It is a natural impulse that members of the prevailing status quo maintain their requisite comfort while the inevitable change in the culture takes place. But that's not how it works.
When Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted to the NFL by the St. Louis Rams, media cameras showed him visibly emotional after receiving the news. He then did the unthinkable, at least for some in the heterosexual community, by kissing his boyfriend in celebration on national television.
What was he thinking? Didn't he get the memo that if one is not part of the vaunted mainstream, however defined, they should be seen and not heard? In other words, one can receive quasi acceptance as long as they don't create discomfort for the mainstream.
Sam's actions prompted social media's Cro-Magnon contingency to whirl themselves into a frothing tizzy.
Former NFL player Derrick Ward tweeted:
"I'm sorry but that Michael Sam is no bueno for doing that on national TV. I'm fine with it being a new day in age but for him to do that on TV. Man U got little kids lookin at the draft. I can't believe ESPN even allowed that to happen,"
Miami safety Don Jones also took to Twitter on Saturday after Sam was drafted and tweeted "OMG" and "horrible." He later deleted the tweets.
The Dolphins, who had their own problems last season with bullying, dealt with Jones immediately. He was fined and will undergo educational training before he can return to the team.
While the comments of a former and current player do not comprise a consensus, it is reflective that change and discomfort are correlatives for social progress.
From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to women's suffrage to the civil rights movement, change and discomfort have worked in tandem to make the nation better. It produced the 14th and 19th amendments, maintaining a slow and steady pace toward transformation while withstanding the anxiety of the existing status quo.
The argument against change is invariably due to hyperbole and the erroneous belief that rights are somehow finite. Never has the expansion of rights for some, meant a reduction for others.
Had that been Sam's girlfriend instead, nothing would have been said -- it would have been understandable.
Such behavior would have fit neatly behind the fortress of the status quo.
How often are ESPN cameras on the scene for a player taken in the NFL's final round?
But this moment was different. Never before had an openly gay player been drafted and never before was the country made privy in such an intimate way. Beyond the musings of those publicly and privately who are stuck in the quicksand of last century, Sam's kiss is yesterday's news.
Never again will the drafting of an openly gay player make such news, nor will the public care in the same manner should the next person choose to celebrate in a fashion that made some uncomfortable by Sam's joyful expression.
In retrospect, Sam's kiss may prove to rival the subtle impact of Pee Wee Reese putting his arm on Jackie Robinson's shoulder in Cincinnati as fans unmercifully heckled the first African-American to break baseball's color barrier.
Those supportive of the change should welcome the discomfort of the status quo. It is the best barometer for measuring progress.
Once change makes itself known, what was once the privilege of the mainstream, which may include not affirming someone's humanity, is permanently marginalized, hence the discomfort.
The only question that remains is whether Sam will make the St. Louis Rams roster. That will not be decided by Sam's historic draft or his understandable elation by kissing his boyfriend, but by his ability to rush the quarterback.
That's called meritocracy -- a system where one advances based on their ability and not the mainstream's comfort level.
Byron Williams is a contributing columnist. Contact him at 510-208-6417.