It was my freshman year at the University of West Georgia when I realized that I have to use my privilege to help others. I was set to give a speech in a public speaking class that was not mine due to me being absent to do it in my class. The topic I chose was gay marriage.
Back in 2008, being a heterosexual black male and believing that LGBTQIA marriage should be legal was not a popular stance to have. Usually when I told people how I felt it ended in one of two ways, either I was called gay or condemned to hell.
It was extremely uncomfortable being an ally while trying to establish my own identity. I did not want to be seen as a closeted gay person. However, I was raised to stand up for what I believe in no matter the costs and if that meant losing friends that I met or being asked if I am gay than I would have to deal with that. I had too many people I know and love in the LGBTQIA community to turn my back on them because of my own insecurities.
To effectively use my privilege I had to step outside of my comfort zone. I had to realize that taking a stand is not about what I have to gain but what I can help others gain. And that is the point of recognizing your privilege: not to cause yourself discomfort but to help others. As a black man I had to recognize that I have it better than black women just because of my gender. With that known, I make sure that I have the backs of black women everywhere when possible. I do not blindly take the side of a black man. Instead, I use my position to help black women share their stories. I use my voice to scream for those who are not heard often enough.
Taking advantage of your privilege allows you to push the world in a positive direction even if there are detractors out there. This is why Colin Kaepernick’s stance on the National Anthem is so important. He put a shock into the system. People who are blind to the plights of black people and other minority groups are literally disgusted that he does not want to honor a song that has its origin in racism and murder that honors a country that has its origin in racism and murder. But, Kaepernick's silent protest was the spark that ignited so many others to do the same. Other NFL athletes, musicians, and even elementary school children have all gotten behind Kaepernick.
By kneeling Kaepernick is telling the country what protestors have been saying since before the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. He is trying to raise awareness on an issue of police brutality and systemic racism that overwhelmingly affects people of color. Despite mountains of evidence that police departments target minorities at a higher rate than white people AND evidence that white people are more likely to be guilty of a crime, police brutality and systemic racism are still a problem and will continue to be a problem until more people with privilege take advantage of their position and speak out.