Former NFL star Rodney Harrison is adding his two cents to the conversation about San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protesting the national anthem in a show of support for ending police brutality against African-Americans, and his comments are causing quite the uproar.
During a recent iHeartRadio interview, Harrison was blunt, adamant and sadly misinformed while voicing his opinion that Kaepernick — who was born to a white mother and a Black father — isn’t Black enough to truly understand the struggles of African-American men. “I tell you this, I’m a black man. And Colin Kaepernick—he’s not black,” Harrison said.
“He cannot understand what I face and what other young black men and black people face, or people of color face, on a 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 in to a Foot Locker and they’re looking at you like you about to steal something.”
Harrison then went on to emphasize his thoughts by adding that while he believes Kaepernick’s heart is in the right place, he can’t possibly comprehend the plight of Black men fighting against social injustice. “I’m not saying he has to be black, but I’m saying his heart is in the right place, but even with what he’s doing, he still doesn’t understand the injustices as a black man, or people of color; that’s what I’m saying.”
In addition to taking the conversation away from the important topic at hand, which is U.S. lawmakers’ lack of urgency to address the issue of overdue police reform, Harrison’s comments shed a painful light on the issue of colorism within the African-American community. Not only is Harrison suggesting Colin Kaepernick’s lighter skin color prevents him from relating to the struggles of Black men presumptuous and void of facts, it’s also a dangerously common mindset within our communities that has to end if we are to grow stronger as a culture. Using a public platform to spread the idea that African-Americans with lighter skin or one non-Black parent are less Black is careless, dangerous and immensely counterproductive as a Black man claiming to be concerned with seeing Black men treated better in America. Harrison later took to his Twitter account to apologize for his comments and even claimed he had no idea that Kaepernick “was mixed.”
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I apologize to anyone that I offended , wasn't meant to be hurtful to anyone. God bless— Rodney Harrison (@Rodney_Harrison) August 30, 2016
Last point I want people to know. I never even knew he was mixed.— Rodney Harrison (@Rodney_Harrison) August 30, 2016
I should not have called Colin Kaepernick’s race into question during this morning’s radio interview. It was a mistake and I apologize.— Rodney Harrison (@Rodney_Harrison) August 30, 2016
The goal is for our communities to work towards uniting in the fight against the many social injustices targeting African-Americans, not to divide ourselves based on “how Black” we are. Hopefully Harrison and anyone who thinks like him or has a similar lapse in judgement, will realize as much sooner than later.