One of the biggest arguments that I’ve ever had with any boyfriend occurred after watching the movie, “Indecent Proposal,” in which a wealthy man offers one million dollars to buy another’s man’s wife for one night. My boyfriend was angry because I said that I would take the deal (don’t judge me). All I could think about were the short-term benefits of what a million dollars would have in my life (including getting couples therapy to help us heal post-tryst). He told me that I didn’t know my worth or the worth of my relationship.
I still believe that most people have a price: most of us would do something that we say we would never do if the benefit was great enough. What I’ve been troubled by is how many of us Black folks, have placed such a low price on what it would take for us sell ourselves and/or our community out.
Following the H&M scandal where some very well-paid and highly educated executives decided to place a Black little boy in a “coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt many Black activists called for people to protest the company and stop purchasing from them. I read comment after comment where Black people said that they would continue shopping there because of the low prices. Some stated that there was a major sale going on; and they weren’t going to miss out on the significant savings. Really? So H&M can buy you for $8.00? You will shop in a store that publicly shows that they don’t care about you as a consumer for $8.00 and some shoddy leggings?
Hundreds and thousands of dollars are spent to ensure that ad campaigns not only don’t offend their consumers; but rather please and attract them. Black folks were clearly left out of this research and efforts. They. Don’t. Care (or at least don’t care enough). They don’t care because we pose no significant threat to harming them. They know that we aren’t united as a people and that at least half of us will continue to shop there regardless of what they do. Just as we know that their clothes can be bought for next to nothing; they know the same about us.
I’ve felt similarly about the Colin Kapaernick / NFL situation. In truth, my heart has been somewhat broken over it. I am empathetic: many of these men are responsible for feeding not just their nuclear families, but aunts, cousins, and siblings; they have worked their entire lives to play a sport that they love. But if ever there was an opportunity to break free from the powers and dollars that enslave us, it was then. The NFL presents a unique opportunity for Black people to exert some power, to make some changes as Black people make up 73% of the organization. Without us, there is no NFL. But, 99% of the players wouldn’t even kneel in the beginning for fear of losing their jobs and endorsement deals.
Initially, their decision may seem like a smart money move, but we must remember a few things: the NFL is the most lucrative pro sports league in the world, but its players are last among the four major American professional sports in average salary; the average NFL salary doesn’t spike until most players are out of the league (70% of NFL players are between the ages of 22 and 27. Players in that group earn less than the NFL average overall); and the players earn the least in the organization (average coaches salary is 7 million and owners earn between 20 and 500 million. Additionally, the average NFL career is 2.66 years; and 78% of players are either bankrupt or are under financial stress within two years of retirement. We sold ourselves, we gave up the opportunity to create real change, failed to support our people and our community — just to end up where we have always been—on the bottom collecting whatever pennies are thrown our way.
Not only does it seem that we will accept mistreatment for money; we will denigrate others when they try to take a stand in an effort to effect change. The Comedian, Monique, has asked people to boycott Netflix because they have offered male and white female comedians significantly more money (Dave Chappelle made 60 million for 3 and Amy Shumer made 11 million). While I may not agree with her method (though because we aren’t in power, we don’t have many options for taking a stand) I can empathize with her cause. A Black woman with the same education and the same job gets paid 66 cents to a White man’s dollar; a Black man gets paid 77 cents. That’s not just a Monique issue-that is an “us” issue.
Yet the majority of feedback I have seen seems as if Black people are unwilling to sacrifice watching Netflix (free or if they pay for it) to further the cause. I respect that decision, but I wish I didn’t see so many people saying that Monique should be happy to get whatever she is offered. The mentality that we better just get what we can get, take whatever is offered, ensures stagnation in our community. I may not be a fan of Monique’s; but I am a fan of people fighting for equality.
How do we move forward if there are always so many of us who will take whatever scraps are thrown at us? If we don’t even hesitate to cross the picket line or ride the bus; if we aren’t willing to march, to not shop at our favorite stores, then how do we make organizations care enough to consider our concerns and treat us better? Organizations aren’t going to one day decide to be fair; we have to make them feel as if it’s necessary to their economics that they be fair. We can never move up if we are always reaching down to pick up whatever is thrown at us.