One in Every Crowd

Pinot Noir.jpgPinot Noir

“I saw a wino eating grapes and I said ‘dude, you have to wait.'” Mitch Hedburg

When I was introduced to Pinot Noir, I received a cursory education on grape clones. I learned that “swan” had a mushroomy flavor whereas 667 provided a hint of Dr. Pepper. After tasting each individual clone, I was able to identify four in Pinot noir. 

The funny thing about clones is the implication of uniformity. Certain clones were selected for their unique characteristics and those characteristics have been replicated batch after batch, generation after generation. Today’s thought, however, is not on the many lush, purple grapes I was fortunate to harvest before the birds, but that one green grape in the middle. It is, of course, the one sour note in a symphony of sweetness, the one grape I’ll avoid eating, the one I will pluck and discard with reckless abandon.

It’s not so different from how we treat the individual, the independent thinker in a crowd. I’ve tried hard to not comment on Colin Kaepernick because I understand both sides of the argument. I have to comment now, though, because it’s the wrong argument. For those who missed it, former University of Nevada alum and San Francisco 49er quarterback vows to remain seated during the Star Spangled Banner until significant social change happens in this country. He, like many others, is outraged by the treatment of minorities in our country. He is that green grape in the red and champagne gold bunch of uniformity.

The response has been, understandably, mixed. There are those who support his Constitutional right to remain seated until the band has come to a full and complete stop, others who consider it a slap in the face of our military. Others still use it as an opportunity to cherry-pick his stats to show he was “never all that good a quarterback.” On any of those points, he may not disagree with you, but that’s not why he sits. Nor, if one takes a cursory look at his tweets, is this a spur-of-the-moment stunt to get the EEOC involved should he get cut before the start of the season. This, according to Mr. Kaepernick, is a stand, if you’ll forgive the term, against perceived social injustice.

On this topic, we remain curiously silent. Based on the reports of police brutality, the studies that show a disproportionate number of minorities in poverty or prison, the seething rhetoric of certain political candidates, even the imbalanced Olympic coverage, it’s easy to wonder if we’ve made any progress at all in the 52 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed. That’s what the discussion should be and what Mr. Kaepernick wanted the conversation to be.

Sports pundits universally decree that Kaepernick failed in this because all they can talk about is his standing or sitting. On the occasion a caller tries to steer the conversation to the social disparity, the host is quick to bring it back to his question–does a player have the obligation to stand. Perhaps they recognize that, as a society, we still struggle with our own racism and holding a mirror to one’s own faults does not good Arbitron numbers make.

Consider your own workplace and whether you have that one person who is the constant voice of dissent. I implore, as I have before, that you listen to the dissenter’s message, no matter your feelings about the messenger or, really, the method the messenger is using to communicate. It may be annoying, disruptive, or unprofessional, but when conventional methods for relaying a message are ineffective, perhaps it’s the importance of the issue to the dissenter that makes the method necessary. Listen, consider, reflect, and respond.

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