Millionaire Black Athletes refuse to Wink at the Black American Underclass

by Olurotimi Osha

Colin Kaepernick’s courageous stance (kneel) is moral and not for self-aggrandizement. Alternatively, had he chosen the hypocritical path and winked at racial injustice, he could have served as the poster child for the American success story and the trope that “race” is no barrier to success in America. He knew that black athletes before him, who used their success as a platform to protest racial injustice in America, were punished. For instance, the iconic raised black-gloved fists of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Olympics invoked death threats and denied them economic opportunities in America; the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, was stripped of his boxing title and license for refusing to be drafted to fight in Vietnam as he highlighted the persecution of blacks in America. That trope of the successful black athlete has often been abused to minimize the realities of the perpetual black underclass. The underclass is also inadvertently reinforced by the immigrant pipeline.

Concerning the anecdote of the immigrants who sacrificed that their American born children may succeed: What about immigrants who have no children, or whose children pass on before them? Then who reaps the return on their “sacrificial” investment?

Inherent in the anecdote of the immigrant sacrificing, so that their progeny gets to enjoy the full rights of citizenship, equality and justice, is latent even palpable injustice – and a trope that is patently un-American. Many immigrants themselves are citizens, so what are they sacrificing?

The sacrifice of their own rights to opportunity, equality and justice in the land of the free so that their children (which they may never have, and at least have a right not to have) may enjoy American rights and “success?” This trope or “dubious sacrifice” (dubious sacrifice because no first-generation child has requested that her immigrant parents sacrifice their own American and human rights to realize their children’s “American” rights) is winking at injustice or inequities that conflict with the American spirit.

It is the winking that many have asked black American athletes/black America to accept, that most Americans today rightly call out as egregiously un-American. The dubious trope facilitates the creation of a pipeline of a rigid and perpetual underclass of American citizens.

Indeed, there are the remarkable poster child immigrant success stories, not just as an individual but for an entire ethnicity, culture, nationality (even a thorny issue of race?) Amy Chua, the Yale Law Professor and author, acknowledges Iranian Americans in her book “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America,” citing them as (I believe) the second wealthiest average house-hold in America after Indian Americans. Many Iranian Americans like many “ethnic” immigrants fled the political instability of their country and have found remarkable success in the United States by leveraging American opportunity through their industry.

Because immigrants invariably make sacrifices for their American born children – whether they are immigrants from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East or Africa—other groups have similarly found success. The same book that highlights the wealth and success of Iranian Americans, also acknowledges the children of 21st century African immigrants, especially Nigerian Americans as the most educated “ethnic” group in America. The claims are that Nigerian Americans even do at least as well as most Asian American groups economically.

Although most 21st century Nigerian Americans and other Africans are immigrants by choice (by choice because, even their American born children can return to Nigeria, since they know exactly where their parents are from – they “know” their villages/cities and who their relatives are; although Ghana passed a law a long time ago that any African American could automatically be granted Ghanaian citizenship, once he/she seeks it – this is not quite the same as “knowing”), many just like Iranian Americans were forced to flee their homes, because of socioeconomic and political instability, genocide and wars in Africa. Igbo-Nigerians first fled to America in the ‘60s because of the Nigerian civil war. Yoruba-Nigerians like most of my relatives in America, came to study, but because of protracted brutal military dictatorships that led to economic poverty and ethnic unrest in Nigeria, and the immense educational opportunities America offered them, ended up staying and having children here. Again, they have done well here.

But why do I make that distinction between Nigerian Americans and African Americans, since when a rogue cop is terrorizing and abusing an African American, whom he identifies by his skin, he does not ask for his tribe, or ethnic origin or nationality? In fact, to clarify, most African Americans, through DNA studies have Nigerian ancestry (over 60-80 % and even the relics in West Africa are there to tell us.) An African American once corrected me as we were having a discussion, by asking me that how am I certain that I am not a descendant of a kidnapped African American slave? He asked: was it only the unwed male and female African, without a child that was kidnapped and shipped as a slave? Were some young mothers and fathers not dislodged and forced to leave their children behind? Was it only the “virgin” males and females that were kidnapped and unceremoniously transported? Certainly not! It would have been a “complex” detail for the slaver to track. So, I contemplated something new.

