Racial Justice or “Money and Fame”. What’s More Important?

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“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Right after the 2019 Super Bowl ended, I wrote an op-ed on The Independent which described my immediate reaction to the game/halftime show (thanks to Alex, Sydney, Molly, and Juliana from Change.org for helping me out).

I also had another op-ed on a burning topic I wanted to release but decided to hold out.

That was until I saw this recent interview between legendary comedians Steve Harvey and Mo’Nique.

For those that haven’t followed, back in 2009 Mo’Nique was paid just $50,000 for her role in the movie Precious (which she won an Oscar for) but refused to attend promotion for the film — which was expected to be free. Lee Daniels, Oprah, Tyler Perry, and Lionsgate Pictures were all involved.

In a separate incident years later, Mo’Nique called for a “Netflix boycott” after being offered just $500,000 for a Netflix special, while Amy Schumer (who had fewer years under her belt) was offered $11 million for her Netflix special.

As a result, Mo’Nique has been blacklisted from Hollywood.

She and Harvey, both part of the Original Kings and Queens of Comedy, spoke about it here:

In a nutshell, Mo’Nique said she would rather stand for integrity than money. Steve Harvey says there’s a different way to attack the problem — without providing an actual solution. Harvey also said he has to “put food on the table, or his family and their children won’t eat”.

This immediately got me thinking about the Colin Kaepernick situation. People said the exact thing about how Kaepernick taking a knee was selfish and that he should’ve found a different way to voice his displeasure.

These same people, however, don’t provide any real solutions on how Kaepernick should voice his displeasure on how police killing unarmed people of color (especially Black people) is a serious issue in our society.

If they do provide a solution, I’m 99.9% certain it wouldn’t be as disruptive as the way Kaepernick did it — kneeling during the National Anthem. This implies they would rather keep the peace more than anything, which is exactly what the power structure wants.

Ultimately, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, each person — no matter their race or gender — has to decide which is more important to them: Racial justice or “money & fame”.

It will be great to have both, but if a decision had to be made between one of the two, which is it? Your decision will dictate how you see these similar movements, and the solutions to them, going forward.

Who am I, and why am I writing this?

I should’ve mentioned this in the 1st paragraph, but my name is Vic and I created two online petitions that created national conversations around this topic: The #NoKaepernickNoNFL petition in 2017, and the Maroon 5/Super Bowl halftime show petition in 2018.

A total of 330,000+ people have signed these petitions. They are important to me because it centered around racial justice, money, fame, and a major sport Americans really love — football.

In the end, the results of both petitions would rely on choosing between either racial justice or “money and fame”.

For the #NoKaepernickNoNFL petition, we wanted to lower the TV ratings so sponsors would consider pulling out, getting the NFL Owner’s attention until they allow Kaepernick back on the field. The NFL players were close to taking a real stand, creating a group called The Players’ Coalition.

However, dissension in the group caused some of the founding members to back out, while the remaining members signed a 7 yr/ $89 million deal with the NFL Owners, the same people who banned Kaepernick.

Ultimately, 2 seasons have passed since the petition and Kaepernick still isn’t on a roster. He didn’t even get a tryout call. However, the NFL players, who are nearly 70% Black and the very people Kaepernick took a knee for, are still playing instead of boycotting.

Why?

For the Maroon 5/Super Bowl petition, we wanted Maroon 5 to back out of the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show to protest the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. The halftime show draws big ratings for the NFL since it would attract casual fans, and backing out would make a major statement.

During the petition, a report came out that many Black performers turned down Maroon 5’s request to perform with them, and it seemed like Maroon 5 would have no choice but to back out as well.

That was until Travis Scott and Big Boi decided to join.

(Side note: They all represent Irving Azoff’s Full Stop Management company. Why hasn’t anyone questioned Azoff’s role in this?)

Ultimately, although we asked them to #TakeAKnee during their performance, all they did was write the word “knell” in a ball that no one saw during the telecast.

Why?

In the end, it comes down to deciding between racial justice or “money and fame”. In both instances, “money and fame” prevailed. If racial justice prevailed, the NFL players would’ve boycotted until Kaepernick got a spot back, and the whole Maroon 5 issue wouldn’t have happened. So why are the principal people in all of this choosing “money and fame”?

It’s because of fear. Fear of losing their jobs. Fear of losing their money. Fear of not being able to take care of their families (and friend’s families). Fear of losing everything.

Do you know who else had fear?

The freedom riders of the early 1960s for bus integration across state lines.

The people who marched in Selma in 1965 for voting rights.

The bus riders in Montgomery, Alabama in the mid-1950s for bus desegregation.

The NBA All-Star players in 1964 for a player’s union.

Jonathan Butler in 2015, who had a hunger-strike to fire a racist president at the University of Missouri

Colin Kaepernick, who risked his career to call out police brutality in 2016.

These people had courage. Courage for systemic change to happen. They knew they may lose everything, but felt something had to be done about it.

The people who were afraid to lose their jobs and money in the moment of decision are cowards — because when push comes to shove they would rather keep the “status quo” than have the courage to join a movement for change.

They would rather go for “money and fame” than racial justice. It’s just the way it is, unfortunately.

