I spent the last two weeks in August 2017 trying to decide what I wanted to do regarding my NFL participation this year. I've been playing fantasy football on Yahoo since 2005. I'm a real fan. I buy gear. I go to games. I travel to see games. It is literally the longest commitment I have made to anything in my life besides living it. America is my home.
In my indecision, I came across a Yahoo story and accompanying message board about the Cleveland Browns players kneeling to pray during the Anthem. The vile and disgusting comments made by humans about Black people were disturbing. Sadly this is nothing new. We live here. We work here. We exist here, but there are people who still feel like we are beneath them and need to totally disregard our feelings and personal experiences living and sometimes dying, to be considered equally. Even if that is only by a legal standard. America is my home.
I've even seen commentary on people who are planning a boycott of the NFL themselves because they are not making us Black people "get in line." We are not property. We are people. And because I do go to games, how many people have I sat next to who thought I didn't deserve to be there despite me working really hard, paying taxes, volunteerism, and advocacy around making this country good and prosperous for everyone? How many people on the strength of my skin color and further my gender, legitimately believed I did not deserve to even be in the stands? It's hurtful. And the privileged will never understand how horrible that feels and how much anxiety Black people feel around some White people. America is my home.
I remember the first time a non-Black person called me a nigger. I was 4 years old and my older Brother and I were walking to the store. He normally would hold my hand before we crossed the street, but he got distracted and I put one foot into the street. I quickly realized that I was in danger when a car that was trying to complete a turn almost hit me. The man driving the car laid on the horn and called me a “stupid nigger bitch”. Even at 4 years old, I knew the implications of the word and that many white people even if they never said it to my face thought of me as a nigger in their mind. I was 4 years old. America is my home.
I’ve never been to Africa, but it seems “Go Back to Africa” is the “go to” phrase by people who believe America is not my home. Even with scientific evidence to support that four or more generations of my family lineage were born here. Even when the person yelling such a phrase, is actually only two generations into their citizenship. Even more preposterous is the disregard for how most African melinated people got to America; slavery. It is one of the greatest American tragedies toward a race of people that goes fairly ignored and we even have people who think it’s a myth. America is my home.
I don't know how privileged people, like our current chief of staff to the president thinks the Civil War was about the lack of compromise. The Civil War was about slave owners wanting to protect their right to keep slaves as personal property and not allowing them to be viewed legally as full humans. In America, legally, as part of our history, Black people were considered only three-fifths human. America is my home.
The fight for civil rights and civil liberties in the United States has been a hard one. In 1966, only 51 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood to lead a peaceful march for fair housing practices in Chicago. He was hit with a brick during his march. One sign even read: “King would look good with a knife in his back”. Read the comments of any current news article on race in this country and you will see similar sentiments. King who had traveled all over the south during that time and faced some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals who were lynching and killing Black people said about Chicago, "I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I've seen here today." America is my home. Chicago is my city.
Slavery has ended but the psychological, sociological, and economic impact for all sides still exists and is ever present now. It has never gone away, but the current climate around patriotism has fueled more courage in some humans to believe they can be much more vocal and pro-active around keeping Black people “in their place”. And for some of them, that place is dead or shipped off to a continent that most Black people have never seen or will ever see in their lifetime. I don't know how anyone can support the notion of free speech for someone yelling "Go back to Africa" to a Black person walking past a rowdy demonstration of White Nationalists versus someone simply taking a knee in silence during the anthem as a message around the continued inequity and inequality that exists for Black people in the United States; seeing the latter as the more disrespectful act. America is my home.
I speak about race a lot in my professional settings. I’ m sure it has cost me some business even when I was brought in to assist with diversification and building equity. I’ve witnessed the rolling of eyes from my white colleagues. I’ve heard the whispers of taunt “why does she always have to throw in the race card”. I’ve even had a colleague who would soon regret stating to me “we know we know Kai, Black people are treated bad, slavery, blah blah blah, can y’all just get over it? The Jews are doing just fine, but black people are just lazy and playing victim and that’s why they can’t get ahead.” Conversations about racism make people very uncomfortable and agitate those who live in privilege. But when you are Black, you are uncomfortable a lot. America is my home. The Boardroom is my work.
Black people have rights. A peaceful demonstration regarding the noted and well-documented ways Black people are treated in the United States falls within those rights. That's not un-American. That's not a diss to the military, veterans, police officers and others who have lost their lives to protect America. My father fought for this country as part of the United States Air Force. The kneeling during the Anthem is an appropriate protest by those who believe America can be its greatest for all its citizens, but we ALL have much work to do and can no longer ignore racist social positioning and disposition of Black people. America is my home. The stage is my platform.
As someone who works and creates heavily around the injustices of Black people, I with clear conscious withdrew from playing fantasy football and have not watched a game this season. I have instead spent my time and energy on Sunday in my community and others doing work that hopefully can bring about more justice and bit of healing. Because America is my home. And I’m not going anywhere...
About the artist...
Kai Love is a PhD, writer, podcaster, small business owner, singer songwriter, poet, actress, comic, sapiosexual, and super nerd depending on the day. She brings presence and leaves audiences thoroughly entertained with her version of spoken word, poetry, singing, comedy, and interpretive dance. Her debut EP, “Little Star” was released in March 2016 and has been well received locally and internationally. Whether performing as a solo act or with live musical accompaniment, Kai Love is certainly a crowd pleaser. She is also the host of the Eye Recite Open Mic Night, held every third Tuesday at Iona’s on the Blu in Blue Island, IL. www.kailovesu.com
Want to see more of Kai's work?
Check out her piece, I Am, from Issue I: First Impressions!