In October 2001, roughly six weeks after the September 11 attacks claimed nearly 3,000 lives, NBA players took the floor appearing in the same fashion they usually did — a uniform, nice sneakers, some flair — but with slight modifications to the jersey. On each jersey there was a patch depicting a USA flag splayed across a red, white, and blue cause ribbon. It was called the “unity patch”, and it was worn by a variety of teams, across a number of sports, to commemorate what was being shorthanded as the greatest national tragedy since Pearl Harbor. As the season started off, the various entities of the NBA — players, coaches, teams — were tasked with memorializing the dead of 9/11 in their own ways. Teams had moments of silence, raised commemorative banners, honored first responders before the game began, and so on; a collective effort to remember, memorialize, and process the event. According to Rare Vintage Wear, this was the only time in league history that an entire sports league commemorated something on their clothing, aside from a league or team anniversary. The message that year, for better or worse, was “united, we play ball.” It was the message every sport maintained, after the moments of silence ended and the giant American flags were rolled up, and placed in storage for the next earth-shaking tragedy: enough crying, let’s get to it.
In 2014, as a national tragedy of a different sort enters the collective consciousness of the average American — the murder of people of color at the hands of unchecked law enforcement, a state-sanctioned genocide that has killed exponentially more people over the years than 9/11 — we see very few of the same practices being employed by the NBA. Rather than an organized movement, NBA players like Derrick Rose and LeBron James are taking matters into their own hands, outside of the purview of their teams and their league, crafting hand-made “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, and wearing them openly during shootarounds, but removing them once the game begins. Teams do not parade victims of police brutality to be honored by players at midcourt, as the crowds rise as one in reverence and respect. No moments of silence are offered for individuals like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice or Eric Garner. No, this is a movement that is inspiring tepid support, and highly conditional encouragement. In regards to the shirts being donned by athletes across multiple sports, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has officially offered a wan take:
I respect Derrick Rose and all of our players voicing their personal views on important issues but my preference would be for players to abide by our on-court attire rules.
And after Derrick Rose donned his “I Can’t Breathe” shirt, several white members of the Chicago media seemed very, very offended. Dan Berstein took to Twitter, lamenting that “I hope he truly understands the important position he’s taken, and what comes with it. Alas, I doubt he does.” Cody Westerlund, a white sports writer based in Chicago, not only questioned Rose’s actions, but asserted that Rose not speaking to the media brings into question the very existence of police brutality itself, as well as the ability for a black man to express an opinion without giving a series of justifications why to the white people who need answers and explanations:
While it’s news for any prominent athlete to take such a stand, Rose’s bold move was especially noteworthy. He’s long raised awareness for and preached the need to address inner-city violence and poverty, but this was different. We all acknowledge violence and poverty are problems that exist. The same can’t be said for racially charged police brutality, which makes the problem worse.
Regardless of whether we agree with it or not, sports serves as a primary lens for Americans to better understand the completely-fucked-up world around them, and immerse themselves in social issues that they would not engage in otherwise, especially as predominantly couch-bound individuals. This makes sense: sports are the most watched program on television at any given time, and watching television is, in many ways, the one thing that unites us all; our true national past-time. Millions of Americans had their first protracted thought about domestic violence because they watched the NFL, and millions more were forced to think about equal marriage rights because they watched the NBA. Sports are the method of escape we most greatly prefer, but which frustrate us because we have very little control of the proceedings. Because we cannot control the actions of the players, we choose to control our understanding of the actions; a myriad of conscious and unconscious acts to put on the right size of horse blinders, and maintain a comfortable, carefree life. In this way, sports operates as both an entry and exit point; an ambivalent place to gain new understanding, yet at the same time, shut out images and opinions that go against the grain, however we, as individuals, define “the grain” itself.
As such, it is not surprising that, in sports discourse, blackness is seen but not heard; discerned but rarely discussed. Blackness is not touched; feared by the readership, avoided by the wordsmiths. Most of this is a product of the industry: the 1.3 percent problem is real, no matter how stringently and purposefully white readers, writers and editors want to ignore this fact. Blackness is simply not discussed because there are no black people writing about sports. As a result, the current racial atmosphere in America is being largely ignored in work related to the NBA, the world’s blackest league, comprised of individuals who have lived through, and against, police brutality since they arrived on this rotting Earth. While many writers are happy to provide platforms for players to discuss their improved 3-point range, their trials-and-tribulations growing up, and their personal preferences and peeves off-the-court, the same practice is not replicated when issues of race or politics rise to the forefront. This is a problem of experience and postionality; an inability for predominantly white, male writers, readers and fans to properly understand, respect and explicate what black men have to endure on a daily basis. It is this reason that white writers shorthand Jason Whitlock’s forthcoming project as “Black Grantland” with a snort, or hone-in stupidly on the Comic Sans font on the “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, rather than use the opportunity to understand why an NBA player would do such an act. Both a lack of blackness in sports writing, and a predominance of whiteness in the very same occupational spaces, do everyone a major disservice, and perpetuate an ongoing production of empty, shallow or/and misinformed work.
