Project RACE and Nike

Project RACE and Nike

I was in Turlock, California today. It’s where Colin Kaepernick grew up—a multiracial boy adopted by white parents in a city where African American comprise less than 2% of the population. I saw one black person there today in a sea of white faces. I can only imagine that life there was challenging for him. Yet he played football on teams with predominately white players. He made friends and had family; he survived. And he always stood up for what he believed in.

Colin Kaepernick did not set out to make a difference at that young age, but he found himself in the center of a battle as he grew older. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick was signed into an ad deal with Nike, which was announced this week.

The gist of the ad is when he says, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

My multiracial son and I started Project RACE in 1990 because we believed that multiracial children needed representation in Washington, in states, at schools, in the medical world, and in many other areas. We were told that we were crazy; that we would never change the way Americans viewed multiracial and biracial people. We did.

We sacrificed. We fought to be heard. My stories of personal sacrifices that I made were many and some were heartbreaking. I heard from parents of children who were dying because they couldn’t get bone marrow from another multiracial person who could be their match. Many of them died. I talked to people who were shamed because their parents were of different races. I stood up as teachers told our children that they could only pick one race. I stood up for them because that’s what Project RACE has stood for and has done for the past 28 years.

You know Colin Kaepernick’s story and how he started a wave of protests among NFL players in 2016 having to do with racial inequality and police brutality. Colin did it because he felt it was the right thing to do, just as we did. His endorsement deal has brought an ugly debate within America. Some people disagree with the original premise and others talk about Nike and Kaepernick being in it just for the money. Yes, Nike is taking a risk, Colin is taking a risk, and Project RACE members take risks.

At the start of the ad, Kaepernick says: “If people say your dreams are crazy, if they laugh at what you think you can do, good. Stay that way, because what nonbelievers fail to understand is that calling a dream crazy is not an insult, it’s a compliment.” He said what I was thinking during the 1990s and beyond.

Project RACE stands with Colin Kaepernick and Nike because this is America and because we can.

Susan Graham for Project RACE

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