my theories.

I still remember the shame I felt every time someone asked how my brother had died, and even then—in the midst of my grief—I understood that his death would have been much easier to stomach had he been killed in a car accident or died of an illness. A suicide often leaves the survivors feeling both shame and guilt, as if we’ve done something wrong and that we could have done something to stop it.

Though I no longer feel any shame, I still wish there was something I could have said or done to have changed my brother’s mind. Yes, the guilt is still there. The grief is still there, too. As Keanu Reeves once said, “Grief changes shape, but it never ends.”

It’s been 2,284 days since my brother’s suicide, and although the grief has subsided, it still lingers. I’m not sure I’ve gone a day without thinking about him, and I long for the day when I’ll only remember all the great times we had together and not just how he died.

Robert Frost wrote, “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” Yes, life does go on for those of us left behind. I’ve learned to smile when I wanted to cry, and I’ve learned that it’s ok to just let myself cry. I hope my brother knows that I’ve never judged his decision to end his life because, as Seneca says, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”

I hope my brother is happy wherever he is and that he is celebrating his 49th birthday with Donna Summer and Prince. And my Grandma.