My Amazing Uber Drivers from Africa...and Colin Kaepernick

I’ve never been to Africa, but recently learned about the crushing poverty there from Uber drivers who came here from the continent from which black slaves were once brought to America. These remarkable immigrants arrived with little more than the clothes they were wearing and a dream of building a better life in the place Reagan called “that shining city upon a hill.” I get choked up hearing each of them describe the intense appreciation they have for the opportunity this great country affords them. Kingsley’s story is similar to those of the others. Arriving in America from Ghana 11 years ago and now a naturalized U.S. citizen, this hard-working man had this to say:

“I had nothing in Africa. No job, no hope. I asked God to help me get to America. Getting to America is the greatest gift God ever gave me. You can make a living here, you can support yourself, you can have enough food to eat and a roof over your head. You can take care of your family. Look at me. I have a car. I have a car! I can never repay America for the opportunity it has given me.

Like Kingsley, Sonny from Nigeria, Fidelis from Cameroon, Charles from South Africa and Jennifer from Tanzania prayed to get to America while mired in the unrelenting poverty and hopelessness that permeates most of Africa. All five of these remarkable people have an unwavering gratitude for what America has given them: the opportunity to earn a living. Blessed with a yearning for self-reliance, my amazing Uber drivers from Africa didn’t come here to avail themselves of the demeaning lifestyle of government dependency. They came here to work.

It’s difficult to adequately express the admiration I have for these grateful new Americans… which brings me to Colin Kaepernick. Despite having a $20 million net worth, the former NFL star has a bitter racial grudge against his country and its law enforcement community.

Before proceeding, please allow me to observe that America’s deplorable history of slavery and segregation will always be a dark stain on the legacy of an otherwise great nation that took a while to get its racial house in order. I readily acknowledge that African-Americans are justified in having a different perspective on America’s history — and policing — than white people like me. I’ve never been denied public accommodations, called the n-word or forced to sit in the back of a bus. I was never called ‘boy’ when I became a man, and never feared being lynched for looking at a white woman. I was never stopped for driving while black, thrown in jail for no good reason or knocked to the ground by the blast from a fire hose. Horrible things were done to black people during slavery and segregation, but none of those injustices were suffered by me or any of my lily white contemporaries. 

I get it why black people are distrustful of the police. But the political narrative that America doesn’t give a damn when innocent black men are killed by the police is false in the extreme. Democrats say black men are nearly three times as likely to be killed by police as white men, and they’re right. What they don’t say is there’s a reason for that disparity that extends beyond the issue of prejudicial policing. When their percentage of the overall population is taken into account, black men commit a disproportionate share of crimes. That means they’re more likely to get into altercations with police than non-blacks.

I realize profiling is a sensitive issue with African-Americans, but I believe the fact that black drivers are more likely to be stopped by the police has less to do with racial prejudice than with crime demographics. Even if that’s so, I’m sure occasional instances of racial profiling still occur. But that doesn’t mean white police are hostile to minorities. Every day and every night, white cops put their lives on the line patrolling high-crime urban neighborhoods to protect law-abiding black citizens against rape, robbery, murder, assault, drug dealing and domestic violence. When innocent black citizens are set upon by criminals, their most fervent hope is that a car with flashing blue lights is on the way. Anyone who thinks policing is a walk in the park should watch this short video.

Sixty-six law enforcement officers were criminally killed in 2016, according to the FBI. Seventeen were victims of ambush assassinations, presumably by African American men led to believe that unwarranted police killings of black people reveal an out of control epidemic.  Crime statistics refute the epidemic narrative, but because some police killings of black suspects are trumpeted in the news for days on end, many black people accept the epidemic narrative as gospel. The fact that police officers are randomly executed because of anger over an epidemic that doesn’t exist is every bit as tragic as unlawful police killings of black people.

According to this anti-police website, four police officers were convicted of unlawfully killing unarmed black people in 2015. One such killing is one too many, but considering that policing is one of the most difficult jobs in America, that cops have to make life and death decisions in the blink of an eye, and that cops, like the rest of us, are human beings who occasionally make good faith mistakes that end up being unlawful, the statistic showing that just four black suspects were found to have been unlawfully killed in the study year is a tribute to the restraint and professionalism of the roughly 700,000 men and women who wear blue. It also shows that the unjustified killing of black people by police is light years away from being an epidemic.

By heightening racial tensions to white hot levels, the ‘epidemic’ narrative does tremendous harm to our overall society. But the biggest harm it does is to distract from the real problems inner city communities face, nearly all of which can be traced not to racism, but to the failed welfare policies of the last half-century, policies that have foisted crime, poverty and hopelessness on generations of urban Americans.

Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem because he’s been led to believe that that America is a sorry-ass place that delights in mistreating minorities. Despite the remarkable racial progress since the 1960s — no one can deny that — progressive activists convinced him that the America of today is a racist nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Slavery was eradicated in 1865, and Jim Crow was rightfully sent to its grave decades ago. No country has ever done more than this one to right the wrongs once committed against an oppressed minority of its own citizens. Yes, it took far longer than it should have, and no, things aren’t perfect. But they’re infinitely better than in the days when black people were made to sit in the back of the bus.

No one denies that things always need improving, but where else can Colin Kaepernick get a better deal than right here in America? Because he was born in the greatest land of opportunity the world has ever known, he’s been able to use his God-given talents to earn an enviable wealth. Things weren’t always fair for athletes of his skin color. I remember when the SEC had no black players, but that was a long time ago.

Despite the injustices of the past, it’s beyond dispute that a black child born in America today has the exact same legal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a white child. That’s never mentioned by those who would have black people believe that even after all these years, their country is still a racist hellhole, as it most definitely was before the civil rights movement awakened the consciousness of the white majority.

The LA Times recently reported that record numbers of African migrants are showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border. For those with the work ethic of my amazing Uber drivers from Africa, I say let them in! America needs more like them who love and appreciate their new home, that shining city on a hill they once prayed to be a part of.

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An electrical engineering graduate of Georgia Tech and now retired, John Eidson is a freelance writer in Atlanta.

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