Dear Colin Kaepernick,
Thank you for taking a stand against injustice that happens to black and brown folks across the United States of America. It is unfortunate that your peaceful action has been met with such villainous hate and malicious. On one hand the reaction from mainstream media up to the 45th President makes clear your message couldn’t be more timely. On the the other, it is sad that NFL owners, General Managers and whoever else has sway to add players to team rosters would rather draft people who have been accused of sexual assault than take you on for taking a knee an entire NFL season to silently protest injustice. It has been proven by countless new stories and researched and written about in works like The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.
You’re the type of person who I would want on my team. Unfortunately, I can’t offer you a check and sign you myself. Instead, I offer my words. When I saw you take a stand for the 2016 season I was left inspired. For me your decision was like a modern day Muhammad Ali in that you were willing to risk it all. This is the quintessential difference between so many of us who accept micro aggression to full blatant oppression in our lives. Most don’t know how to find an outlet and others fear the blow back will leave them unable to provide for their loved ones. But you my friend prove that there is another reality we need to march towards.
It makes me think about countless times at various jobs, I couldn’t help but feel the unwritten rule was to accept a lesser reality just to ensure I eat good for another day. I recall doing a survey for a fortune 500 company about diversity. The organization got whiter, maler and straighter the further up with few exceptions. When I opened my mouth to state, “We need more diversity in our leadership ranks,” what to me was obvious—not insightful—clear as day, I was told “diversity of thought” is what was preferred. Diversity for example at best was an item one could check off by simply finding someone who fit multiple demographics. Then one could brand themselves liberal and progressive.
You have inspired countless people to find that little extra strength to stand up for themselves. Your charity work, the know your rights campaign looks like it has helped many young adults understand and better navigate the difficult situation of surviving the United States while black.
But what I like more than anything is your actions to shatter the false bubble of post racism in sports and in America—everybody still ain’t treated equal and more importantly equitable. There are more black boys and girls and adults getting killed or railroaded into the jail system than there are Lebron James’ and Serena Williams’. They are like 1 in 10 million and there are over 80 million African Americans in the states.
I’ve worked side by side white folks who have lived in trailers and black folks like myself who have come out of the hood. And fundamentally both want the same thing. But I get it. After working hard everyday and seeing green do less and less it’s frustrating to see you a black man, who is a millionaire address systematic racism.
I agree with Shaun King’s boycott of the NFL and I plan to boycott the NFL for the entire 2017-2018 season. Unlike many other celebrities, you took the position you earned and made a decision that went beyond throwing a football. I only hope to channel that same fearless spirit when I find myself in between a rock and a hard place. Whether I’m ready or not I can move forward boldly.
I wish you much success in the future. If you do not have the fortune to play again I wish you success in your next endeavor and whatever you do please continue not to compromise in the face of oppression.
Rashaun J. Allen
Rashaun J. Allen (@rashaunjallen) received his MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from SUNY Stony Brook. He’s eyeing agents to help publish his coming of age story, Christine’s Dream—A Memoir of Love, Loss & Life. He is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment and has been published in TSR: The South Hampton Review and is forthcoming in The Tishman Review. When not writing he runs for the thrill of crossing the finish line. Find more of his work at www.rashaunjallen.com.