Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the NFL players taking a knee and locking arms during the national anthem. Athletes and celebrities coming together and use their notoriety to convey a message of hope or hate depending on which side they’re sitting on.
Most of them have worked very hard to get access to a public platform; might as well use it correctly. Kind of like what Tommie Smith & John Carlos (and Peter Norman (the third guy in the picture) - that's an untold story that I highly suggest you check out) did back in the 1968 Olympics when denouncing some of the major racial injustice happening at the time. A timeless gesture that would banned them from competing in America, get them to lose their jobs and face death threats on a regular basis.
Knowing that, what are NFL players supposed to do if they see or feel that something is breaching their moral obligations? If the issue is racial equality, are they supposed to simply stay silent, skilled, fast and strong; get a pat on the back after a "W" and go back home still feeling like a 2nd class citizen? And even if they feel like a 1st class citizen based on their superstar status; they may still see their friends, brothers and sisters getting mistreated. Are they simply supposed to close their mouth and do nothing by fear of losing their current privileges? The answer is no: they've earned that platform and must use it to do what's right.
When the Johnson administration sent the troops to Vietnam, 23% of the military were African American. The reality is that even if they went to fight and die for their Country, they still couldn’t all come back to America and sit in the same class room as their Caucasian neighbors.
-Bringing back the story to today’s world,
If you believe that an athlete or celebrity is only here to sooth your desperate need for entertainment and shouldn’t get involved into matters that are bigger than them, you’re sadly mistaken my friend.
One of the main characteristic of an Entrepreneur (which I consider many Celebrities and Athletes to be) is the purpose behind all the hard work. The motivation is not all about getting a pig skin across the line; or shooting a 3 pointer inside the net; its about inspiring a younger generation to work hard and do something positive for themselves and their community.
We’re hearing the current President of the United-States insulting Athletes for taking a stand on what seems to be the first amendment. The one amendment that the US military seem to fight so hard in foreign land to keep.
Now I’m not one to get involved into politics but I’m definitely one to get involved when basic human privileges are being crossed and it becomes a topic of conversation in 2017. This debate already took place and was "supposedly resolved" after the ratification of the 1st amendment in 1791. Our society cannot be moving backwards, we need to be moving forward: like everything else in life.
Instead of having conversations about increasing opportunities for everyone, equal-pay for equal work, transitioning to renewable energy, innovating in our transport system, solving global warming, investing in science and technology for better health programs and a more "up to date" education system, we’re going back 200 years.
That’s insane. I don’t even live in the US and this situation affects me personally; so unless you’re clueless about history, this should insult your values even if you’re outside of the border.
Now please listen carefully to the next part because this is important: I’m white; born in Switzerland from a Russian-polish mother born in Warsaw; a Spanish Israeli father born in Israel; I was raised next to my Brazilian-born brother by the unconditional love of my Egyptian grandfather and a French Algerian grandmother.
Now let me ask you this: did any of us picked our situation? The color of our skin? Did any of us picked our family members? The religion that was shoved down our throats? Did any of us got out of the womb with the opportunity to say: I want to be 6-1, 195 lbs, a body looking like a Men’s Health Magazine Cover, white skin (no eczema breakouts please), no cancer in the family, no autism in the family, I also want to grow in a war-free zone, in this pretty neighborhood with my parents earning this amount of income? No, f#ck no. But we should be smart enough to make our own logical choices with the tools provided.
A little question to our white supremacist friends: “did you know that you could’ve been born black and have absolutely no control on your cultural and social outcome?”
You could answer back and say: did you know that you could’ve been brought up in my neighborhood with our local values?
My answer is yes, I know. And I understand. And today, we’re lucky enough to have access to the tools & information that can easily separate right from wrong. So please, if we both understand this basic rule of life and unwanted outcomes, we shouldn’t have to replicate something that we both know is morally wrong and that could set us back centuries.
The ones that will be remembered for good are the ones that will take a stand regardless of consequences and make a right turn when given the choice. That will happen to you someday. Guaranteed.
We need to understand that in order to keep control of the power, the ones holding the strings will often use the tools that have been working well historically; and one of these tools is the constant fight between war and peace (or good and evil as they call it) with the people shifting side to side based on their level of concern for the matter.
So, if you’re in the mix and have any level of hate inside you for what you’ve seen, or lived or endured growing up, think about this, really think about this before you take sides: Technically, there shouldn’t be sides. There should only be one side and that side is the side of logic and reason. Society has this amazing ability to create conflicts and injustice to swing votes left and right.
How do you create drama: you get people emotionally involved so they can pick a side because the “drama in question is strong enough to offend your civil liberties”. This technique has been working for years. As long as they know how to manipulate your feelings and the media, they got you covered.
Historically and throughout the world, this technique made millions of people enlist for duty and serve their country. Too often, serving the egotistic power of the ones holding the strings. I wonder why Muhammad Ali didn’t want to go fight the Vietnam war; I believe he had a bigger fight in mind and it certainly wasn’t Joe Frazier.
Before I get to my conclusion, I just want to make a point on why we shouldn’t think differently of each other; even if we all come from different backgrounds, families, cultures, values or country.
When I was a kid, on April 1st, 1995, my momma gave me $40 for a school activity and the monthly bus pass. I’ll remember this all my life. I was in the metro by myself when 2 men (black men; taller; older; stronger and bigger than me) pushed me against the wall and told me to give them my bus pass in so many words. No weapon. Just intimidation and strength. I did my best to smooth talk my way out saying that I only traveled with bus-tickets but they forced me to take out my wallet.
What’s the first thing they saw: my bus f#ck!n bus pass. They took it along side a 20-dollar bill. They told me that they’ll leave me the other $20 bill for the balls I had trying to negotiate my way out. Now I could’ve easily build a general prejudice against black people for the rest of my life but I didn’t.
The conclusion of this short article is the why I didn’t and the why someone’s cultural background should always be removed from the equation prior to passing judgement.
The why is because 2 months prior to that, I got robbed with a knife by a white guy, he took my money and my hat; because 3 years after that, me and my buddy got robbed with a gun by a middle-eastern guy, I didn’t have shit at the time but my buddy had to give his chain over this; because growing up as a kid, my best friends were composed of 1 Latino from Panama and 1 Arab from Lebanon; because 4 years before that, my best friend was a French-Canadian white guy; because 40 years ago, my family spent over 10y in Burkina Faso building the city of Bobo-Dioulasso working together as one for the better of the people & basic human needs regardless of gender, religion, culture or skin-color; because over 70y ago, 9 of my mom's grand-uncles got executed by the Nazi regime for some dream about a pure race that doesn’t exist in a single culture but exists in every single human beings; all of us, pure in our own way; because today, some of my very best friends are Black, White, Europeans, Arab and Latino; some religious, some not, and guess what: we all call each other brother.
If you close your mind and decide to live in your own little world fabricated by the media or by someone else looking for power, you will stay numb forever. Remember this.
But, if you open up to other people, other cultures, other backgrounds, other religions and try to understand that in the end, these differences are actually here to create opportunities and build bridges instead of walls; I promise you that your example of today will be an inspiration for the person next to you and the foundation for the generation of tomorrow.