Dr. Martin Luther King calls these people the “white moderate” in his famous 1963 Letter From Birmingham Jail:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the “white” moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”

Except, in this case, I would take away the word “white” and just leave the word “moderate”, but today’s moderate comes in all races.

What can we do about it?

So let’s say you decide to take the “racial justice” route, meaning you possibly forego future income/opportunities to stand for what’s right. What’s next for you?

I believe you can choose one (1) of three (3) ways to get back on your feet:

  1. Fight to get accepted back into the company that banned you.
  2. Create your own company/platform
  3. Join a company/platform that believes what you believe in.

The 1st one, fight to get accepted back into the company that banned you, is what Kaepernick is doing right now. Will that work? It remains to be seen (note: as of 2/15/19, Kaepernick’s collusion case against the NFL has been settled).

The 2nd one, create your own company/platform, is self-explanatory, so I won’t get into it.

The 3rd one, join a company/platform that believes in what you believe in, is what I’ll like to talk about. But in order for this to work, there is one golden rule you have to remember:

Don’t worry about “race” when choosing a company/platform to join. This golden rule is paramount!

I’m not saying don’t work with people from your own race. I’m saying don’t make race the #1 factor when choosing a company/platform to join.

The truth is, not everyone who looks like you will be for you — especially if that person is in a highly-paid position. In fact, they may be the worst allies since they would do anything to keep their status-quo.

This includes destroying your cause (see the Steve Harvey / Mo’Nique video above).

The best allies to work with are the ones who have good character and believe in what you believe in. Find them and work with them.

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

For example, I use Lyft for ride-sharing instead of the more popular Uber, because Lyft’s values align more with mine (for example, Lyft offers free rides to historical sites during Black History Month).

The power to choose any company to work with is one we all possess, and we should all use that power. Find companies that align with yours, and join them.

You may not get paid as much, but if you use your resources to improve the company’s standing, hopefully, your salary will rise.

What if there’s isn’t another company to work within your field? Then find like-minded people regardless of race and create/build together!

For football, this might be starting a new football league or joining one that already has the values you’re looking for.

You won’t get paid as much as before, but the potential for the company to be great in the long run will be more satisfying than taking money from an oppressor because — in this instance — you’re working for a purpose.

If the cards are played right, you’ll be well compensated.

In this case, you would have chosen both racial justice and “money and fame”.

So what I am saying is…

Doing this is possible, but it takes courage to make the first step (standing up for what you believe in, no matter the cost).

Unfortunately, most people don’t have that courage.

They will keep the status quo to work within the current oppressive system they’re in because they fear losing out on everything.

So to all of the people who want the system to change, maybe you should get out of your current system and build/join another one.

Align with people regardless of race, but of character.

That way, you will be able to truly succeed in a world that wasn’t meant for you to succeed.

So what’s more important: racial justice or “money and fame”?

The choice is yours.

Choose wisely, the next generation is watching.

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Larry Lawton
1 year ago

I have one quibble. People should stand up for Justice. Not just racial justice. I agree people need first to seek their own justice and Black people should be most concerned with racial justice — but no one should ignore evil in any form. Evil flourishes when good people let it. Evil withers when confronted by good people.

I was an activist and organizer in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I am gay (and white) and gay civil rights was my first issue — but from the beginning we also included justice for women and for Black people (some are gay also), and I also got into the anti-war movement because, again, it was about fighting for justice! I still fight for civil rights and against warmongering and imperialism, here and around the world. My main activism now is for the environment. All these fights are connected. There won’t be racial or civil rights justice without climate and environmental justice, and vice versa. Too many activists and organizations focus solely on their own fight and waste the chance to join the general justice movement. (And yes you should require reciprocity if you support other movements! I always did.)

I always chose doing what is right over money or popularity. Thus I don’t have much money, but I have a few close friends and my integrity. (By being honest and being a good worker, I did earn enough for my needs, which are not extensive.) In addition, I have nothing I am ashamed of in my life. No regrets as far as choices I made when it mattered. To me it is more important to have integrity and nurture my spirit than to have material or social success.

But others need to make this choice for themselves — and not be coerced into doing what others think is right for them. But I will say this. If you choose to defy the rich and powerful in pursuit of justice, you may be shut out from social and material rewards, as I was. Don’t be deceived: if you work for justice, and especially if you get attention (which is the point!), you should not expect social and material success. Though you might still succeed despite the obstacles. But being a hero, or just being a good human being, is both hard and risky. Value the rewards which are great! But don’t ignore the costs either. And remember all of us who fight for justice are fighting for the same goals, even if it is not immediately obvious.

As the saying goes: if we don’t hang together, we will surely all hang separately!

Brian Balk
1 year ago

Thank you, great ideas. It also would be great to have an ongoing stream of. Or only ideas but actual “alt-“ systems and organizations to join and support while simultaneously pulling support from the status quo.

One other thought about those who ‘sell put’ – $$$ is a big problem and a powerful seduction. The dark side of the force, maybe. Even freedom riders might have sold out for millions of dollars, or even for far less. Are there any effective ways to either take money out of the equation, or to counter-balance or outweigh it? There will always be a Judas.

Thanks for your leadership and inspiration!