Morehouse president: Colin Kaepernick sets example for students on confronting injustice

Morehouse President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., was among the HBCU presidents meeting this week with Donald Trump.

Here is an excerpt from the Opening Convocation speech of Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson, Jr., on the Colin Kaepernick controversy.

Morehouse provided the president’s comments from his Thursday address, and I thought the remarks offered food for thought. So, I am sharing them here:

This past summer, we learned some important lessons about how distorted black male character can be. Very clearly, as young black men, your pathway to success, however you define it, may have gotten a little more complicated, simply because all over this nation and world, we were all poignantly reminded of the unique and substantial forces aligned against young black men. Crystal clear evidence of an overarching negative narrative about you — about us.

With even a casual glance, anyone can see that, when it comes to black men, positive news stories are rare and muted. It is disproportionately negative. Our stories seem stuck on controversy and criminality. As a result, in America, if not in the world, the presumption of black male villainy is real!  We tend to be defined by our weaknesses rather than by our strengths, by our sins rather than our blessings – we tend to be defined, characterized and caricatured by our noise, rather than by our signal!

Any of you ever feel starved for positive news about young black men? I feel that way much of the time. Morehouse men are doing great work in this world and it ought to be spotlighted more. Morehouse or not, we need more positive stories about our men.

You know, every now and then, I see one brother or another do something newsworthy or remarkable, and I ask what I want everybody in here to ask – was that a Morehouse thing to do?

If he was a Morehouse man doing that, would we or should we be proud?

I asked it a few years ago when Ray Rice punched his fiancé on an elevator (NO!)

I asked it when Jesse Williams made that powerful statement on racism at the BET awards last year (YES!)

And I asked it again last month.

65 Seconds

You all know about the 65-second controversy. Just before the San Francisco 49ers started their preseason game, Colin Kaepernick sat down.

I call it the 65-second controversy, because that is the average time it takes to sing our national anthem. You all know that, based in part on this past summer of strife, Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down for those 65 seconds.

What he did provoked an outcry – he was called unpatriotic! Disgraceful! Dishonorable! You heard it. Many were as confused by it. And even when President Obama weighed in saying, it is Kaepernick’s constitutional right to sit during the anthem, many folks stayed confused, insulted or outraged.

In fact, folk seemed far more outraged by what Kaepernick did than by the outrageous injustices that provoked him to do what he did in the first place!

Was that a Morehouse thing to do?

You know, I don’t think what he did is that complicated. Really.

Very simply put, he is not standing during the National Anthem, because he does not like the fact that Walter Scott is not standing during the National Anthem, and Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland, and Philando Castille and Freddie Gray and Alton Sterling and 102 other unarmed black folks who perished at the hands of the police in 2015 alone are not standing during the National Anthem.

And Eric Garner is neither standing nor breathing during the National Anthem!

Colin Kaepernick sat for those 65 seconds to make a wordless statement!

But you know what else?

Kaepernick is not alone and he is not the first.

Well before Colin Kaepernick, Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a wordless statement, not by sitting during the anthem when they won their Olympic medals 1968 – oh, they stood, but they also raised a gloved fist, and they lost their medals because of it.

But they made a wordless statement, too!

Before Colin Kaepernick, there was Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who sat out, not for 65 seconds, but for two weeks, when he boycotted the entire 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico to protest against American racism.

He made a wordless statement, too.

Before Colin Kaepernick, there was Muhammad Ali, a champion boxer who made the decision to sit down, not just for 65 seconds for an anthem, but for three entire years because of an unjust war!

And he made a wordless statement, too.

SO, Colin Kaepernick is in fact standing — he is standing on the shoulders of giants!

Many of them are Morehouse giants!

As a matter of fact, let me tell you about a Morehouse way to spend those 65 seconds. Line up four Morehouse men for those 65 seconds of the NEXT anthem and do this:

ONE will sit, because we have sat-in and struggled for justice in this country;

ONE will take a knee, because we have prayed for this country;

ONE will stand with hand on heart, because we have loved this country;

And ONE will stand in a military salute, because we have defended this country!

What Kaepernick did and is doing has Morehouse written all over it because it is indeed a Morehouse tradition to draw attention to injustice!

It is a Morehouse thing because, based on how he has explained himself so far, when he sits, he is in fact standing!

You can stand by sitting!

When those black college students sat in those restaurants, they were…

When Rosa Park sat on that bus, she was…

When King sat in that jail cell, he was…

…Standing by sitting!

And that is my point about the character of Morehouse College men!

 

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82 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Proof positive that you can be "educated", and not have a lick of common sense.


