We interrupt your regularly scheduled decor blogging to bring you this… and it may be a little lengthy, with about three closings, like a preacher in Black Church, haha!!! Ok, just trying to keep it light as I share some thoughts that have me compelled to put words to blog.
Sooooo, the 52nd Super Bowl aired this past Sunday. I did not watch. I had to take some time to gather my thoughts on a few things before I could begin to compile them into this post. Like everyone else, I am a willing participant on various social media platforms, so it would have been hard to miss all the boycott hashtags that ensued in response to the obvious NFL shut out of former player Colin Kaepernick for his “taking a knee” during the National Anthem, in protest of the unjust killing of people of color by police officers.
Here is a young man who felt so strongly about what he believed in that he decided to take a stand, or in this instance, take a knee. This type of quiet protest is not new. There was Muhammed Ali in 1967, who was fined $10,000, stripped of his championship title and banned from boxing for three years for refusing to enlist for the Vietnam war.
There were two men at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith, a gold medalist, and John Carlos, a bronze medalist, who infamously, with bowed heads, raised their fists as a symbol of Black power and in protest of racism and injustice during the playing of the National Anthem.
In 2014 NBA teams protested by breaking their dress code before games, wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during pre-game warm-ups to bring awareness to police brutality in the wake of the murder of Eric Garner by a police officer. “I Can’t Breathe” were his last words.
And since then, many college and professional, men’s and women’s teams have stood together in unity during the singing of the National Anthem in protest, be it about inequality and injustice in general or a specific movement like Black Lives Matter.
The point is, they stood together. And that brings me back to all those hashtags about boycotting the NFL over the unfair judgement and blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick. #boycottnfl #nflboycott #boycottthenfl #takeaknee, #colin, #colinkaepernick, #nationalanthem, etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. Once the One after 44 (what I call the person currently occupying the once prestigious and highest office of the land), got involved via Twitter and provided his comments, referencing the player(s) as “son of a bitch,” reinforced the real reason for the protest in the first place. My favorite tweeted response was from Colin Kaepernick’s Mom:
Now that was a “mic drop” moment! But unfortunately, the one after 44’s remarks, tweets and insertion of himself into the discussion shifted the focus of it all. He perverted the protest by making it about patriotism. But it was never about the flag. It was never about the National Anthem… (which by the way, if you know and understand the history of the meaning of the song, it’s very racist, but I’ll leave that for you to google later.) It was about police officers killing unarmed Black people. Period.
So it wasn’t that difficult for me to boycott the NFL games once the idea was presented to me. I may watch a game or two now and then, and I always watch the Super Bowl if not for the game, for the ads and the half-time show. I know there are some die-hard football fans who this has been quite the stretch for. I witnessed all the support for the boycott as the season progressed; saw the tweets, viewed the Instagram posts, scrolled through them on my Facebook feed. And then came Sunday… Super Bowl Sunday, and all of a sudden, the posts were about which team you were supporting, and where you were going to watch, and can you believe they got the nerve to have Justin Timberlake perform at half-time after what “they” did to Janet?! I’ll get to JT in a minute. There are a couple things, in my humble opinion, that make a protest a real protest. One… such commitment to what you believe in that you are willing to go against political correctness or break a rule to be heard, seen and of effect. Two… it must be a collective action. It’s only when the masses of people with a shared passion for a protest come together in solidarity does a protest become effective. So while Colin Kaepernick’s NFL Employee/Player handbook may say “all players must stand during the national anthem”, the law of the land in Rosa Parks’ time was that no Colored person should sit in the front of a bus, yet she did it anyway, and it sparked the most iconic and infamous form of social protest in our history to date. Iconic and effective, because EVERYONE participated.
I dare say that Colin’s efforts may have been more effective and more iconic for the change and not the act of kneeling had he had more comrades join him on his mission. How awesome would it have been if every Black player had of taken the risk, assumed their position on their knee “beside him” at games across the country? And how awesome would it have been if we all would have held the NFL boycott through the Super Bowl? Shattered ratings? (I pause, take a deep breath…) And now on to JT.
It seems a lot of people felt some kinda way about Justin Timberlake being selected to perform at this year’s Super Bowl half-time, and ultimately about the performance itself. I was “in my feelings” (as the youngin’s say), moreso about the former than the latter. I’ll keep this short… well maybe. It was 2004. Janet was headlining that year’s Super Bowl half-time show, produced by MTV. JUSTIN was surprise-guest-appearing. JUSTIN sings the final lyrics of HIS song “Rock Your Body,” “Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song.” JUSTIN rips off a piece of clothing which revealed Janet’s nipple for a little more than half a second. And yes, I know there’s been much speculation as to whether she and/or she and her guest orchestrated it, but that’s not the point. Regardless of whether they planned it or not, it happened, and it happened to Janet. Justin walked away without incident to him while Janet received the full weight of the backlash. The un-invite from CBS to present at The Grammy’s where Justin won an award and was allowed to perform; Janet’s forced video apology, Justin’s sufficient statement only; The blacklisting of Janet’s music and videos of her next album on all of Viacom’s (owner of CBS) platforms, including MTV and VH1, while Justin’s new album and career rose.
It left a bad taste in my mouth then, to see once again, the unfairness and double-standard towards women in the entertainment industry, and that a comrade, a mentee of sorts, and someone considered to be a friend (by Janet’s own admission) would leave her to fend for herself over something he ultimately caused and was responsible for. So it’s her fault he didn’t perform the “choreography” (wink wink) correctly?” That was then. The bad taste began to return after learning that JT had been invited back to perform this year. But I as many people thought, surely Janet would be a surprise guest. Why else would they invite Justin, if not to also bringing back Janet? When it became clear that that was not going to happen, the #justiceforjanet was born, leading up to Super Bowl Sunday’s #janetappreciationday. This was like throwing salt on a wound that hadn’t quite healed. Now no one really knows what has or hasn’t gone on between them since. Janet and JT may have very well talked and are perfectly fine with each other personally. But professionally in general, there is still a long way to go to overcome male and white privilege within the entertainment realm. Janet Jackson is a legend; an icon. One thing she did single-handedly orchestrate is the presentation of music for female artists in live and video performances, copied by superstars who came along much later like Brittany Spears, Rihanna, Beyonce, and every other girl solo performer to follow her. So Miss Jackson will be just fine.
I finally watched this year’s half-time performance a couple days later, and it was okay. Not fantastically mind-blowing or phenomenal, but it was good. I read the varying opinions of his tribute to Prince. All I have to say about that is, when you’re as supernaturally gifted as Prince, there really is no such thing as a proper tribute. We don’t want to hear you harmonize with his video. Well, I guess JT fans do, but certainly not true fans of Prince. Just turn on a purple light and let his song or video play.
The most underlying point of all the hoopla surrounding this performance is the blatant evidence of forgiveness and pardon for white artists that have appropriated Black culture, style and music, that is non-existent for the authors, creators and owners of that culture. Stephanie Mills said it best in the beginning of her TVOne Sister Circle interview here. A great interview, full of truths where she stated that “they want R&B, but they don’t want it from us. They want it from Adele and Justin Timberlake. Not us.” I’ll close with that. And now… the doors of the church are open.