Kitanya Responds to Comments — 35

Kitanya Harrison
8 min readFeb 9, 2019
Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash

This week, I wrote about how Colin Kaepernick overshadowed the Super Bowl. ATrigueiro had a few questions.

What say you of the “black-washing” of the Super Bowl? MLK’s daughter, and Andrew Young blessed the event et al. With so many black faces, the NFL hopes to inoculate itself against any call of racism, I think. Did it work? Is Kapernick case ONLY about collusion and no longer about social justice, police brutality and freedom to protest etc? I’m curious.

I think the NFL’s tactics were pretty transparent and played only to the middle. The racists hated it, and so did the Kaepernick supporters. I think people have chosen their sides and aren’t moving. It was the lowest rated Super Bowl in years for a reason, though. Part of that might have been Patriots fatigue, the Rams not having a strong fan base, and the controversy over how the Saints were eliminated. But last year’s Super Bowl had a good storyline and was the lowest rated in seven years. This one was even lower. I think there was a Kaepernick effect. I believe some of the decline was people — on both sides of the issue who don’t like how the Kaepernick situation is being handled tuning out.

Kaepernick’s situation is so complicated because it’s about collusion, social justice, police brutality, and freedom to protest all at the same time. There are a lot of moving parts, so people tend to focus on one thing at a time. I think the dates for his trial will be announced soon, so it will be all collusion all the time when he’s discussed. The only person who can tie it all together and steer the narrative is Kaepernick — he has a social media following big enough to essentially be his own newsroom/film studio/publishing house. He seems to value his privacy too much, though.

I also wrote about Liam Neeson’s bizarre “I plotted and almost committed a hate crime” confession. As usual, Marley K. makes a thought-provoking contribution to the discussion.

Nothing surprises me anymore. But what angers me the most about stories like this (and the blackface revelations) is how White men swoop in to tell us we are “overstating facts” and “over-reacting,” and that we need to be more patient, less angry — more forgiving. It’s insensitive and plays right into the overtly racist “Black folks don’t have feelings — they are strong” stereotype or the “White guy deserves a second chance — they made a “youthful” mistake” even though these dudes are 30, 40, 50, and 60-years old.

I’m tired of forgiving because it keeps happening. I’m tired of asking them to do better. I’m tired of asking them to correct their behavior. There is something evil there, generational curses of sorts. They need to resolve their pasts so the world can have a better future. We are suffering too much trauma from these admissions, omissions, lies, and acts of evil.

It really is some sort of generational curse, and it’s one only White people can break. That’s why it’s hard to hold out hope. There’s too much for them to lose from dismantling Whiteness. Neeson’s confession is important, because the violent racism he fantasized about is what a lot of people want to narrow racism down to. It’s what provides cover to everything else by making it all not look so bad in comparison.

I didn’t discuss it in my piece, because I wanted to keep it tight, but we should be talking more about the privilege embedded into the act of Neeson telling that story. The interviewer went along with his redemption arc narrative for a reason, and Neeson knew that’s what would happen. I think the backlash honestly caught him by surprise, because he doesn’t have any sensible Black friends. I hate to throw someone of Jamaica heritage under the bus, but English football legend, John Barnes’s defence of Neeson was pretty disgraceful. There’s a way to say, “I know this man personally, and I believe he’s changed,” without propping up and excusing White supremacy. The truth is that a lot of people (including Neeson) are inserting themselves into conversations they don’t have the range to participate in. They haven’t thought about the issues deeply enough to contribute to public discussions of the matter. (On a side note: This is why I like Cardi B. She knows her limitations. It’s why she’s surpassing them — by putting in the work to push past them.)

And people wonder why the life expectancy of Blacks is lower than everyone else. When you are the most hated, unwanted group of people on earth…how does anyone expect our lives to thrive? We’re hunted like animals, oppressed like slaves, hated more than any other thing on earth. People love dogs more than they love Black people!

This is a little off-topic, but I’ve had the Black people vs. dogs conversation a lot. There are a new laws cropping up all over the world giving animals legal rights that can be defended in court. I firmly believe dogs will have a full complement of enforceable legal rights that are adjudicated equitably before Black people do in the Americas, Western Europe, Australia, etc.

