We can all agree that the current climate dictated the outcome of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. The end of year ritual is performed through the lenses of those who’ve managed to garner attention for their heroism or ability to stir the pot in ways that muster global interest.
The #MeToo movement, which was created by a Black woman — Tarana Burke, who was inspired after listening to a harrowing tale of abuse from a young Black girl — was popularized by Alyssa Milano — a White actress who is now the official face of the movement even though she didn’t create the now fledging and symbolic hashtag.
There is no doubt that Time magazine’s choice is an emotional one for many victims both public and private who’ve had to endure the brutal consequences that are applied to anyone — that has been taken advantage of and abandoned as a reckless afterthought. And even as the breaking news filtered in with the iconic cover showcasing the women at the forefront of the ongoing crisis — there was a sinking feeling of disappointment that crept over me — particularly after I noticed the inclusion of Fox News alum and current NBC News newbie Megyn Kelly.
Kelly represents the population of White women that give me reason to be less of the person I really am — in terms of character and overall decorum. She can’t ever be forgiven for her blatant bigotry, which she utilized to her advantage during her days at Fox — when she supposedly fell victim to the unwanted advances from her boss — the late Roger Ailes. Her remarkably vile scolding of Black children all over America for daring to believe in a Black Santa or Brown Jesus Christ was both unsettling and unnecessarily vicious — particularly when you consider that Kelly is also a mother.
But, Kelly’s criminal offense has to be her insensitive mockery of Sandra Bland — the young Black woman in her late twenties — who was pulled over by a state trooper for a traffic violation and ended up being violently yanked out of her car and carted off to jail — where she died — three days later. Kelly viciously used her platform on Fox to demonize Bland by branding her “the angry Black woman” who got exactly what she asked for when she exercised her rights as a tax-paying citizen.
Witnessing a White woman with all her majestic privilege — publicly condemn a Black woman who died because of her branded guilt, which succumbed her to the fate of being systematically assassinated was unbearable and disheartening — and made me loath Kelly with every fiber of her being.
So, of course her ill-advised addition to the illustrious list of high-profile victims and activists — doesn’t sit well with me and forces me to be the petty bitch — who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge Time’s choice for 2017.
Instead — I choose the incomparable Colin Kaepernick as my Person of the Future.
Kaepernick was on the short list of qualifiers and in my opinion he personifies all the qualities of an unrelenting warrior who is willing to take a stand against the normalized injustice that has claimed victims like Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and countless others — who have left their mark on the streets of America while their souls hover-in-waiting for the delivery of well-deserved justice.
Kaepernick — an American football quarterback, formerly with the San Francisco 49ers — began his rise to prominence on the field of dreams with the conscious act of sitting down while the national anthem played before the start of a game. This went against the staunchly recognized tradition of standing. When probed about his controversial stance — Kaepernick offered this response:
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick was undeterred by the criticism that followed and continued his mission of inciting social change by kneeling during the “49ers’ final 2016 preseason game on September 1, 2016.” When asked why he switched to kneeling — the honorable athlete explained that his decision was inspired by a conversation he had with Nate Boyer, a military veteran and former NFL player, which encouraged his need to show respect to “former and current U.S. military members.”
As Kaepernick’s actions began to breed a high-level of societal response and admiration — our Commander-in-Chief predictably inserted himself in the conversation with the revolting gusto that has become his signature move. Trump publicly blasted Kaepernick with a series of insults that included:
“I think it’s personally not a good thing. I think it’s a terrible thing,” “And, you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try. It won’t happen.”
The irony of Trump’s response rests in the fact that as a White male with racist tendencies who hails the pathetic efforts of White supremacists who march around with tiki torches — he is blissfully removed from the harrowing experience of Black America. It’s the benefit of White Americans that they get to distantly observe all the reasons why this country works out more to their comfort— compared to consistently tortured marginalized groups.
The ratings during the NFL season left a lot to be desired and President Trump heaped most of the blame on Kaepernick, which was a cheap shot, but when you consider the source — it’s impossible to feign disbelief.
Kaepernick is currently a free agent and recently “filed a grievance against the NFL” which alleges that “he remains unsigned as a result of collusion by owners following his protest.”
In the midst of this fated disruption is the realization that this burgeoning activist is fast becoming the voice of his generation and the fiery beacon of the future. All it took was a commitment to a cause that couldn’t be ignored regardless of the cost to his reputation or career.
At the prolific age of thirty — Kaepernick has achieved the status that will propel him to heights that will far exceed anything he could’ve managed on the field under the dictation of cowardly coaches that evidently can’t handle the pressures of a athlete with superhero tendencies.
Kaepernick has been garnering a handful of honors for his willingness to give the middle finger to the establishments that cater to the mission of making sure that Black Lives don’t matter. And when superstar Beyonce took time out from her newborn twins to present Kaepernick with the Sport’s Illustrated’s Muhammed Ali Legacy Award earlier this week — the humble activist promised to keep at it — until Black bodies stop polluting the streets of America:
“With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people.”
Legendary sportsman and last year’s winner of the same award — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also known for his jarring honesty, which he expresses through journalistic endeavors. Abdul-Jabbar took part in Tuesday night’s ceremony via a video tribute where he perfectly articulated why Kaepernick deserves to be revered for generations to come:
“He fully embraced the risk to his career in order to remind Americans of the systemic racism that was denying African-Americans their opportunities to equal education, jobs, health and even their lives.”
Activism can take varying forms, and there are some who have allocated the meaning of that word to writers like me — who frequently tackle the destructive role that racism plays in minimizing the value of those who are most vulnerable. For me, I can’t in good conscience label myself an “activist” simply because of my specialized brand of expression or the tweets and retweets that I shell out in the luxury of my home.
Sacrifice is an act of love that demands a lot more than most are willing to give — especially when the stakes are high and everyone’s watching. As a Black woman who remains incensed and heartbroken at the pile of victims that resemble me — I can’t say with confidence that I’ve done my very best to protest against the raging machine that keeps churning the remnants of those that keep getting caught — based on the practiced biases that give White people the audacity to be willfully ignorant.
Kaepernick initiated his journey without the security of a band of brothers or the cushion of high-powered folks echoing his sentiments. He was the lone soldier who makes Rambo look like a pussy and he looks mighty good in his “Woke” gear as he blazes through the jungle of ignorance — armed with the artillery of futuristic accomplishments that have already been readied for those to come.
His love for his community and the touching ways he demonstrates those emotions without hesitation — and with the level of defiance that is almost unmatchable by those who claim to share his disposition is the reason why he should’ve been Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” — but then again — such a title doesn’t do enough justice to a man who still has a lot of work to do.
The world is a much better place with Colin Kaepernick in it — and the years to come will prove us right.