Massa I Won’t Tell: Why Many Black Athletes/Entertainers Remain Silent on Social Justice Issues
by Solomon Comissiong
“In much the same way that African-Americans have been politically domesticated to unconditionally vote for Democrats, these entertainers have been socially domesticated to remain silent in the face of institutional racism.”
African/black people continue to find themselves within a boiling caldron of white supremacy and institutional racism. Black mass incarceration, police brutality/terror, extreme poverty, vastly underfunded schools and gentrification are some of the many socially poisonous ingredients that are found in this concoction from hell. And like food laced with poison, these venomous ingredients destroy lives, as well as entire communities. It is hard not to notice the prevalence of these things within United States society, especially if you are African/black – or should I say, if you are an African/black person who is fully conscious of the institutionally racist country you dwell in.
It is somewhat understandable that people of color from other countries, do not know how difficult life is within the US, for most African/black people. After all, the superb and deceptive US false propaganda machine routinely showcases images of Hollywood, fast food commercials, reality shows and sports entertainers (professional athletes). The audience is programmed to believe in a false reality: “If so many African Americans are on TV as movie stars and athletes, life there must be awesome.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Those entertainers and athletes do not represent even one percent of the African American community. The truth is not in what you see; it is what you don’t see. And what they seldom highlight is the masses of African/black people who are living well below the poverty line, the deplorable school conditions throughout their communities, the scores of unarmed people of color who are murdered by the police, and the warehousing of Black people in an institutionally racist prison industrial complex system. However, whether they admit it or not, many African American professional athletes and actors come from communities riddled with the aforementioned societal plagues. And the ones who do not come from those communities know damn well these kinds of communities are ubiquitous.
“Black athletes and actors have been taught to fear financial retribution from white people and corporate America, so they cower without any fight.”
Social engineering and economic domestication have much to do with the selective silence many African-American entertainers exhibit in the face of myriad social injustices. And, in much the same way that African-Americans have been politically domesticated to unconditionally vote for Democrats, these entertainers have been socially domesticated to remain silent in the face of institutional racism. Black athletes and actors have been taught to fear financial retribution from white people and corporate America, so they cower without any fight. No matter how many millions they have acquired, they continue to shuck and jive for people who don’t give a damn how many African/black people are murdered by police. Their allegiance is with their corporate masters, and not with the communities from which they come. Why should any African/black person cheerlead for other African/black entertainers if they lack the moral courage to lend their voices to critical issues of social justice?
In decades past there were entertainers and athletes like the great Paul Robeson, who spoke out against issues of institutional racism, imperialism and colonization. He not only spoke out against these injustices, he was an activist fighting against them. Muhammad Ali risked his boxing career and was stripped of his title, for his public opposition to the imperialist and racist Vietnam War. John Carlos and Tommie Smith defied the American white supremacists by raising their Black Power fists, to bring attention to the wretched institution racism that riddled the United States. They did this on the enormous public stage of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Their Black Power Salute was a strong symbol of resistance and defiance, in the face of injustice. Wilma Rudolph was not only an Olympic champion, she was also an active champion for civil rights during the time of Jim Crow.
These African/black athletes and entertainers are but a handful of many who spoke out against the hypocrisy of American so-called democracy. These athletes and entertainers, quite frankly, had much more to lose back then than entertainers/athletes have to lose today. In decades past, they could have easily lost their lives, especially with the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program in full swing. They realized something that few African/black entertainers/athletes understand today: that their highly visible public platforms come with a certain amount of responsibility. They believed that with their communities in crisis, they could help mobilize their followers simply be speaking out on a range of social issues. Some took it steps further by actually getting involved in various social movements.
“Their highly visible public platforms come with a certain amount of responsibility.”
