October 16, 1968 will forever have a special place in my heart, as it is the day I learned how powerful a united voice could be. A united voice, forty-nine years later, that still needs to be channeled through any platform available.
Reminiscing back to that day and seeing what is currently occurring throughout various sport platforms is refreshing and encouraging. It took actually forty-nine years for this thing to mesh, gel and formulate itself. Its formulation, it created vision, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice oneself to make a powerful statement for all individuals, blacks in particular, to have a fair and honest level playing field to achieve goals and education.
It’s a blessing to see so many of these young athletes taking a stand, risking their big multi-million dollar contracts in support of a cause that means so much more than money. Truly standing up for what they believe in hoping to bring about that change. These young athletes are finally starting to realize that it is not about them. It’s about their mothers, fathers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunties that might have gone through the trials and tribulations that we are currently taking a knee for.
It’s refreshing to see the fruits of our labor go beyond athletics. People in the entertainment field, business world that are willing to step up and let their voices be heard to find the courage within them.
Mr. Kaepernick is one of the key fruits of our labor. Many people still view him in a negative sense but overtime, Mr.Kaepernick’s name will be remembered and spoken in the same high regard as individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Nat Turner, Tommie Smith, Peter Norman, John Brown and myself. Individuals like us who opened the gates to let so many people through that never had an opportunity to be free in their lives.
Earlier on throughout my life I gained a reputation for speaking out against injustices and discrimination. I used to jokingly say “you got 48 hours”, not as a threat, but more as a promise that something would be done to rectify the problem. From an early age I developed a spirit and the courage to speak on behalf of those that could not or did not want to speak in hopes that something would resonate within those that listened to do the same.
One of my favorite metaphors of life is sports. In order for a 4 x 100 relay team to be successful in their race, they must successfully pass a baton around the track flawlessly without losing the momentum and speed built up from the incoming runner. All of those great names I mentioned earlier inherited a baton from someone great before them. Mr. Kaepernick inherited that baton and is still running looking for that next runner to take it and carry on the race; the human race for freedom and equality.
Once again, it’s come full circle from our day as three individuals that had a vision protesting on a podium, to numerous individuals protesting that same vision on their own platform today.
Demonstrations are very necessary to enlighten society as a whole because one end of the world might be going through the same drama and turmoil that we are going through here in America. Individuals today are using their platform and expressing similar concerns as we expressed in 1968. Tremendous strides have been made but further strides must be taken. For example, racial disparities in the criminal justice system have been in the news for the last several years following a series of high profile instances of black Americans being killed by police. Yet, our voices and outcries seem to still go unheard. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, said it best a few months ago:
“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett told ESPN “because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it. It would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”
How we see race in the United States varies tremendously between non-blacks and blacks. Many non-blacks still ask the question why does it always have to be about race? Why can’t we just see individuals as human beings, equal in nature with same opportunities? In a perfect world, I wouldn’t object to this view or train of thought. Our history and the current issues faced by many African-Americans would not exist. Until non-blacks are truly able to understand this and truly stand alongside us by speaking out on our behalf against the injustices faced by our people and not waiting for a specific incident or African Americans to request their support, perhaps then we will entertain that train of thought of not seeing race.
We need to use this wave, this current momentum of individuals like Greg Popovich, Justin Britt, Nate Boyer and Eminem, individuals willing to stand alongside us and speak out. As we stand, sit and kneel united, let’s truly keep the focus and message on what we want to see changed within our country.
We can no longer have fear for our oppressors. Our history is far too great. When you commit your life to the struggle, always remember resistance is part our DNA so we must be willing to tell our story. Do not let anybody try to change the narrative of what you are standing for.
Here is a quote that currently resonates with me right now from Frederick Douglass, “Freedom is a road seldom travelled by the multitude.” I encourage our people to do their research and understand the plight of us as people; understand the struggle we face and take this road to freedom with me.
Enjoy and God Bless you all.
Dr. John Carlos