It’s been two full months since I last wrote about the ongoing racial injustices found within the borders of these United States of America. And yet, here I am today. Sitting in the exact same spot on the couch, drinking the exact same adult beverage (a Lagunitas), discussing the exact same topic, and calling for the exact same outcome: change. Social and political change.
Which can only mean we haven’t made any progress at all.
Even after an extended period of protesting in the streets, our collective core was shaken beyond any reasonable sort of comprehension for the second time in three months by a video that was difficult to watch.
On Sunday, Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, was shot seven times in the back from point-blank range while his three young children sat in his car. Much like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and so many more, this was a violation of human rights –– of morality –– by those entrusted with protecting and serving us, yes all of us, American people.
NBA players quickly realized what all of us are soon to learn: We were sold a golden dream of false hope and empty promises of societal change. Selected names on a jersey, words on a court, kneeling during the anthem, PR messages on team social media accounts. None of that stuff actually spearheads anything of meaning. It’s all just lip service. Lip service done under the capitalistic ideals that fuel the NBA much like any other American business. Sure, the NBA is progressive. But ultimately, the games must go on. Pockets must be lined… at all costs.
Months ago, Kyrie Irving called for the cancellation of the NBA season out of fear that it would cause distraction from the “issues that matter most.” Ironically, it was he who was labeled as a “distraction” –– a “disruptor” –– by media pundits, countless fans, his peers, and even former players. Time and time again, that sure seems to happen to those who look to stir up the good type of trouble. Crazy Kyrie, they said. Look who’s laughing now.
At that time, Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley, leaders of a coalition of discontented players, called for solidarity in a league-wide protest –– a strike. Eventually, the league itself presented the Players Union with a program that looked to suffice the demands of the powerful Black Lives Matter movement and the players who upheld its virtues as protesters in the streets. Based on what we’ve seen in these past 48 hours from players across the league, those promises were not met. The NBA season was nearly ended.
Be honest with yourself: When watching these games, were you really thinking about the innocent African-Americans who have been gunned down by law enforcement time and time again? Was that your main takeaway thus far? Or was your attentiveness on the “things that matter” disrupted by the games in the NBA bubble? I have my honest answer to that question, do you?
The changes that must be made to improve our law enforcement are at the tips of our fingertips, one Google search away. Qualified immunity must be ended. Police unions must be weakened, and their purported bills of rights torn to shreds. The job of law enforcement must be incentivized to entice honorable people into holding these positions. The underbelly of white supremacy must be entirely removed from our legal system.
As a white man, this isn’t my story to tell. There are countless, more qualified reporters that have shared their thoughts on the happenings of this painful week. Clinton Yates of The Undefeated wrote an incredible story on the changing power structure within the league itself and how the players are brandishing economic force as a social change agent. Brooklyn’s own Kristian Winfield of the Daily News shared his thoughts on how the NBA should approach implementing political and social measures. Travel back a few months and you can even read Sterling Brown’s first-hand experience of brutality from law enforcement in Wisconsin. These are just a couple of prominent Black voices in the sports community sharing their stories; it’s up to us to read and consume their words. And most of all, learn from their experiences.
So, why is it that I’m writing this specific story if it isn’t mine to tell? Well, as a white man, it is my duty to better understand my Black neighbors. Study Black history. Learn more about Black culture. But most of all, catch my implicit biases and understand how they came into place.
You can’t rid yourself of what you don’t recognize in the first place, you know.
Not much has changed in this world since I last wrote about this movement. The only thing that has undergone any transformation is my personal education. For those of you that look like me, I urge you to do the same. Educate yourself.
Purchase books (or download audio versions) on how white supremacy came into place (White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is a great place to start). Watch documentaries like 13th to understand why our economy and capitalistic system relies so heavily on oppression and a prison workforce. Shoot, for my commuters, listen to podcasts from prominent Black activists and political figures. Pod Save the People by Crooked Media and The Bakari Sellers Podcast over at The Ringer have been my auditory choices of education when running errands and cleaning the house. Trust me, there are plenty of ways to implement racial education into our daily lives.
Even for my friends on social media, follow leaders within the Black community like the fantastic DeRay Mckesson, for example. Here’s a video of him describing the difficulties with reforming police forces in different areas of the country –– specifically Kenosha, Wisconsin, the home of Jacob Blake.
We can dismantle the system at its core. We can do it in this lifetime. There are systems and structures that protect and enable the police as they kill. It's time to strip it all bare and build something that works. #JacobBlake pic.twitter.com/L1K84d2PHE— deray (@deray) August 27, 2020
You want to be an ally? Educate yourself. Put in the work. Prepare to feel some discomfort along the way; the background of the white man isn’t exactly pretty. Don’t be afraid to ask tough or uncomfortable questions, and be sure to listen intently to the responses they elicit. I know I sure have. It’s the only way to learn.
It’s the only way to fortify true compassion. It’s the only way to come together and unify. The time is now to atone for the mistakes of our ancestors. This is our American duty, our moral imperative.