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Column: For black athletes, wealth doesnt equal freedom

IN THE US, theres a substantial sort of public insistence that ones freedom is fundamentally linked with ones wealth.

A lot of the united states views America via an aspirational and transformative lens, a colorblind and bias-free utopia, wherein wealth conveys equality and acts as a panacea for social and racial ills. Once a person achieves massive financial success, roughly the message goes, she or he will transcend the scourge of economic and racial inequality, truly becoming free.

Employed in parallel with this particular reverence because of this colorblind version of the American Dream may be the belief that economic privilege mandates patriotic gratitude. Across industries and disciplines, Americans are told to love their nation uncritically, be thankful they are exceptional enough to call home in a country which allows citizens the chance to attain astronomical heights of economic prosperity.

For the nations black citizens, theres often yet another racialized presumption lurking beneath the surface of the concepts: the idea that black success and wealth demands public silence on systemic issues of inequality and oppression.

They are durable and fragile ideologies that prop up the idea of the American Dream durable because they’re encoded in the fabric of American culture (most Americans, including African Americans, have readily embraced these ideologies as assumed facts); yet fragile because its all too easy to understand thatones economic privilege is really a lousy barrier against both individual and systemic discrimination and oppression.

Consequently, black folks have also been being among the most vocal challengers of the ideologies, as weve seen lately with the Colin Kaepernick and the NFL #TakeAKnee demonstrations. In a show of solidary with the free agent quarterback, professional football players almost all whom are black have already been kneeling through the National Anthem as a way of protesting racial injustice and police brutality.

WATCH:NFL players synergy in defiance and solidarity

In the last couple of weeks, the president of america has taken renewed focus on the inherent tensions define the ideologies of the American Dream through his repeated public criticisms of the kneeling NFL players.

In case a player wants the privilege of earning huge amount of money in the NFL, or other leagues, Trump recently tweeted, she or he shouldn’t be permitted to kneel. Labeling the protestors actions disrespectful to the united states, flag and anthem, President Donald Trump has needed players to be fired, encouraged a boycott of the NFL, insisted that the league pass a rule mandating that players are a symbol of the anthem and derided the protestors as sons of bitches.

In a dramatic ploy more befitting of a scripted reality tv program, the president gloated he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence to go out of an Indianapolis Colts game as soon as any player kneeled. This is an orchestrated show of power and outrage, made to send a flamboyant political message considering that Trump and Pence knew beforehand that on that one day, the Colts were playing the SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA 49ers the team that currently gets the most protestors. The NFLs announcement this week that the league does not have any plans to penalize protesting players may be the latest event to provoke the presidents fury; taking to social media marketing during the morning hours, he once more equated kneeling with total disrespect for the country.

As much have described, the presidents moralizing outrage toward the NFL players is selective and deeply flawed his apparent patriotic loyalty hasnt stopped the billionaire politician from criticizing removing Confederate statues, or attacking a Gold Star family, or mocking Sen. John McCains military service.

The NFL players and their defenders have repeatedly stated that the protests are designed to highlight racial inequality and oppression. Theyve also explained that their decision to kneel emerged from the need to protest peacefully and respectfully following a sustained conversation with military veterans.

Trump has chosen to ignore these rationales and the structural issues of inequality that motivate the protests and instead, advance a narrative exclusively worried about overt displays of American patriotism and the privilege of the NFL players. As you of presidents advisors explained, by aggressively targeting the NFL players, Trump believes he is winning the cultural war, havingmade black millionaire sport athletes his new [Hillary Clinton].

READ MORE:As Americas sport, the NFL cannot escape politics

Its a cynical statement, revealing the presidents perception of the jingoism of his base of supporters who envision him as a crusader for American values and symbols.

In casting the black protestors because the antithesis of most of the, Trump has marked the players as unpatriotic elites and enemies of the country. For a president who has consistently fumbled his way through domestic and foreign policy since he was elected, a culture war between hard-working and virtuous working-class and middle-class white Americans and rich, ungrateful black football players is really a welcome public distraction.

Trumps attacks on the NFL protestors are rooted in those competing tensions inherent to the American Dream: that wealth equals freedom; that economic privilege demands patriotic gratitude; & most importantly, that black peoples individual economic prosperity invalidates their concerns about systemic injustice and requires their silence on racial oppression.

On the list of protestors detractors, it has turn into a common type of attack, a way of disparaging the black NFL players activism by pointing with their apparent wealth. The truth that systemic racism is demonstrably real and that each prosperity will not make one immune to racial discrimination is apparently lost on the protestors critics.

Theirs is really a grievance that shows that black athletes ought to be grateful to call home in this country; that racism cant exist in the us since black professional athletes are permitted to play and sign contracts for considerable sums of money; that black players owe the country their silence since America gave them opportunity and access; that black athletes haven’t any moral authority on issues of race and inequality because of the individual success; and that black athletes success was never theirs to earn, but rather, was given in their mind and can in the same way easily be studied away.

This culture war being waged over black athletes isn’t new. Black athletes and entertainers have always been hyper-aware of these peculiar invest American society as individuals beloved for his or her athletic and artistic talents, yet reviled as soon as they use their public platform to protest systemic racial inequality. The parallels between your #TakeAKnee protests and the protests of Muhammad Ali or John Carlos and Tommie Smith are readily apparent; so too is there important similarities to the case of Paul Robeson.

An outspoken civil rights activist, collegiate and professional football player, lawyer, opera singer and actor, Robeson had his passport revoked in 1950 due to his political activism and speech actions that but destroyed his career. The star athlete and entertainer, who had exemplified American upward mobility quickly became public enemy number 1 as institutions cancelled his concerts, the general public needed his death and anti-Robeson mobs burned effigies of him.

Throughout a 1956 congressional hearing, the chairman of the home Committee on Un-American Activities beat a familiar refrain with Robeson, challenging the entertainers accusations of American racism and racial oppression. He saw no sign of prejudice, he argued, since Robeson was privileged, having attended elite universities and playing collegiate and professional football.

READ MORE:Poll: Americans divided on NFL protests

Black athletes, even the silent ones, largely recognize that their economic privilege doesnt insulate them from the realities of racial discrimination. In addition they recognize that their wealth and success is precarious and is frequently dependent not merely upon their athletic performance, but additionally upon them remaining silent on issues of racial injustice, especially the ones that may actually question the American Dream or implicate the American public by association.

It will come as no real surprise then that Colin Kaepernick, whose protests turned him right into a national pariah despite his on-the-field talents, has filed a grievance contrary to the NFL, accusing the league and its own teams of blackballing him due to his political beliefs. Principled and peaceful political protest, Kaepernicks lawyers argued in a statement, shouldn’t be punished and athletes shouldn’t be denied employment predicated on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government. If the ostracized Kaepernick will win his grievance is unknown, nonetheless it is obviously telling he and his lawyers have rooted their claims in contested definitions of freedom and the precarious economic privilege of outspoken NFL players.

For the loudest & most vocal critics of black protestors, specifically, outspokenness is tantamount to treason, grounds for the harshest of punishments. Perhaps they might benefit from a detailed reading of James Baldwin, who once argued: I really like America a lot more than any country nowadays, and, exactly because of this, I insist upon the proper to criticize her perpetually.

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