But you see there is an invidious pattern of minimizing the impact of slavery, Jim Crow and extant discrimination. I have just stated that most African Americans are descendants of slaves taken from the area of Nigeria or tribes with affinity to Nigeria. They have genetic affinity. Amy Chua cited Nigerian Americans as belonging in the successful and affluent category, and while we have the rarefied billionaires, Oprah, the African American First Lady and wife of the black President of the USA, Barack Obama elite, the Michael Jordan and Robert F. Smith African American billionaires and other successful blacks that are “non-21st century” descendants of African American slaves, for the most part it is a given trope that blacks in America are the American underclass.

Being black is almost assumed as being inextricably linked with economic poverty, limited socioeconomic opportunity and status, and many negatives in America – including the disproportionate victims of abuse by rogue cops.

Nigerian Americans born in America soon follow a pattern given their success, to “marry out” of their “race” (very controversial term and could be racist in itself).  Don’t get me wrong: love is blind, and I am totally in favor; but it comes with its consequences/realities/meanings. It is a common joke among other Africans that most Nigerian Americans have a pattern of marrying out of their races (both men and women) at rates similar to Asian American women, who have the highest rate of “marrying out” of their race in America – almost 40% of them.

Many Nigerian Americans are forced or misled to consider themselves “different” from other blacks. In fact, they are often told that they are different. Which is ironic, given that they share the same “national” origin and “genes.” A racist did a documentary claiming the academic success of Nigerian Americans shows that racism does not really exist in America, but that problems existing within African American communities regarding unemployment and low academic achievement was their own doing.

It was a racist documentary contradicting itself with its insinuations. In fact, by the racist’s argument, African Americans should be outperforming Nigerians since most are mixed with Europeans who are in the racist’s mind “superior.” But of course, the narrative conveniently excludes the bit that most African Americans share European ancestry as well, just like Obama does. (The racist has no argument, just rambles on naked hate and insecurity.)



In summary, I applaud the athletes who are taking a moral stand against racial injustice against other blacks who do not have the means to speak for themselves. Because as a matter of economic practicality, these athletes do not have to. But they have chosen the more substantive moral imperative to speak up. Colin Kaepernick can be a “don’t rock the boat good guy” and just wink at racism. If a rogue cop happens to pull him over, when driving while black and he recognizes him, he’ll ask for an autograph and kiss his black a** while being white (excuse my French). Colin as a millionaire would have been relatively fine ignoring something that does not affect him like the black brothers being killed. And Lebron James? It is projected by finance gurus that he will enter that exclusive club of billionaires in his lifetime (if God permits). Lebron would have been fine, because when last did anybody hear of a black athlete or black millionaire being shot by a rogue cop?

So, most black Americans have been “ostracized” as citizens and left as a perpetual underclass, whom successful black athletes and other minorities are meant to wink at – like they are the ones not trying hard enough in the land of opportunity. And they do not make the “sacrifices” to extricate themselves from their socioeconomic underclass status. The athletes are saying NO to being complicit in this. And I applaud them. Now to join this with the issue of the immigrant who sacrifices for the success of their American born children.

It is praiseworthy that the children of immigrants become successful and their parents “sacrificed” for them. However, the idea that immigrant American citizens or even US Permanent Residents, who are classified as US Persons must have their socioeconomic and human rights encroached by nativists through discrimination is antithetical to the American spirit. Nativism is a phenomenon every “race” or ethnicity may be guilty of (not all Americans manifest nativism, but my point is that it is not exclusive to a race.)



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