White privilege and black national anthems: Time to change the channel

I was working behind a hypothetical bar the other night, changing the hypothetical station on a hypothetical flat screen TV.  A hypothetical couple sat directly under the TV, occasionally glancing up at it while eating their hypothetical dinners.

As a courtesy, I asked the couple what they would like to watch.  Here’s where things get interesting… hypothetically speaking.

The male resoundingly replied “Anything but the NFL!!!”  I initially thought the man must have missed football so much that he found watching replays a tease.  That’s the reason I don’t watch the NFL right now.  With the upcoming season uncertain at best amidst this global pandemic, while I miss the game, I haven’t tuned in to replays of games I’ve already watched either.  Knowing the outcome ruins the experience for me.

That’s when the man further expressed his disdain for the NFL.  His explanation was as white as day and one I did not see coming.

“I don’t wanna watch the NFL,” he continued “because they agreed to play the black national anthem.”

That was this man’s reason for not wanting to watch football, he said as he scoffed down his French fries.  A song, a minor gesture from the league to alleviation tension, a three-minute deviation from the norm, essentially an outright refusal for change.

Now, first of all, I didn’t even know there was a black national anthem, unless he was referring to Marvin Gaye’s 1983 NBA All-Star Game rendition or Whitney Houston belting one out at Super Bowl XXV.  Now THOSE were national anthems!  Pretty sure that’s not what he talking about though.

As far as I can recall, we all grew up singing one national anthem in this country, as well as reciting, one Pledge of Allegiance.  You remember, the one that ended with the line “and liberty and justice for all.”  Perhaps the reason some are upset with our anthem is that others didn’t hold up their part of the bargain.

I left this fellow’s steadfast comments alone, knowing better than to get into a discussion (while at work, hypothetically) with a person who had already made up his mind about this pre-game, set change.  For the record, I’ve been to countless Bucs games and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” both right before and after our national anthem.  You don’t see me all up in arms about an acid-taking, bat-eating Brit getting more face time than our rockets’ red glare.

As you may recall, not so long ago in a galaxy that closely resembles this one, millions of fans grew distaste for a league (that is 70% black) because one of its players felt the national anthem no longer applied to him.  He found the song antithetical, if not hypocritical. 

Not long afterwards, many of us found his gesture antithetical and that started this whole ball rolling, pretty much leading us to where we are today.

We have each formulated our own opinions of what went down, ostracizing both the man and his message in the process, making Colin Kaepernick, as Howard Bryant describes him “the martyred conscience of a generation.”  The problem, from knee one, stems not from any message but rather from the fact that people, in my humble opinion, weren’t listening to why any of this was happening in the first place.  We became so offended to a change in our agenda that our own noise deafened what those who were kneeling were trying to say.

Years later, we’re still not listening and all the protests in the world aren’t going to change that.  You can’t listen and speak at the same time.

I’m trying really hard to not make one white man’s protest of a black national anthem a Kaepernick thing but isn’t he essentially doing the exact same thing?  Does anyone else see the irony in white Americans feeling it’s okay to protest the NFL for playing a black national anthem (which, by the way, it is) yet in the same breath blasting black players for taking a knee?  Look no further for better definitions of both irony and white privilege.

We tense up when cheers, mascots or team names, things we’ve known to be forever, are deemed offensive because their foundation is rooted in oppression.  Just because we never knew that doesn’t make it any better.  Ignorance is no excuse.  On the other side of the equation, those in favor of enlightened change fail to understand the position of those opposed to it.  Perhaps some healthy conversation is in order.

After DeSean Jackson’s recent inflammatory comments, as a litmus test, I posted a few comments on social media, just to see what kind of reaction they would elicit.  Wouldn’t you know, even my most level-headed friends still flipped their shit.  It’s yet another example of the defensive posture we’ve retreated into.

Race is a social construct created to divide and define rather than unite.  I don’t consider Desean Jackson a “racist.”  I just consider him a fucking idiot, woefully uninformed just like the rest of America.  That’s right people, I’m talking about you.  This is where you take a deep breath and tell yourself that you are not as smart as you think you are.  I have no problem saying it.  It doesn’t offend my delicate sensibilities to say “SportsChump, you might not have all the answers.”  In fact, it’s quite cleansing.  You should try it some time.

Now that you’ve completed that exercise, I want you to ask yourself two questions and I want you to answer them honestly and with an open mind.  First, why do you think people are so up in arms about statues and national anthems and such?  Second, why are you so upset that they’re upset?