What injustice?  The entire "hands up don't shoot" and "black lives matter" movement has been proven to be social marxist propaganda perpetuated by the usual cadre of race baiters and politically correct "news" media.


In North Carolina, a black man pulls a weapon on a black police officer and gets shot.  Black criminals (that's what they are) respond by looting a Walmart.  But somehow, it's Whitey's fault.


In Oklahoma, a black man parks his car in the middle of a highway and is found wandering about in an apparent drug induced stupor.  He ignores multiple verbal commands by police officers and proceeds back to his car.  There are conflicting reports on whether he reached into an open window or whether the window was closed.  An investigation into the shooting was performed and the officer who fired the shot was charged with first degree manslaughter.  I sincerely hope the charges are legitimate and not due to the influence of the propaganda  (Maybe if I throw my officer under the bus, the black criminals will not riot.....)


For fifty years, American society has taken extraordinary measures to lift blacks above their self-induced, black dysfunction.  In many ways, those efforts have only made it worse.  Case in point, the effects of welfare on the illegitimacy rate.


Sorta ironic, when those Morehouse graduates enter the work force, they will benefit from discriminatory affirmative action hiring practices, which are sanctioned by the government.  But yet, here they are, whining about non-existent "injustice".

CardiganBoy
CardiganBoy

I think the overall portrayal of black men is accurate.  The media is very conscientious about presenting positive coverage (even excluding/under-reporting negative stories about black men at times so as not to feed negative stereotypes). Popular culture and mainstream advertising also project a positive image of POC.


President Obama has always enjoyed unprecedented positive treatment from the mainstream media.


Exceptional behavior, both good and bad, is what’s noteworthy.  We all, as the American family, have provided many examples of both.  Are we supposed to pretend the bad behavior of a family member doesn’t exist so as not to offend someone?


All of us, regardless to ethnicity, raising our kids, paying our bills and taxes and obeying the law are relatively anonymous because we’re doing what’s expected of responsible adults.   That ain't gonna make the news.


And Colin Kaepernick’s “confrontation” of injustice by taking a seat/knee during the National Anthem is the equivalent of saying you cleaned up the house because you took the mop out of the closet.

southerntchr
southerntchr

So that's why the young black men sit in my class and disrupt, disrespect, and won't do any work. They are protesting!

MatlockADPR
MatlockADPR

@southerntchr I don't excuse disruptive or disrespectful behavior in your classroom or anywhere else. But, just perhaps, these Black men find your class or what you're teaching or the way in which you're teaching it boring, irrelevant and/or uninspiring. Maybe, in addition to looking at what they're doing, you might also consider re-examining what you're doing -- or not doing -- and how you're doing it in your class. Or you could also ask them to explain why they behave the way they do in your class. Or you could simply keep pointing the finger at them and watch as nothing changes. It's up to you. 

YouCan'tHandlethetruth
YouCan'tHandlethetruth

To Unknown007-- According to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. In 2011, there were more cases of whites killing whites than there were of blacks killing blacks. Between 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people, with a majority of the homicide victims being white as well. Why don't we ever hear about White-On-White Crime???

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

Because there are 6 times as many whites as blacks in our country. The homicide and overall crime rates for blacks are much higher than those for whites.

That's why.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

My previous regard for Morehouse dropped by half after reading this rant. I can see why Morehouse has been in decline for a few years now.

YouCan'tHandlethetruth
YouCan'tHandlethetruth

@BurroughstonBroch We don't really care what you think. We will just keep making a positive impact on the World and you can just keep benefiting from it and thank us later. 

unknown007
unknown007

I wonder if this college president has noticed the black on black slaughter in Chicago and other cities this year?  Do their black lives matter?

Naiad
Naiad

@unknown007 

No, the female white liberals his act plays to would never dream of asking him about that. 

Or about the 3 out of 4 children abandoned by their black fathers and thus forced to grow up without a father in the home.

Naiad
Naiad

@OriginalProf @unknown007 

The number of black men shot by police nationwide is tiny compared to those shot in black-on-black crimes. Along with you, the writer blithely ignores that fact knowing full well he'll never be challenged. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Naiad @OriginalProf @unknown007 

Well, neither one of those sets of statistics--about black on black crime or rates of black illegitimacy--have doodly-squat to do with the issue that Kaepernick is protesting. Keep on the topic, girl, keep on the topic.

YouCan'tHandlethetruth
YouCan'tHandlethetruth

@unknown007  You are Uneducated. People Kill People in which they interact with everyday. With White on White Crime the way it is (see below) you should be pointing that out. But you won't because it doesn't support you false arguement. According to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. In 2011, there were more cases of whites killing whites than there were of blacks killing blacks. Between 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people, with a majority of the homicide victims being white as well.

