Damien: Why Rodney Harrison’s Remarks Were Offensive

On Monday a great deal of our show was spent discussing the situation with Colin Kaepernick, the American flag, the National Anthem, and the racial divide that continues to plague this nation.

At some point, the conversation shifted to the fact that Kaepernick is biracial, as am I. In fact, every member of the Lo-Down has some biracial element to them. Our producer, Chris Verlod, is of mixed races, Ken’s wife is white, his son is biracial, and Jason Ross is married to a black woman. Why does any of this matter? Well, it doesn’t… Until it does.

I made mention of how junior high school was really difficult for me. Through junior high and high school, I went to schools with predominately affluent white people. In fact, most of the kids at the schools were affluent regardless of racial background. Now, I can comfortably say I was probably one of the poorest kids at the schools.

The adjustment for me was really difficult. I never identified with any particular race. At 13, I was suppose to like rap or rock music. I loved both. I was too light skinned for black people but acted too black for white people. There was little middle ground. The friends I had never concerned themselves with any of that. As an adult, I’ve joked the most racism I’ve ever dealt with was from black people who would say my skin was far too light to be one of them.

Enter NBC football analyst Rodney Harrison…

Harrison was on a local sports radio show in Houston Tuesday morning, giving his take on the Kaepernick situation:

“I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick — he’s not black. He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on an every single [day] basis. When you walk in a grocery store, and you might have $2,000 or $3,000 in your pocket and you go up into a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something. I don’t think he faces those types of things that we face on a daily basis. If he really wants to make change, maybe what he needs to do is write a check out of that $11 million salary that he’s making and maybe donate it toward a cause or something like that for people that are fighting for injustices against people of color. That’s how you make change. And I’m not just saying, just write a check, but sitting against the National Anthem, you’re offending a lot of people.”

To be clear, I don’t buy – for a single second – that he didn’t know Kaepernick was biracial. His story had been well told during his run to the NFC Championship and subsequent run to the Super Bowl. Rodney Harrison covers the NFL for a living. He covers the NFL on the most-watched football show of the week. He knew.

So much to dissect in his quote, particularly the insinuation he gets followed around a Foot Locker and stating, “I don’t think he faces those types of things that we face on a daily basis.”

Come on Rodney. If you’ve been to a Foot Locker in the last decade, and I’m guessing you haven’t, you weren’t followed around. There is no “we” in those remarks because YOU don’t face that type of profiling.

Rodney tells Kaepernick to make a change by taking his money and “writing a check for people fighting for injustices against people of color.” Based on Harrison’s remarks, Kaep isn’t qualified to speak because he’s not really black. So to recap – only poor real black people can speak on oppression. Do you remember the last time poor oppressed black people decided enough was enough and fought for a change? Anyone? I’m guessing Rodney doesn’t either. His insinuation that money creates change is laughable.

Since you’re a real black man, Rodney, let me ask you… How much money changed hands when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus?  What black man donated money to organize the Million Man March? How much money was involved when Muhammad Ali refused induction into the draft? Has anyone checked Fredrick Douglas’ tax forms to see how much money he donated?

A man who wears a white hood and burns a cross on a lawn makes no bones about what he is. He doesn’t hide. Rodney Harrison is a far more dangerous type of racist. He passes himself off as something he’s not and when it’s convenient for him, unleashes his ignorance on people. He’s a divisive voice in the black community at a time when we desperately need to avoid any more divisiveness.

The bigger issue is the statement that Colin Kaepernick isn’t black. Which, by Harrison’s logic, neither is the President of the United States. Nor is Tiger Woods. I think it’s a commonly forgotten fact that The Rock, Dwayne Johnson is black. Well, according to Rodney Harrison he isn’t, but you get my point.

Perhaps the biggest issue of all is Harrison’s belief that if you’re not black you can’t speak on black issues. If you’re not black you can’t do something to present change within the black community. Does Harrison think if his buddy Tom Brady spoke about injustices in this country it wouldn’t get peoples attention? He can’t be that naive. He can’t be that dumb. Then again… Who am I to speak on the issue?

More from Damien Barling
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