In 2016, Colin Kapernick, the then Quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began a public protest that would ultimately cost him his livelihood. At first glance, one could argue this isn’t a major deal. He is a young multi-millionaire and his ability to pivot into a new way of life doesn’t seem far fetched.
Then the question is asked: Why didn’t more of his fellow players join him in this protest? Why were so many of them hesitant to kneel alongside of him for such a righteous cause? I, myself, argued if players are outraged by the blatant racist behaviors of the NFL, why choose to play in their league?
The answer boils down to money.
Playing professional sports doesn’t guarantee you millionaire status. Players aren’t automatically drafted and the life of living check to check magically disappears. It takes strategic planning and discipline to set yourself up for long term financial success. It doesn’t make you exempt from paying bills, putting food on the table, and providing for your family. These things are universal. Obviously, if you are Lebron James or Patrick Mahomes the amount of discipline you have to have varies but whether you are a part of the “one percent”, or you live in a box, money or the lack thereof, has profound impacts on your life.
The American system is based on the trading of services or products in exchange for money… and as my Mother used to say to me when I was a child, “Everything costs money.” It is virtually impossible to live — comfortably — with no money. And this is how they control us.
For most of us, we are working jobs owned and managed by people who don’t look like us; who don’t care about the same things we care about. As a result, we sacrifice some of ourselves. We code switch or we wear our hair in acceptable ways — or we do what we want, how we want, all the while, knowing there may be consequences.
Nick Cannon has been in the news over the last couple weeks for remarks he made about white people and the Jewish community. Before I had the chance to look up what he said, I heard Viacom, a major media conglomerate and Cannon’s long-time partner, had dropped him.
We can debate whether or not what he said was right or wrong. We can even discuss whether he should have said it at all. But what should be concerning for the Black community is the power that other communities have over us — over our livelihoods.
If ever there was a time we needed to control the Black economics, it is now. We need media outlets and businesses who prioritize Black lives, and not out of performative allyship or the latest brand strategy. But because the business is owned and run by Black people.
When I think about Colin Kaepernick and his bout with the NFL, I wonder: What would have happened if all the Black men in the NFL — which, reportedly, makes up seventy percent of the League — chose not to play? How would we support them with the way our communities are economically and financially structured? Would it be possible for us to?
It is past time we take our economic power back. I don’t propose it will be easy, simple, or without hardship; I only suggest it is necessary.