Christmas day one of my good friends, who also happens to be a makeup artist, and I saw the movie Concussion. We sat through it, and had tons of commentary. Im sure the couple in front of us wanted to get security to put us out, but they were nice enough to allow us to be ‘Chatty Cathy’ dolls. We both related so much to the main character Omalu, a Nigerian doctor, played by Will Smith it was scary! Now you may be thinking what do two makeup artists have in common with a Nigerian doctor that discovered an awful disease which causes athletes that have had several concussions to experience symptoms like memory loss, hearing voices, and mental and physical pain that drives them to commit suicide? Well lets point out the obvious similarities.
My friend is Nigerian, and I am African American, so the three of us are all of African descent. My friend also has a brother that had a brief career in the NFL, who was obviously also Nigerian. While I do not have any brothers that have played professional football, I do know black men who played football in high school, college, and the NFL. Like Omalu, both my friend and I have advanced degrees, not eight like his character who was based off of a real person, but we have pieces of paper from institutions that are supposed to help validate our educational and social status in this country. Also like Omalu, even when people know that we are educated, they still attempt to belittle us because of the color of our skin. After seeing the movie, as I sat on a bench waiting for the metro, a woman rushed to take her purse off of the bench and push it behind her as if she was scared that I was going to steal it, also because of the color of my skin.
Any how, days after seeing the film, I came across a review about it written in the Washington Post. The review was written by Stephanie Merry, and I thought she had done a decent job until I got to the end where she said:
“”Concussion,” on the other hand, is a little more heavy-handed, especially in its handling of the narrative of a put-upon immigrant losing faith in the American Dream. That thread only serves to overshadow a far more troubling story: one about the NFL’s stop-at-nothing smear campaign and how easily the public bought into it.”
When I read the paragraph above I was pissed, even without knowing officially that 2/3 or 68% of NFL players are of African American decent, Anyone could assume those statistics just from watching football on Sunday, Monday, and Thursday evenings! For Merry to say that the story of the immigrant “losing faith in the American Dream” overshadowed the NFL smear campaign was just plain sad and predictable. Omalu’s experience was just as important if not more because of the direct relationship that him and the 68% of NFL players have in obtaining the American Dream. Omalu was a Nigerian immigrant, but Im gonna jump out on a limb and say that all people of African descent living in America are immigrants! The only difference between Omalu and most of us African American’s is that he knows exactly what country he comes from.
None of our ancestors willingly volunteered to leave their homelands to travel on slave ships from West Africa to come and build a foreign country for free and witness the continual struggles of their off spring, but that is what happened earning us, the off spring, the title of immigrants. As far as his treatment in America is concerned, he is treated just like any other black man in this country. Just from his appearance alone, the statistical data shows that he is more likely to end up in jail or dead when compared to his white counter parts, and just like me, when and if he is just walking down the street or riding the metro, eight advanced degrees or not, the same woman who was so quick to grab her purse when I sat down for fear that I would steal it would do the exact same thing to him.
As for the “immigrants” who play football in high school, college, or the NFL, the same argument can and has already been made for them. Because the American Dream is so difficult for a person of color and especially a person of African descent to attain, tons of black families push their young men who are talented in football to be the best with the hopes that they go pro. When those young men do, they are able to automatically take their families which are often poor from rags to riches. Aside from the struggles that having dark skin in this country provide(Ferguson, Flint, Southside Chicago, South East DC) imagine whole families losing their men in their forties and fifties to a disease from the very sport that financially supported the family in the first place and helped to provide the “American Dream”.
I cannot help but thank the writers for showing an honest depiction of an African man trying to get his piece of the great American Pie. It revealed for me that we are all in fact African and not American which is why the dream never quite happens for us the way we see it happening for our white counter parts( just ask Will and Jada). It also made me think that Stephanie Merry needs to remind herself when she watches movies to check her own privilege.