YouCan'tHandlethetruth
YouCan'tHandlethetruth

@Naiad @OriginalProf @unknown007 According to the US Department of Justice statistics, 84 percent of white people killed every year are killed by other whites. In 2011, there were more cases of whites killing whites than there were of blacks killing blacks. Between 1980 to 2008, a majority (53.3 percent) of gang-related murders were committed by white people, with a majority of the homicide victims being white as well.

CashMoney
CashMoney

Not at all surprised by the opposing comments of posters here (who I assume to be caucasian), due to their life of white privilege they just don't get why this movement even exist or why its going to get bigger, so for sure things are going to get much much worse..

CashMoney
CashMoney

@unknown007 @CashMoney What? You mean working hard at keeping the family assets gained from slave labor passed down the family tree from ol' great, great grandpa and his slave owning bloodline, you mean that working hard??

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@CashMoney @unknown007  My father was a British sailor who emigrated to the US after WW2 and his family in the UK lived in public housing. My mother's father was the son of a tenant farmer but he and my grandmother built a small chain of five & dime stores.

No family assets passed on, no slave owning bloodline, just white folks working hard and saving.

southerntchr
southerntchr

Privilege? I work my butt off to buy food and can't get much, but I'm behind able bodied, well dressed, nails done and expensive weave using multiple peach cards to pay for buggy full of junk! No, I'm not privileged enough to get any help. Too busy working to give it.

southerntchr
southerntchr

So now everybody white was slave owners? Come on, really?

The Doom
The Doom

I'm trying to figure out what injustice Colin is even protesting? It can't be the shootings of young black men because twice as many whites are shot by the cops as blacks. So what is this guy even protesting? Is he protesting the "hands up don't shoot" LIE of the year. 

Astropig
Astropig

Respect for our flag must be voluntary.Otherwise,our patriotism is phony and forced on us only by societal pressure.Phony patriotism couldn't win a civil war,a couple of world wars and destroy the evil empire in Russia.Only real patriotism and sacrifice could accomplish that.


That said, Kaepernick is a jerk.If he would just travel to other places on this planet that have no rule of law,that have even greater poverty and injustice than a millionaire like him could ever understand,that have no constitution worthy of mention...He'd try to use his momentary celebrity to be a real role model for young people of all races and creeds instead of a self absorbed punk that doesn't know how good he has it.


As for this man of letters...You could substitute "white" in place of "black" in his speech above and, in our ultra-PC culture of 2016,the words would be equally true.

DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@Astropig ^^^White tears. Listen to the news; you people are slowly AND surely becoming irrelevant. Grand pappy Mr. Black Man told me a long time ago that you people talk out the side of your neck. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Astropig 

I agree with your first paragraph here. That said, the rest of your post contradicts it. Kaepernick is neither a jerk nor a punk, but a valuable player who is protesting systemic injustices by our law enforcement against black men. 


I can only imagine your outrage in days past when the SC ruled that trampling the American flag was allowable free speech.

Astropig
Astropig

@OriginalProf @Astropig


No. This guy is just trying to help create a mirror-image "Jim Crow" society wherein bigotry and discrimination are simply transferred from one group to another through the political process. Kaepernick is emblematic of a generational movement.He didn't grow up during the era of real segregation and state sanctioned racism.He doesn't have a clue what that's all about.He's parroting something he heard from some grievance peddler.After he becomes a has-been and can't sell shirts and caps,he'll have to live in the societal pigsty that he's helping create,wherein everyone runs around calling each other racists whenever they disagree.That will be good enough for him.


The SC flag thing is where my opinion was formed.Read William Kunstler's argument of that case.I don't accept flag desecration,but I tolerate it.This is still a free country.


DrProudBlackMan
DrProudBlackMan

@Astropig @OriginalProf

"He didn't grow up during the era of real segregation and state sanctioned racism.He doesn't have a clue what that's all about."


You white bigots are so patronizing. But you're entitled to your opinion; while you try to 'whitesplain' over another man's opinion. Typical of you people...zzz

72DCSD99
72DCSD99

@OriginalProf @Astropig "systemic injustice?"  That infers that the problem exists everywhere, which it doesn't.  But it is always easier to use catch-phrases.  

Astropig
Astropig

@DrProudBlackMan @Babycat @Astropig


^^This^^ is where the argument has been going in this country for a good while.It's not based on respect and understanding,but on silly,pointless name calling.I suspect that if we ever got close to the kind of society that Kaepernick says he wants,people like Dr. Proud here would recoil in horror.They'd become (even more)hate filled and intolerant.The very last thing the haters want is real societal comity.