Reminiscent to when Tyra Banks read Tiffany Richardson to pure pixie dust in the 4th cycle of America’s Next Top Model, is similar to how I feel about Cam Newton these days.
Just a few months ago, we (Black folks) were endeared with Cam Newton. He seemed to be steadfast in his Blackness. He was taking the NFL by storm, dabbing up and down the field, leading his team to win after win, and snatching titles. Last season, Cam Newton was making his mark in the NFL, all the while making no apologies for being successful and Black. He addressed his Blackness in press conferences making it very clear that he knows the controversy surrounding his dabbing and in-game celebrations are solely because he’s a Black quarterback and good at what he does.
He was the type of athlete we loved to see win. He was the type of athlete that we loved having our kids see win. It sent an encouraging message of Black joy and Black success in the midst of unnecessary, racially driven controversy.
But somewhere between that piss poor Superbowl game and now, he has shucked and jived his way to the “All Lives Matter” side of aisle sitting between Raven-Symone and Kevin Gates.
In an interview with GQ in August of this year, in the wake of the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the NFL MVP says that the country is “beyond race.” As if we don’t have a whole entire white supremacist currently running for President, but I digress. As if you weren’t drowning in white tears not too long ago because of your Blackness. Oh, the irony.
But the shucking doesn’t stop there. Earlier this month, in an interview with Morgan Fogarty, said the following regarding police brutality:
“It’s not just police killing black people. People make mistakes, often. No matter their color. No matter their age. No matter their size, or what have you. In my community, it’s people that are killing people. And that’s all across America. So it’s not a point in time where I just wanna finger point and hold this specific (group) up to a standard that we all are not living up to. Do I think it’s right? No. But I just think we all should be better. I don’t think skin color, I don’t think culture, status, should alienate certain people from others. I believe in treating everybody right.”
Not only did Newton take the colorblind approach, he also cowered behind the Black-on-Black rhetoric that many racists and ill-informed resort to. Doubly offensive and disappointing.
It’s obvious that someone (cough-Frank Luntz-cough) got ahold of Newton and coached him on how to discuss race. With Newton’s success and unapologetic Blackness, Luntz saw what direction this was going and it terrified him.
It’s extremely disappointing that Newton so easily adopted the language of the “All Lives Matter” crowd, especially at a time when the spirit of the Black community is exhausted from waking up to more hashtags day after day.
It’s a crying shame that given the current climate of our country, someone with Cam Newton’s visibility is not using it for good. I’m not saying every Black athlete needs to a Colin Kaepernick (although it would be nice if more of them spoke up like Kaepernick), but Cam Newton being his authentic, Black self (like he was last season) would suffice to encourage the community.
Thankfully we have celebrities like Colin Kaepernick, John Legend, and Jessie Williams that are using their platforms to protest, tell our stories, lead causes, and donate to truly push the community forward, instead of cowering behind their platforms to appease disapproving white folks.
Last week, in the wake of the death of Keith Lamont Scott, ESPN posted a picture of Newton wearing a shirt that read the famous MLK Jr. quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” During a press conference, Newton stated,
“I’m a firm believer of justice and a firm believer of doing the right thing, and I can’t repeat enough about just holding people accountable. I am not happy with how justice has been dealt with over the years.”
In addition to the statement above, he went on to add more Black-on-Black rhetoric.
“But we also, as black people, have to do right by ourselves. We can’t be hypocrites.”
Here’s the thing, very few situations in this life are Black and white (that wasn’t a pun). Most of life is lived in some sort of gray area. However, the Black Lives Matter movement is not one of those gray areas. We don’t need partial support. Lukewarm activism will not sustain.
Intra-community violence does not excuse police brutality and state-sanctioned murder. It doesn’t make it right or justifiable. As we’ve discussed before, all violent crimes happen within the same community. If you’re going to talk about the injustices Black people face when dealing with the criminal justice system, then do that. Don’t try to mask injustice with Black-on-Black crime because loud and wrong is what you are.
We aren’t playing double dutch here. You can’t jump in and jump out whenever you feel like it or when it benefits you.
You are either with the movement or you’re not.
Either Black lives matter to you or they don’t.
Colorblindness doesn’t exist here. It certainly didn’t exist when you were up to your neck in white tears just a few short months ago for just being your Black self.
There is no half-stepping.
Pick a side and stay on it.