With Boston smoldering, shattered glass being swept up and the city lousy with discarded bricks and tear gas canisters, the easy thing right now would be to say, “Well, they lost me. I’m not aligning myself with that.” And then just look away.
Because it takes effort to plow past that opportunistic anarchy. It takes time to sift through the performative rioting by a few hundred. You need to give a few moments of reflection to differentiate between that and the peaceful, heartfelt protest of tens of thousands.
Yeah, there were opportunists and frauds and hucksters and low-life scum in Boston late on Sunday night trying to ruin the city under the false flag of protest.
The night's shrapnel is tangible.
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But I’m wanting right now to keep all that minimized on the screen of my mind. I’m trying to see instead the intangible image of Derek Chauvin GLEEFULLY AND DEFIANTLY kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until Floyd was dead with asphalt and pebbles embedded in his cheeks.
I’m trying not to find an excuse to sigh and say speaking up effectively and conveying my thoughts is too presumptuous, too hard, too layered, too nuanced, too easily misconstrued to even bother with.
I mean, shit, we have been told — quite rightly — that it’s our time to listen. So what’s a column from me sitting in a sunroom out in the suburbs gonna do to help?
That’s been my out in the past. That and the facts I’d come armed with about how different New England is from the rest of the United States when it comes to law enforcement and the use of deadly force.
But on Friday, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores made a statement that said to me, in essence, stop being a coward and a hypocrite.
“I vividly remember the Colin Kaepernick conversations. ‘Don’t ever disrespect the flag’ was the phrase that I heard over and over again,” Flores wrote. “This idea that players were kneeling in support of social justice was something some people couldn’t wrap their head around. The outrage that I saw in the media and the anger I felt in some of my own private conversations caused me to sever a few long-standing friendships.
“Most recently, I’ve had conversations about incentivizing teams for hiring minorities. Again, there was some outrage in the media and talks that this would cause division amongst coaches, executives and ownership. I bring these situations up because I haven’t seen the same OUTRAGE from people of influence when the conversation turns to Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and most recently George Floyd.
“Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling or on the hiring of minorities don’t seem to have an opinion on the recent murders of these young black men and women. I think many of them QUIETLY say that watching George Floyd plead for help is one of the more horrible things they have seen, but it’s said amongst themselves where no one can hear. Broadcasting THAT opinion clearly is not important enough.”
Flores wants people like me who swallow their tongues despite knowing that black Americans are routinely treated way differently than white Americans to say something.
He wants people like me who try to thread the needle on seeing moral injustice but rationalizing why I should stay publicly silent to grow a backbone.
OK. I am at your service.
Searching cynically for reasons not to be — not wanting to ride with the “woke-for-Twitter-love” posse, believing my platform was given to me because of how I write about football not social issues, not wanting to align with people who hate my country — I’m done doing that.
Statistics say that a black man in America is much more likely to be killed by lightning than shot dead by law enforcement.
They are still, per capita, much more likely than a white man to suffer that fate.
But even if lightning may never strike, it’s obvious that every day black Americans can hear thunder white Americans never hear. Sometimes faint. Sometimes near. And there’s always that fear and unease of being caught in the storm.
Men like Flores have been waiting for people with platforms to say something out loud.
We’ve said, at best, “Please stand by…”
Enough. It’s time to stand with.