280 Words on the Radical Non-Conformity of Cam Newton

I’m not a huge NFL fan. I follow the league in a roundabout way, since I follow college sports. All this to say: I was neither a Panters fan nor a Broncos fan when I watched the Superbowl. I’m still not particularly tied to a winner.

That’s not what’s been sticking with me. What stands out is the fascinating debate between Cam Newton and American consciousness.

Props to Jose Vilson for sharing this article from SB Nation, which had this quote:

“I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s wants. I’m not that guy. If you want me to be this type of person I’m not that and I’m happy to say that. I am my own person and I take pride in that.”

In an earlier interview with NBC, Newton said:

“I’m doing what I want to do, how I want to do it, and when I look in the mirror I see me.”

I understand why some folks are irked by Newton. I do, and don’t particularly fault anyone for that. I think, like many twenty-six-year-olds, he will probably grow and change as he gets older.

Stillthere is something radical, powerful, and exhilirating about something who so unequivocally is themselves, unwilling to twist themselves to the dominant culture’s demands. Like Beyoncé’s Superbowl performance and Formation video (and Jessica William’s marvelous response afterward), the notion that Black and other PoC people have to function along the same cultural systems as white entertainers is a false.

In a world where “professionalism” is often tied to whiteness (reading 1, reading 2, reading 3), it is thrilling to see culture figures actively and purposefully move away from that.


None of this is to say that I think this means we’ll get rid of existing cultures of “professionalism,” or that I don’t understand how it ties into existing American culture.

All I’m saying is that the more we make radical choices towards non-conformity, the closer we get to busting down the oppressive systems that often make non-conformity a threat against “American” culture instead of celebration of one’s individuality.

Image via The Root.

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