Last week, despite irrefutable video evidence of an unjustifiable homicide, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking Eric Garner to death. The grand jury's message was loud and clear. They told the world that black life is worthless. They told the world that police have a license to kill black people with impunity. They told the world that it is open season on black people.
During Eric Garner's last seconds of life, he repeatedly said, "I can't breathe." Yet, the police officers remained on top of him and continued to hold him down on hard sidewalk. The brother's last words have become a rallying cry of today's human rights movement. Nationwide, a diverse group of young people are engaging in acts of civil disobedience to protest against injustice and police brutality. That movement has touched the world.
It has even penetrated an enclave that has been closed to politics for far too long, the sports arena. For decades, in the face of racism and injustice, most black athletes have remained silent. Despite all of their physical prowess, they have been rendered impotent like eunuchs when it comes to addressing black issues. They have sold their manhood and their souls for fame and fortune. For example, people like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan "protect" their brands by avoiding discussion of any racial issues. By remaining silent, they have betrayed their people.
Even worst than that, some like, Charles Barkley, have voluntarily played the role of mouthpieces for white supremacy. That imbecile actually tried to rationalize and justify police brutality and racial profiling.
However, there is a glimmer of hope. After weeks of negative press about black athletes abusing their wives, girlfriends and children, there is finally some positive news. At least for this brief moment, several famous athletes such as LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Reggie Bush, the Saint Louis Rams and others have finally taken a brave stand against injustice. They have expressed solidarity with the movement by wearing "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts. Some have taken a stand by making the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" gesture at games. That gesture has been used as a symbol to demand justice for Mike Brown.
By engaging in such actions, those brothers are telling the world that the grand juries in Staten Island and Ferguson were dead wrong. Those are telling the world that those killer cops should have been indicted. Those brothers are telling the world that black lives do matter.
Many of those athletes were probably motivated in part by their own encounters with the police. Many of them have probably been stopped and harassed by police for driving an expensive car while black.Many of them have probably been stopped and harassed for being in a rich, white, gated community while black. They see themselves when they see Eric Garner and Mike Brown. They see their brothers, sons and nephews when they see Eric Garner and Mike Brown.
Celebrities have great influence. Unlike this blog which only reaches a few dozen people, these athletes reach millions. Obviously, wearing a T-shirt or making hand gestures is not going to end police brutality and racial profiling overnight. Nonetheless, it is an important step in the right direction. At the very least, such action helps further a much needed dialogue about racism and police brutality. Perhaps, it will inspire more young people to march and protest. Instead of using their brand to sell products, it is refreshing to see celebrities use their brands to demand justice.
I am proud of those athletes for continuing the legacy of brave people like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown. I have much respect for each and every one of them. If any companies stop endorsing these brothers, we need to stop endorsing those companies.