When it comes to a black voice being raised in protest to oppression, “those who are comfortable with our oppression are the first to criticize us for daring to speak out against it,” according to Harry Belafonte.
The legendary entertainer shared his poignant thoughts on the controversy surrounding Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand during the national anthem at a NFL preseason game during a new interview with “News One Now.” In the interview, which aired on Thursday morning, Belafonte applauded the San Francisco 49ers quarterback and said the criticism reflects a deep-rooted “statement about America.”
“To mute the slave has always been to the best interest of the slave owner,” he told “News One Now” host, Roland Martin. “And I think that when a black voice is raised in protest to oppression, those who are comfortable with our oppression are the first to criticize us for daring to speak out against it. I think that it’s a noble thing that he’s done. I think that speaking out and making people aware of the fact that you are paying homage to an anthem that also has a constituency that by the millions suffer is a righteous thing to do.”
“The fact that these people have all these ‘how dare you speak out against lynching and all the things that racism stands for, or the conclusion of racist acts permit. I think it’s a statement about America,” he added.
Belafonte faced similar criticism during his years as a civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s. In recalling his past experience, he commended Kaepernick for not succumbing to public scrutiny.
“I was at the height of my success. Hit records and movies, and being rewarded by millions of people coming in attendance to the audiences that I played around the world,” he said. “The machinery of oppression was always at work trying to discredit me, make me a communist, make me unpatriotic, etc., etc., etc. And it takes a lot of courage to stand up in the face of that onslaught, that reactive moment and not bend to the wind.”
Moving forward, Belafonte says he hopes more of today’s black athletes will follow Kaepernick’s lead and use their visibility to speak out on social issues.
“What I would love to see, is a few hundred other black athletes take that as a symbol,” he said. “It doesn’t affect the game. It doesn’t affect the way that it’s going to be played, it just tells you a lot about what the people on the field are thinking in their every waking moment.”
Check out more of Harry Belafonte’s News One Now interview in the clip above.