Black men need to step up and speak out for sure. But as a mother of sons, I feel like I need to speak up for them. I love my kids just like the next person, and I don’t want some angry White man to find any old Black guy to kill because 1.) He feels his life is worthless anyway, and 2.) Because he needs to pay one back and the one who offended him is out of reach.

Neeson is a Black mothers nightmare! He’s the kind of evil we can never prepare our sons for.

I honestly don’t know how Black parents in America send their sons out into the world… That first week or so they’re away at sleepaway camp or college or venturing out on their own must be terrifying. And it’s not paranoia. The fears are completely justified.

Sherry Kappel talked about the difficulty of finding a path to forgiveness and reconciliation.

It is somewhat easier for two people to find a way forward, when you can see into their heart and trust where they’re coming from; it is much more difficult for a culture, and individuals in the public eye. What is the way forward — if there even is one; or should there even be? The short answer is, I don’t know. In some cases, I would say most definitely not, as when someone like the governor of VA is caught red-handed (or black faced, as it were) and says Oops, my bad. Certainly I’m mostly sorry I was outed but can’t actually show how I’m a better person now, is unacceptable (that’s the best he can do after 34 years to think about it?!). In particular, these individuals should not continue in a position of responsibility or judgment for the group of people they offended.

But what of the person who confesses of their own free will? What of the person who has nothing to gain by their apology and does so anyway; what if they seek to atone, and what might that look like? What of the passage of time, and how they’ve conducted themselves since their offense? The empath in me struggles; the pragmatist says that there needs to be some kind of path if only so that offenders can see the light and a way toward redemption.

I don’t know what that path looks like, assuming one even believes such a path should exist, and I’m not the one who should be sitting in judgment in any case — I am not the direct victim. And obviously part of the problem has been that white people in general have been way too forgiving. I am, however, interested in the opinions of those who’ve been hurt. Where do we go from here?

I think part of the problem with Neeson’s approach was that he assumed he deserved forgiveness and that it was already granted. That’s part of what I meant when I talked about privilege. I’d tie it back to whether or not you should contact someone you wronged in the past to apologize. Making amends for wrongs you’ve committed is important. However, if it’s just about your own catharsis, the apology is selfish and not meaningful. Particularly if it re-traumatizes the person that was harmed. Restorative justice requires the victims’ participation and consent. That’s another thing about Neeson’s confession that I didn’t like. I think he triggered a lot of Black people, particularly Black men with that story. Because he didn’t commit any violence, he thinks he didn’t hurt anyone. Someone with that thought process has definitely harmed Black people before — just not with premeditated violence. He’s asking us to take his word that he even understands this. I don’t think he does. He said power-walking helped him get over his racism. He literally said he walked his racism off… I’m sorry, but I can’t take that seriously. That’s what I mean about not having the range. This wasn’t a discussion to have during a promo run for a movie. Time, place, and manner: Neeson got that all wrong.

The truth is: I don’t know where to go from here. All the blackface revelations you mentioned in your comment are part of the reason. If people can’t put that together, what is anyone even doing? What’s coming out in the wash is that there really hasn’t been that much progress. I think part of the way forward is to stop focusing on forgiveness as a goal in these discussions. I think that’s another way of putting White people and their feelings first.

I recently saw an interesting exchange on Twitter where people were talking about the “Truth and Reconciliation” process in South Africa. Someone was arguing that the same thing needs to happen in America. The rebuttal, which I found convincing, was that it’s attractive to liberals who are interested in symbolism and not real results grounded in justice. Getting everything on record and forgiving the confessions isn’t going to right any of the historical wrongs (some of them can be righted, through reparations, etc.). It feels like some of the arguments about forgiveness lead to preserving White people’s hold on all the wealth and power. They get to keep everything as long as they say they’re sorry.

Not foregrounding forgiveness isn’t the same thing as being bent on vengeance. Forgiveness is a personal choice; justice is collective — it’s about society.

There was a really interesting exchange on all this in the comments that I obviously can’t reproduce here. If you haven’t, please check it out.

Thanks for reading!

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Kitanya Harrison

*squinting in Nanny of the Maroons* | Read my essay collection, DISPOSABLE PEOPLE, DISPOSABLE PLANET: books2read.com/u/mBOYNv | Rep: Deirdre Mullane