In the moment, it can be impossible to ascertain what the far-reaching effects of that moment will be.
When Obama was elected, we expected change and unity, not the messiest political party this side of Greece. After 9/11 happened, I’m pretty sure only two people expected us to invade Iraq when our enemy was pretty clearly 1,400 miles away in Afghanistan. And I will pay off the college loans of anyone who can prove they predicted, after Sandy Hook, that the long-term effect on our gun laws would be “nothing.”
When Ferguson and Baltimore were happening, many people asked “where are the voices of our role models?” They asked where Jay and Nas were. Where Iggy was. Where Nelly was (but honestly who cares what Nelly’s doing?). Where our sports heroes were. Goshdarnit, did anyone famous care about what was happening to us?
These questions, while understandable, were a bit unfair.
In the moment, it’s not easy to determine how your art or celebrity can help. How was anyone to know what a moment would ultimately lead to? But recently – months after the initial protests – we have been able to see just how this unrest has affected us and our role models:
We’ve become unapologetically Black.
Like tar baby Black. Lawry’s Black. Chitlins-simmered-in-purple-kool-aid-smoking-a-loosie Black.
As a collective ethnicity, we finally realized that respectability politics is about as effective as trickle down economics. Why try to suppress or stifle who we are if others are going to see what they want anyway?
As celebrities shared our (read: regular folks’) collective dismay with White People Stuff small and large, a rise in Black Pride began to materialize at levels not seen since Flava Flav was woke. It’s appeared in all facets of life, and with all types of role models. Sports has been no different.
Somewhere between Trayvon Martin and LaQuan Treadwell, the Black sports world moved into pole “Fuck it” position right before our eyes.
- Before the Super Bowl, Cam Newton just said “fuck it” and addressed the elephant in the room: that he’s a black quarterback, playing not just as a black quarterback but as a down black quarterback – and people have trouble seeing the position in that light.
- Serena Williams just said “fuck it” and embraced her black body (which has been shamefully criticized by people of all races, in all types of media), showing it off in New York Magazine. She also returned to Indian Wells – the site of a 2001 racial incident that rocked her to the core – in part because she was inspired by Ferguson:
“Her return to Indian Wells presented a new opportunity. Williams knew that media coverage would be enormous, and Michael Brown’s age resonated with her. ‘I had been a teenager at Indian Wells, and that was hard for me to go through—especially when I was thinking, It’s 2001, I [shouldn’t] have to deal with that stuff as much anymore,’ she says. ‘Now fast-forward to 2015, and we still have young black men being killed. Someone needed to do something. And I thought then that there was something greater than me and tennis. I needed to go back there and speak out against racism’.”
- Sophina DeJesus, a member of the UCLA Women’s gymnastics team, just said “fuck it” and performed the blackest routine possible during a conference meet. All while competing in a sport that doesn’t often take kindly to certain kinds of expression. Guess what happened: She brought the damn house down.
- And of course, Beyonce used the largest stage possible in her ultimate “fuck it” moment – the Super Bowl halftime show – to promote not only her new single but highlight the unapologetic Blackness contained within it. Naturally the conservative whaaaaambulance traveled all over the country, picking up “victims” who found a new Thing to Boycott after being distracted away from Sam’s Club, Target, and Starbucks.
Now, I’m definitely all for this Black Pride, but I hope that we all remember that Black Pride doesn’t equal hate for other races. It’s not a zero-sum game; you can love others and love yourself at the same time. Because after all, this Neo-Black Pride is itself its own moment. And the last thing we need are some more unexpected consequences (*ahem* All Lives Matter) by those who want to twist it for anything more than what it is: a strong love of self and pride in our Blackness.