[Editor’s Note: This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that the NFL has “moved on” from Colin Kaepernick, the great QB who dared to speak out about violence against African-Americans. At Audere, some of us feel that the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick is a tragedy and an outrage, and many others agree. In the Atlantic, Jemele Hill wrote, “The league’s clumsy treatment of Kaepernick only showed what the quarterback’s supporters have been saying all along: The NFL is unwilling to tolerate black athletes’ outrage, outspokenness, and desire to exercise their power — even though all three are entirely justified.” The late Alan N. Levy, the novelist, who wrote columns for Audere and The Times of Israel, would not have agreed. As it happens, he wrote his very last column on the subject of Colin Kaepernic, just days before his death. We didn’t publish this at the time. But given the newsworthiness of the subject this week, and our personal respect for Alan, we are publishing it now. This column doesn’t reflect the opinion of Audere Magazine or Chickadee Prince Books. As much as we may disagree with his ideas here, he deserves to make his view known.]
Alan N. Levy: If we’re going to put one of these sort-of-look-alike gentlemen on a pedestal, please let it be the guy on the left [see above]. Ironically, this nation is great, and not because of the likes of Abraham Lincoln.
Surely he was a great president, and yes he had a way with words … any doubts, any newbies? Read the Gettysburg Address, one of the most profoundly written and moving speeches in the history of mankind. And, oh, by the way, the guy on the right carried the Union to a victory over the Confederacy in a bloody civil war that left more than 620,000 dead. Colin, now THAT was a Super Bowl.
No, Colin, this nation is great because of you. Not because of your position on things, and certainly not because you choose to show complete disrespect for this nation by kneeling while our national anthem is being played. And certainly not because of your questionable skill set or your mediocre gridiron accomplishments. This nation is great because we tolerate you, we listen to you, we allow you the right to free speech that more than 400,000 marked graves at Arlington National Cemetery have assured you. We tolerate you, and we tolerate anarchists. We tolerate the American Nazi Party moronic zealots and the Socialists, who, at least in my view, represent the North and South poles in a polarized nation.
So you don’t like the Betsy Ross flag. And you don’t like this and you don’t like that. Then work to change things. Become a force to be reckoned with, within whichever political party you may choose. We each have the power to exercise influence, we each have the ability to share our passion with others and transform thought processes and lives. Be more than a protestor; that’s all I ask.
Many years ago, I was a Service Director at a dealership in Atlanta. A customer pulled onto the service lane, and one of our porters greeted him before a Service Consultant could do so. The porter walked up to the customer, said something, and then shook his hand. When the customer walked inside, he very politely asked the Service Consultant if he might first have a word with me. The man was ushered into my office, and he closed the door.
I suggested he take a seat, and he replied that he preferred to stand. It was then that I noticed the anger seething within him, preparing to boil over.
He said, “Sir, I come from an impoverished childhood. But I realized at a very early age that the only salvation I had, the only thing that might pull me out of the ghetto, was an education. My Master’s Degree is from Georgia Tech, I have a loving family, and I am blessed to be able to assist my mother now, in return for all those years we struggled so mightily. I am a vice-president of a company here in Atlanta, and your porter, that poorly-trained young man, and I blame you for all this, sir, had the audacity to greet me outside with his version of a ghetto handshake and some sophomoric quip that he assumes has created a bond between us.”
As he turned to leave my office, he added, ”And please don’t insult me by assuming I’m just another average customer who’s complaining in order to get a free service here or a token discount. I intend to pay my bill, in full, but I shall never return.”
Embarrassment completely engulfed me. I’m a Jew, I comprehend prejudice and social injustice. I seethe at bigotry and the arrogant assumption that a people decides another group is inferior. In German, the word associated with that concept is “niedermenschen,” one of the most disparaging terms in that language. I contemplated joining that outraged man in the customer lounge, in order to explain that I grew up in a one-room apartment and that my parents’ bed dropped down from a wall. Of course, I didn’t do that, because the chasm between us would have widened. My personal contact with prejudice is primarily historical in nature, with few, although highly unpleasant, direct personal encounters. The black man in our society and his experience with prejudice is not only direct, but is normally a daily occurrence.
Can a white man like me possibly comprehend what moves Colin Kaepernick? Not completely, because the two of us grew up in different sides of this nation. But did I catch a glimpse of that, in the intensity of the man before me in my office that morning? Yes, I did.
Colin, you may think it a victory to convince Nike to cease sale of sneakers with a circle of stars on their label, but it was not. That’s not the way to change the world or to eliminate bigotry and prejudice in this nation.
Do better than to merely protest, Colin. One man can do great things.
Just look to Lincoln as the man you should aspire to be.
And if you ponder how to begin your journey within the law, of course, your battle cry is already there.
Just do it.
Alan N. Levy, who died in 2019, was a political columnist at Audere and blogger at The Times of Israel, and the author of The Tenth Plague, an acclaimed geo-political thriller that focuses on a future with a nuclear-armed Iran, published in September from Chickadee Prince Books. The book is available right now in paperback at your local bookstore, from Amazon and B&N, and also on Kindle.