The war on injustice and oppression has been waged by millions over centuries, and the only aspect to undergo substantive change is the death toll.
Every small advance, however, has come with a racially collaborative effort, which is proof that folks of different hues can share the same goal. As long as this is true, there is reason for hope.
Though it’s much too soon to conclude the killing of George Floyd at the knee of a Minneapolis police officer is a tipping point in America, it’s absolutely evident that more people across the human paint spectrum are willing to confront our most enduring sin.
Which is why it is encouraging to hear white voices growing in numbers and getting louder. Two of the most visible, Warriors coach Steve Kerr and former NFL star Chris Long, are calling for others to join them.
“We have to decide, as white people, that enough is enough,” Kerr said on Long’s “Green Light” podcast.
“We need athletes to talk about this stuff,” Long said. “We need white voices. We need people to stand together right now and be on the same team . . . and just call it for what it is. In sports, for whatever reason, there aren’t a ton of white athletes who feel comfortable doing that.”
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Long pointed out that one of his former teammates, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, was among the few to issue a statement last week, after seeing video of Floyd’s death, decrying the “institutional racism” that people of color live with on a daily basis.
That, however, is only a start.
“Who’s going to be the first white franchise quarterback, a big name in our sport, that can move mountains,” Long said, “to come out and talk about this stuff?”
That, folks, is a call to the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger, all marquee names with Super Bowl bona fides.
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Considering the crisis at hand, they’re all fair game. As are the big-name college football coaches, who are revered in some parts of the country and have parlayed African-American talent into generational wealth.
“For somebody who wants to be involved, admitting there is racism or that you might have a leg up, doesn’t make you a bad person,” Long said. “It doesn’t mean you haven’t worked hard. It just means that it’s harder for somebody else. Let’s even the playing field.”
Kerr and Long know this is a big ask. They also realize leadership is one of the requirements of making America a better place. Doesn't leadership begin with those of power and influence?
Moreover, how can one be described as a leader without getting involved?
“I’ve got friends who are in the thick of it, in the inner city, who are really fighting hard for equality and for the lives of people are impoverished,” Kerr said. “I’ve learned from them and I tend to call them and ask: ‘What can I do?’”
The first step, Kerr concedes, is addressing the issue.
“When I think of it in terms of the big picture in our country, in our nation’s history, the real problem is that we’ve never really reconciled our sins from the past,” Kerr said. “We haven’t really.”
“The impact (of slavery), the generational impact, on families, the only way for us to reconcile it is to address them.”
Aware that some contend slavery, because it was abolished 157 years ago, is something to be ignored or forgotten, Long astutely pointed out the fallacy of that, saying it has been replaced by various iterations, some of which exist in 2020.
Most notably, that is, in the all-too-antagonistic relationship between law enforcement and African-Americans.
Kerr and Long are not alone. Others, Gregg Popovich and Megan Rapinoe to name two, have long been willing to address inequality. Other sports figures, such as Zach and Julie Ertz, along with J.J. Watt, have spoken up in recent days.
Still, many more sports “heroes” should search themselves for the courage to acknowledge injustice, speak on it and take positive action.
“Hopefully, we can, inch by inch, claw our way to a place that we can be comprehensively proud of the country we live in,” Long said. “Because I am proud to be an American.
“But there’s a big asterisk next to it.”
That asterisk has become massive in recent years and downright explosive in recent days. There literally is war in the streets, and war always means suffering.
Until there is appreciably greater cooperation from the privileged top of American society, most of which remains silent, the body count will rise, with martyrs recognized or not, continuing to stack up.
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