Unfortunately today, many African/black athletes would even frown upon being referred to as “African,” let alone speak out on institutional racism and white supremacy. Many do whatever it takes to placate their white audience. Whether it’s Shaquille O’Neal parading around as a deputy sheriff and chumming it up with the intellectually challenged and racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio, or Charles Barkley routinely making excuses when killer cops murder African/black men. There seems to be no shortage of these modern day sympathizers of white supremacy.
One of the most pathetic and recent examples of an egregiously misguided African/black athlete is that of Seattle Seahawks cornerback, Richard Sherman. Recently Richard Sherman took time out of his press conference to address Black Lives Matter and the African/black community’s opposition to police brutality. Sherman, under his own volition, felt compelled to comfort the sensibilities of masses of white Americans by trying to draw attention to violence within African/black communities. Sherman suggested that African-Americans need to focus their attention on violence within their own communities before protesting the police system that systematically assassinates African/black people. Sherman knew many white Americans would be pleased to hear a high profile African-American express the same racist sentiments as his racist white peers. However, there were a couple important facts that Sherman, like the whites he aimed to please, conveniently failed to mention.
First, there is an enormous difference between violence within African/black communities and state sponsored violence doled out by racist killer cops. When an African/black person kills another African/black person, that person will most likely face a trial, and then do prison time for their actions. However, when a killer cop murders an African/black person (even on camera), they rarely even go to trial, let alone face any prison time. They are protected by an institutionally racist system of policing that breeds theses kinds of cops. The likes of Richard Sherman and Charles Barkley know this damn well. However, they are too cowardly to tell white people the truth.
“Sherman knew many white Americans would be pleased to hear a high profile African-American express the same racist sentiments as his racist white peers.”
Second, the violence that exists within some African/black communities is largely a result of generations of social and economic neglect of those communities. These communities have been methodically starved of resources for a very long time. The evil white social architects of this project have known all along that when any community (regardless of race) is starved of resources the crime rates usually go up. This creates underground economies, which in turn facilitates violent crime. The crime that happens within African/black communities is exactly what they want – and need – to happen. The mayhem is contained within communities of color and therefore serves as a justification to hyper police African communities – spending countless dollars on deadly weapons to terrorize and kill with impunity.
White supremacy is perhaps the most nefarious factor in the whole evil scheme of things. Centuries of white supremacy have significantly contributed to many African/black people devaluing their own lives. White supremacy relentlessly subjected African/black people to the lie that white people are better, more beautiful and more intellectual. Couple this with structurally planned poverty and you have recipes for disaster. This not meant as justification for the terrible violence riddled through many African/black communities. However, it does explain why these things happen. What is also not explained is that, regardless of race, when people are murdered the perpetrator is usually of the same race. This is why this author will not use the racist term, “black-on-black” violence.
“Black entertainers would be vastly more useful if they would begin to courageously speak out against institutional racism and white supremacy.”
However, what about white violence? White violence has taken millions upon millions upon millions of lives. Euro-Americans have been responsible for tens of millions (at least) killed during the Atlantic Slave Trade, and tens of millions (at least) of Native Americans killed during the theft and plunder of North America. This does not include the tens of millions (at least) of people of color who have been brutally killed by white people throughout the rest of the globe. Given these facts, why are African/black people often labeled as habitually violent? The legacy of white supremacy is the answer.
Perhaps white people should begin to hold press conferences telling other whites that they need to start focusing their attention on the brutal violence others within their communities have been committing for a long, long time. In the meantime, African/black athletes and entertainers, like Richard Sherman, should stop focusing attention on themselves, as examples of people who have gotten out of the “hood,” and start focusing on the masses who continue to suffer from institutional racism.
Richard Sherman and other African/black entertainers would be vastly more useful if they would begin to courageously speak out against institutional racism and white supremacy. Their celebrity could be put to good use raising consciousness about these issues. African/black fans of these entertainers need to use social media to remind them that they have a responsibility to their communities to speak out against injustice, instead of serving as a footstools for mainstream white America. After all, if we don’t pressure these misguided African athletes and actors, then who will?