Asked to reflect on the past two weeks of tragedy and global unrest in NBC Sports Chicago’s “Race in America: A Candid Conversation” panel, Bulls forward Thad Young described a spectrum of emotion.
Heaviness. Sadness. Anger. And — as a Black man and father of two sons — fear.
“It’s definitely been heavy,” Young said on the panel. “But for me, it’s also scary from a standpoint of, I have two boys to worry about, ages six and nine. It’s just very, very tough to have to see that and then also have to explain that to my kids or explain to them that, ‘Hey, there’s some things that you can’t do that other people can do.’
"When you’re a father of kids, the biggest thing for you is you want to give them the world, you want them to see the world, you want them to be able to explore the world and be able to do whatever they want to do at any given time. But this is not a place where we’re living in that time where they can do everything. And you have to get them to understand that at an early age.”
Indeed, in a world crying for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and myriad more Black citizens unjustly killed by police, the onus of the types of harrowing conversations Young described falls on Black families far more than their white counterparts.
As Young recently said on a conference call with reporters: “If I’m going to be specific about it, the Black kid can’t do everything that a white kid is doing.”
Millions of every creed and color have stood up around the world in recent weeks to protest systemic racism, police brutality, and the institutions and norms that enable both. Floyd’s death was the powder keg, but these issues have been at hand for centuries.
While the majority of said protests have been peaceful, some have featured rioting and looting. There’s no denying that reality, but Young said that those centering the conversation about the current climate on rioting and looting are distracting from the cause itself; “the cause” meaning the fight for actionable change in the name of justice and equality across racial lines.
“It’s a mirage, it’s a smokescreen. That’s what they’re trying to throw out in front of us to take our mindset away from the true problem at hand,” Young said, using “they” to refer to people who focus on rioting and looting as opposed to the source of frustration in the first place. “They don’t want us to face the problems head on, they want us to think about all these other things and think about all this different stuff that’s going on as opposed to the actual problem.”
For that reason, Young added, those speaking and acting out in the face of oppression must continue to do so in a calculated manner.
“We as Black people, as African-Americans, we have to be able to speak up and stand up and have to keep doing that, and we have to do it with precision,” Young said. “We have to do it with the ultimate goal at hand is to create some type of change, and that’s what we have to keep in our mindset. Change. If we don’t keep that in our mindset and we start to follow these smokescreens and follow these mirages, then it takes away from the true power that we have in our hands and it takes away from the true power that we can use to create the change.
“We have to stay with the precision and stay focused on the task at hand. And that’s justice for George Floyd and justice for all the others that’s going down in this battle.”
The rest of the conversation — which involved former Bear Sam Acho, current Bear Allen Robinson, and Jason Heyward of the Cubs — also featured discussion on the current state of race relations in the United States, personal experiences and the ways in which positive change can be tangibly effected.