It Was Mother

It Was Those

It Was Those
Wayras Olivier
APRIL 2019

T HOSE WHO TOOK the time last year to examine the word “everything” most likely found that it stood for health and family, or wealth and friends. And were perhaps bothered slightly by Nike’s frivolous incantation to “sacrifice” “everything” if you yourself “believe” strongly in a rather nonspecific “something.” Yes, “something” is indeed vague. Which means it can include: flat Earth theory. That’s something. So is The Church of Satan. Denying the Holocaust is something, too, as is ethno-nationalism. Now, with that reprehensible “something” in mind, go forth, the Nike ad would suggest, and sacrifice everything.

Nike doesn’t believe that America has a chronic and intractable problem with police brutality and racism—the “something,” believed by one Colin Kaepernick, whose black and white photo dignified: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything, and who potentially risked his career—the supposed “everything,” when he kneeled in protest during the national anthem on September 1st, 2016. But Nike may very well believe that career is the source of everything. Where else do life’s values come from?

The ad used imprecise and precise—“something” and “racist cops” deliberately as synonyms. Imprecision and precision defining the same thing, as the two terms are mutually exclusive, made cognitive dissonance and mental alertness mutually inclusive. Impressionable minds, unable to pinpoint what was technically off with the ad were induced to applaud it, even though it says nothing. The accommodating slogan was loose and contagious, with Kaepernick’s visage, venereal, as Nike put out what in turn gave Kaepernick the clap.

Believe cops are racist, even if it means sacrificing your career.

Taking a different view than Black Lives Matter, a movement that has a measurable amount of influence on the cultural conversation, is attorney and author Heather Mac Donald, whose book The War On Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe—released months before the Kaepernick sensation—takes the concern about racist police departments seriously but carefully. “We are not living through an epidemic of racially biased police shootings of black men. The core flaw of any left-wing anti-cop rhetoric,” she goes on to say, “is the failure to find the proper benchmark for evaluating police behavior.” Never once denying that blacks do die at the hands of police officers, she contextualizes the happenings of pedestrian stops this way:

“In New York City about fifty percent of all pedestrian stops are of blacks. Blacks are about twenty-three percent of the population. A Black Lives Activist or academic often would say that shows the police are racist. Wrong benchmark. The benchmark is crime. Policing is crime driven. Blacks in New York City commit seventy-one percent of all shootings.”

This discouraging conclusion, despite how representative the stat may or may not be, would certainly cripple Kaepernick’s raison d'être, and is just as lowering to one’s spirit as John Singleton’s affecting Los Angeles drama Boyz n the Hood, released mere months after the Rodney King beating in 1991, with its opening stat:

“One out of every twenty-one Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another Black male.”

None of this seems to weigh on the charismatic football player who lives in a country where taking a knee against the flag is a privilege, so the feeling sinks in that his act of dissent was nothing but a glib and calculated act of self-promotion. Kaepernick deserves a great deal of sycophantic adulation. The shrewd impresario chose a well-defined villain, the essence of stomach turning conflict—a much more lucrative enterprise, too—as facts lack the sort of production value found in staged drama. Raising awareness about ruinous minority communities behindhand because of drugs, high illiteracy rates, predatory mortgage lending, unconstrained access to guns, so on and so forth, is a reality that merits a knee been taken against the flag. Raise an eyebrow or two, however, if one were to survey the cause of these worries and arrive at white cops.

That other word for “everything” is, little by little, forcing its way to the surface of the Nike ad: Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing [the truth]. And that too runs the risk of being a sacrificial commodity. The ad’s ordinance will then become an even greater absurdity, the kind that motivates the sorts of characters we have reasonably come to call heartless and hostile. Such as the one found in the outstanding film Monster’s Ball; the bitter protagonist, a concussed racist cop, suffers from bouts of unmotivated nausea—unmotivated, it is presumed, until his ivory tower ideology is recognized finally as the cause of his blackout.