I've seen a lot of people posting about this quarterback who refused to stand during the national anthem as a gesture of political protest. One strain in the criticism from the peanut gallery is this: that he's on his way out, that he's an underperformer, that he's using this political position to stave off the ax when it comes. The problem with this thinking is the subtext: that only those who are successful athletes are allowed to have opinions.
This reasoning is really part of a racist canard, because white society has rarely, if ever, given credence to black opinions. And holding blacks -- whether achievers or losers -- to this standard itself represents a kind of racism: a way for white people to tell the uppity upstart to sit down and shut the hell up. This is ironic because most of the men who have posted their rants against his free speech have not achieved a fraction that this athlete has in their respective fields. Yet they have not felt that they at all need to sit down and shut the fuck up.
The pearl clutching of the jock-bros who have achieved their entire sense of self-worth from the labor of yet another black man would be hilarious, if it weren't so sad. "How dare he think that he is at all in the same class as the great Muhammad Ali," they stammer...of course not realizing that Muhammad Ali, himself, was punished. They forget that his excellence was no lucky charm. They forget that he was banished from the sport -- stripped of his title, sentenced to prison, disgraced within the public eye.
It's the recourse to this rhetoric of excellence -- the pearl-clutching jock-boy politics of respectability -- that is always cloaked in nostalgia that really masks the beating heart of the KKK in every one of us.
Jock bros will now, through rose colored glasses, grab their pearls to their hairy chests and utter: "That so-and-so ain't no Muhammad Ali." And this should entirely make sense in a world where we demand that everything, including political causes, remain pure-clean-sparkling-products that are made for television. Political causes have no legitimacy the right celebrity endorsement, not recognizing that all great Revolutions have as a matter of course a base drawn from those who are confined to the dust bin of history: the beggars and the prostitutes, the lepers and the criminals.
For me, what is especially revealing is this: the digital phenomenon of burning the quarterback's jersey. The Burning of the Jersey is a national phenomenon. Go ahead: Google it. It is a phenomenon in which people seem to enact a private gesture -- for themselves or a select group of friends -- which they then rebroadcast through the social media platforms. Platforms like these are now a reflection of our collective unconscious. They are the graffiti wall into which we scratch are deepest thoughts. They are our waking dreams -- those symbols of wish fulfillment and oblivion at the heart of the heart of the vortex of our darkness.
Does this not seem like a cross-burning? The resemblance to a KKK cross-burning are telling: the act of brute intimidation, the metaphors of bodily harm, the promise of status demotion. The too there is this: the spectacular nature of a specific kind of violence serving both as a private act and public warning. When you burned the cross and lynched the victim, it was a warning to all the others who might think to stand in rebellion -- those who might join the ranks, those who might cross a line.
This is lynching in a nutshell. I will kill you. I will destroy you. I will take what is yours. I will raze it to the ground. I will make you regret this. I will make an example of you. I will learn you. This is how we do when a black man has the audacity to speak his mind and give voice to his truth. But guess what: This is also how we do when a black man keeps his mouth shut and goes shuffling about his business with his eyes cast at the shadow of himself on the ground.