My beloved girlfriend and I argue on occasion.  It’s only natural.  However, it wasn’t until I (and she) truly learned how to listen to each other that we started to see the other’s point of view, what we were doing that bothered each other, what we felt was unfair, what we felt the other was not sacrificing and vice versa.  These things help immeasurably on a micro, and most certainly macro scale.  The problem right now is none of this is taking place.  Dialogue is dreadfully non-existent.  And before you go pointing fingers at Agent Orange, or as one of my friends calls him “Mango Mussolini,” if you really feel whoever’s President of this nation affects your day-to-day, I have front row tickets to an upcoming football game to sell you.

We, in America, are so far away from any sort of healthy communication that we’re going off a cliff in reverse faster than you can say Thelma & Louiiiiiiiise.

Writing about these issues is as complicated as talking about them which is a complicated as listening to them, constructively, which what we’re still not doing.

On a considerably brighter note, in same said hypothetical restaurant, on another night prior to this one, five people sat around and discussed the goings on of the day.  All were of different backgrounds and skin tones.  They held a conversation that was healthy: no shouting, no blaming, no pointing of any fingers, just a rational understanding of viewpoints.  It was as if the heavens had opened up and the grand ideal of what was once to be the United Nations sat down over a pint and actually talked shit out.  Shocking in these times, I know.

I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but all the protests and institutional reform we can muster is not going to salvage this mess unless people start to listen with an open mind and attempt to understand why there’s a need for any of this in the first place.

Until then, it looks like we have two anthems to protest.

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16 Replies to “White privilege and black national anthems: Time to change the channel”

  1. I’m also glad you finally learned to listen to me. It’s been a godsend. Lol

  2. As usual I’m having a hard time keeping up with the state of our nation. However I will endeavor state my opinion as simplistic as possible. Somethings are wrong and they are always wrong. Evil is still evil in anyones name. Having said that let me say this, I believe in compromise. We must learn by our past mistakes not keep making the same blunders. I don’t mean to offend anyone one but there is a word for this and it is progress.

  3. In the NHL, they play the Canadian national anthem when the games are in Canada, along with the U.S. anthem. That makes sense. But if you start playing two national anthems on American soil you are further dividing us, as if blacks are not part of this country. I should think that would be obvious. But, of course, division is the purpose. We shall pit “black privilege” against alleged “white privilege.” The foolishness rambles on. The race hustlers, playing on my favorite bartender’s white guilt like the white keys on the piano, continue their insidious work. Your bar patron, Chris, is not a racist. He’s a realist. He knows fake stuff when he sees it. And hears it.

  4. Interesting. I don’t recall hearing the specifics around why the NFL will have a black national anthem performance. I’ll have to read about it. I’ll gather that, right now, a majority of non-black people don’t realize (or care) there is a black national anthem and what it has always meant. I couldn’t care less if it is performed at an NFL game or not because that is not the moral change black people are looking for. It’s not that people don’t understand why some are totally against change (i.e., police brutality, systemic oppression) but James Baldwin said it best: “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

  5. BCole…

    Takes two to tango, sweetheart.

    Never forget it’s a two-way street…. with speeding, oncoming traffic in quite often shitty weather.

  6. Not too sure I agree with you on this one, Greggie.

    The tone in which he stated his disdain for the league, and its decision to play two anthems, led me to believe otherwise.

    Look, I’m not alone in questioning what good this will do. Again, it’s the league’s most likely misguided effort to keep the peace, and Band-Aid on a gaping wound, if you will. Right or wrong, at least it’s an effort but it’s highly unlikely there’s any sort of healthy dialogue in between owners and players on these matters.

    Catch how many black players sing the song and see how many actually know the words. It was like that one week the owners all decided to kneel with the players and hope the problem went away.

    Guess what. It didn’t.

    Think there’s a disconnect here? Snyder’s underlings were essentially a prostitution ring out of his franchise and he’ll get a slap on the wrist.

    They do what they want when they want with very little retribution.

  7. Donny C…

    I know you’ve been busy with work and all but did you ever get through that Heritage book I sent you?

    He’s got a new one out too. Right on time.

  8. The progress depends on facing the truth and not over compensating. Going from one extreme to the other is not sustainable. A little common sense would’nt hurt. “If not us , who , if not now ,when?” John F. Kennedy

  9. We hear a lot about “listening” these days, right?  I’d like to request that Jackson, Jenkins, Malik Jackson and Stephen Jackson listen — really listen — to the following:

    The reason Jewish people aren’t surprised by hateful comments is because anti-Semitism is the oldest form of bigotry in the world. It dates back to biblical times and has never had a pause.


  10. Still working on that book, C, as I hope you’re still working on your ping pong game.

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