After a monumentally important week, former Eagles defensive lineman Michael Bennett has a message for white people who want to be more proactive in combating institutional racism.
Bennett, currently a free agent, and Patriots safety Devin McCourty appeared on Chris Long's Green Light podcast on Friday to discuss the ongoing national protests against racism, police brutality, and the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed in Minneapolis last Monday night by a police officer in an incident caught on camera. The officer kneeled on his neck for an extended period of time while Floyd was handcuffed.
The trio of current and former NFLers had a lengthy and candid discussion about what has failed, and what needs to be improved, in the United States, and the whole thing is worth a listen.
One part in particular stuck out to me, when Bennett explained what white people looking to help should be doing:
I think now, with George Floyd, it's even shining more light on the racial disparity with the police system, and I think for our white counterparts, I think they need to do some studying.
I think white people need to start studying. As a black man, I can't tell you how to not be racist. I can't tell you how to be inclusive. I can't tell you any of those things. That's a self journey. That's a self awareness journey. I think African-American people have had to conform myself to fit in certain areas, whether it was in sports or in the culture, being told, 'You're too this, you're too that, you're too that,' and they're basically saying, 'You're too black.' Right? So now it's a situation where [...] you have to figure out your own journey, to really find out why people are feeling this way.
This protest, with George Floyd and these things, there's history behind it. I implore white people to do some research. Go look at Emmett Till. Go look at Steven Biko. Go look at Nelson Mandela, Patrice Lumumba. Go look at what happened to Medgar Evers, when he was killed in front of his house. Go look at what happened to those girls who were bombed in Alabama. Go look at it. It's the history here. Look at it. We talk about Martin Luther King, but look at the history and how Martin Luther King was treated, how he was chased, how he received assassination attempts on his life. This is the man you look up to.
It's a great point from Bennett. This week's protests are about Floyd's killing, but they're really about something larger.
The more you know about how we reached this current moment in history, the better you can try to move forward in a proactive way.
As NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank noted this week, it's important to see athletes use their platforms to spread messages just like this one:
The more athletes and celebrities who use their platform to influence and educate and demand change, the more we have a chance to move beyond the racism, homophobia, bigotry and sexism that are so prevalent in our society.
Later in the discussion, Bennett gave his thoughts on Washington's football team:
LONG: Is there anything the NFL can do to prove they're actually on the players' side?
BENNETT: Of course there is. I think the Redskins can change their name. That's one way, that's a start right there. You say the league is not racist, and you have a team that literally has a racial slur for its name? The Redskins? What if it was the Whiteskins, or the Blackskins, or the Yellowskins? People would be upset, right? To me, that's one way.
It would certainly be a start.
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