After reading and rereading Sage Steele’s Facebook post, it’s clear that the only person who struggles with diversity is her.
In a meandering and often confusing message, she accused black people of rejecting diverse viewpoints. It’s an odd accusation, given that we really don’t know what her views are beyond the national anthem, which is why we’re discussing her in the first place.
Steele received harsh pushback for challenging Tampa Buccaneers wideout Mike Evans on Twitter for protesting the national anthem last week. Her tweet included a photo of a man paying his respects at a tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery, a clear indication that she read Evan’s protest as an insult to those who serve in America’s Armed Forces.
Steele asked him to “look up the definition of the word democracy,” and implored him to think of the photo when he decides to kneel.
(Evans eventually caved and says he will not protest again. I doubt that he thought it through in the first place, but that is a different story)
The reactions to her tweet were most unkind, as Steele’s detractors have called her a “sellout,” “coon,” and other words unsuitable for print. Some even suggest that her conservative views were to be expected because of her marriage to a white man.
Those personal attacks were wrong and unnecessary, but so was her follow up response on Facebook. Instead of expounding on her disagreement with Evans’ protest and opening up a dialogue that respected his agency and those who refuse to stand during the national anthem, she wrote a perplexing note lamenting black people’s close-mindedness on the subject of racial inclusion—particularly, interracial relationships.
Instead of shaming her for marrying a white man, we should be “praising that ‘white boy’ from Indiana who followed his color-blind heart,” she argues. And she makes a point of uplifting her white mother for the grief she experienced after marrying her black father, “fresh off of the tumultuous civil rights era.”
That, Steele argues, is a “perfect example” of “our wonderful diversity.” It’s as if she feels her mother’s marriage was an act akin to Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, or someone who sacrificed their body on Bloody Sunday.
It’s clear she wants cool points for centering whiteness and is puzzled over why someone isn’t enthusiastic about America as she is. More insulting, Steele wants us to celebrate her white mother who is more privileged than most of the black Americans she is criticizing.
After all, the racist attacks that have taken place after Donald Trump’s victory last week have been directed at people of color, not folks who look like the “white boy” from Indiana she married.
Steele is not really asking us to embrace diversity. She’s insisting that we celebrate whiteness.
Her post also suggests that black people are resistant to interracial marriage, even though research proves that black millennials are just as fine with it as their white peers; black people between the ages of 50 and 65 even more so. A Gallup poll finds that black people have been more accepting of interracial marriage than whites since 1969, when the poll started tracking such data. I’m sure some black people have responded negatively towards her marriage, but it’s fair to say that most of us really don’t care.
But she clearly thinks we do. Her Facebook post comes off as if she is processing some unresolved pain about her identity and choice to marry outside of her race and, in turn, decided to project her frustrations on us — even though she admits her white grandparents, not the black ones, objected to her parents' union.
We don’t “get a hall-pass just because you’re a minority,” Steele wrote. Well, true. But you don’t get cool points for being the exception Negro, while distancing yourself from the travails of being black either.
Her entire “colorblind” tone comes across as if she is above taking on racism in the radical ways Evans chose. It is too un-American for her tastes, obviously. Oddly, her note declined to articulate a similarly robust appraisal of the racism that has Evans and other athletes protesting in the first place.
She never takes white people to task. Just black folk. I wonder why? Maybe she doesn’t see the racism that has compelled people like Evans and, more consistently, Kaepernick, to take a knee. Or, perhaps, Steele’s love for country reigns so supreme that she fails to appreciate Americans who conscientiously object its flaws.
Such a view is not championing diversity. That’s just plain blind.