If you had a chance to hear my segment on Tuesday, I spoke about how we are clearly at a point as a people in this country where we have to take some essential issues into our own hands. I spoke specifically about disaster relief and how we have to stop giving to organizations like the Red Cross and start giving to our own initiatives. I spoke about injustice in America and how we have to fight for our freedom and well-being by tracking down white supremacists and bigots and brutal cops ourselves.
And at the root of that is power. I concluded my segment by unpacking the difference between potential and power. We’re often confusing these two things. They aren’t the same. Power is when you organize and make use of your potential. Right now, our potential blows my mind, but our power trickles down like a leaky sink.
And so this morning I want to continue to unpack for us how we go from potential to power. Let me share two quick lessons.
The first lesson is this: You teach people how to treat you. Let me repeat that – you teach people how to treat you.
Yesterday it leaked that the NFL offered the rapper Jay Z a spot to perform at the Super Bowl and that he said no. He hasn’t come out to confirm it, but here’s what I know – if it wasn’t true – he would’ve come out and denied it immediately. If it wasn’t true – the NFL would’ve come out and debunked it.
I don’t think a rapper has ever turned down the Super Bowl. And it’s interesting that Jay Z turned them down, because at a concert this weekend he made it clear that Colin Kaepernick was on his mind when he dedicated his performance of his new song, The Story of O.J., to Colin.
I think Jay Z turned down the Super Bowl as his own form of protest for how the league has treated Colin Kaepernick. Again, you teach people how to treat you. And what Jay Z is not only teaching the NFL right now, but what he is teaching all of corporate America – is that you can’t mistreat us – then expect us to sing and dance for you. You can’t effectively ban a Black man from the league for taking a peaceful stance against injustice, then expect us to entertain you like it never happened.
Listen – that’s why I think our NFL Boycott is so important. We teach people how they are allowed to treat us and if we give this league a pass on how they’ve treated Colin Kaepernick, then we are basically teaching all of Corporate America that if they mistreat any of us like that that we will still remain loyal consumers of their brands and products. That’s not power.
And that leads me to my final point. One of my favorite scholars of all time is a man by the name of Dr. Amos Wilson. He was a brilliant psychologist who passed away a few years ago, but his books, which you can find on Amazon, have set the foundation for how I see the world. At a conference all the way back in the early 1980s, Dr. Wilson made a profound point that he ended repeating dozens of times over the years.
He said the essence of why white America is able to brutalize and oppress and marginalize and mistreat black folk in this country boils down to three simple words – because they can.
We let them.
I’m sorry if that’s painful to hear. It stung me when I first heard Amos Wilson say it and hear my heart – that’s not saying we deserve what we get – hell no. I don’t think that and Dr. Wilson never thought that. It’s to say that police and politicians and corporations know damn well they could never get away with certain behaviors in privileged white communities so they don’t even try that stuff there. They do it to us – because they can.
And until we flip that – and go from potential to power – and put ourselves in a position to where if you mistreat us – we hold you fully accountable for that mistreatment – if it means boycotting your brand, if it means organizing to oust you out of office, if it means publicly shaming you so that you pay a major price, we cannot let people get away with mistreating us. Ever.
I’ll close with this thought…
Being angry is potential.
Being angry and organized is power.
We have to make sure our organization matches our outrage. And we have to make sure we have plans that line up with our potential.
We’re just getting started!!
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