Along the same lines, colorblindness is a disease; a destructive form of racism that masks itself in the language of progress, liberalism and reform. For those who choose to live life without color — ignoring race as much as they can in an effort to carve solutions to racial problems without taking race into account -what is slowly taking shape in the NBA, and by extension, in the United States of America, must be deeply confusing. For the colorblind, any sort of political expression privileging the racial experience goes against what they understand the end goal of the struggle to be, and puts them in an uncomfortable place. As I have written many times, the NBA prefers itself to be seen as colorblind, and creates images of its fanbase as a classical melting pot; a beautiful mosaic of races, religions, and sexualities, all brought together by the common experience of paying for basketball together. In actuality, it is a fanbase much like any and every other pro-sports fanbase in the United States: white, male, and predominantly heterosexual. When purposeful images of blackness emerge from the largely-black player-base — ranging from an All-Star in a shirt with a powerful chant, to a group of players in hoodies after another unchecked murder by a racist white man, to pictures and videos of cops strangling, shooting, and beating black people — we see the true nature of the NBA emerge, as well as their prescriptions for living through a widespread political movement: controlled exposure, tepid offerings of support, and a fervent effort to redirect your attention to what’s happening on the court. Indeed, the NBA would prefer their players look past their own blackness, so that fans can continue to ignore that their favorite players, themselves, are black, and continue paying for basketball without any sense of misgiving or unease.
There is something happening in the world; something old, and something new. There are people of color being murdered every day by a police force who exist not to protect and serve, but to oppress and kill. This is an old practice; a central tenet of law enforcement, and the motivating force for countless forms of structural racism. At the same time, there is a groundswell of anger emerging from our communities; a mass questioning of the function of the police, and the systems which allow them to act with racist impunity throughout the country. This is new; an original movement that is confronting the police on a nightly basis, and incurring physical violence from law enforcement more suited to wage a war on an armed terrorist organization than groups of unarmed, peaceful protesters. And as this happens in the world, there are no moments of silence, no keynote addresses on NBA courts. For them, this is not worthy of recognition; not worth putting together another statement that expresses unity. Those in the NBA who wish to recognize this as a tragedy are left to their own devices; left to wearing shirts in pregame, or protesting outside of arenas during and after the contest. This is how black lives matter right now in the NBA: in an informal, self-conscious way, that is being actively stifled by management, and a fanbase that cannot — and will not — understand.
Every night, the world changes a little bit more. Whether the NBA — our preferred form of escape, yet the sport that most closely identifies to the struggle at hand — chooses to stand up and be a positive part of that change, or chooses the tired old road of silence and consent for racism to continue, unchecked and unabated, is largely up to them. But if we are purposeful in our own actions, we can help the NBA make the decision that’s right. And, if we don’t like what we see, we can choose to leave the NBA behind, and not play a part in a world that chooses to hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil, and as a result, live a life that, in its complicity, basks itself in that same, sinister evil; an evil that remains scared of, and threatened by, images of discomforting blackness.
Playing Devil’s Advocate, do you think the NBA actually welcomes this? This way they can be on the forefront with social issues without “formally” being on the forefront. Silver strikes me as the kind of guy (not commissioner) who welcomes this kind of protest.
i think they’ll fully welcome it if they can trademark “I Can’t Breathe” and profit on the merchandise. thanks for reading.
The funny thing is that Silver has been characterized as someone who has been passionate about social justice issues for a long time. Lee Jenkins’ profile of him a few months back mentioned his pro bono legal work, his mother’s environmentalist background, and (of course) his black friend. But obviously he’s also the owners’ representative too. I dunno.
What if they decided not to play too? Now THAT would get attention. #realprotestisntpainless #IwontPlayUntilicanBreathe Otherwise, it isn’t important enough to risk a fine? They are in the perfect position to command the nation’s attention. I can only imagine the water cooler talk. And think of the effect on the economy. Basketball AND Football? Replacement players?
would you quit/boycott your job if your company’s CEO decided you weren’t allowed to openly support a social issue in the workplace? i wonder how many D-Leaguers alone would jump at a chance for a million-dollar contract if the NBA’s current roster players decided they wouldn’t play. this is their livelihood - their lives - you suggest they suspend because it is easier to ask them to do that than it is to stop watching games, to stop going to games, to stop looking at nba.com for statistics, top stop buying jerseys and memorabilia.
you’re saying, “hey, LeBron - your league, its fans, its writers have an issue accepting a lot of problems you and other players have been through personally; you and other players understand. but instead of the league, its fans, its writers changing their perspective, you should stop doing what you love. because that would be a better statement.”
Basketball can be played in an empty gym and on a playground. Not plying in sold out arenas and halting the generation of billions of dollars for predominantly old white men would be a statement.
i totally agree. boycotting the game would be the most powerful statement. even boycotting a half would be a huge gesture. thanks, all, for reading and commenting.
Thanks for writing this, for putting into words all the jumbled thoughts that have been in my head recently. I think that a lot of white fans just can’t relate to the experiences of growing up as a black youth because in many places our melting pot has become an ethnic and racial patchwork quilt. It’s easy to not consider yourself racist when you live in a bubble where 99% of your experiences are with people just like you. And so they don’t see themselves and their bubble as racist and #BlackLivesMatter is a neat idea but an abstract, untouched thing that they’ve never experienced.
Are we better off than we were 50, 100 years ago? For sure. The Klan are recognized for what they really are, interracial marriages aren’t against the law, and blacks in the South aren’t lynched with regularity. But on some days like many of our recent days it just seems like one racist system has been replaced by another. And it frustrates me to interact with people that don’t think it’s a real problem.
Still, I hope that a hundred years from now we’ll make more progress still, thanks to DRose, Lebron, and others starting to speak up, people marching in the streets, and writers like you putting it out there, uncomforting for some as it may be.
Keep on keeping on, sir.
hey man, it’s my pleasure. keep on keeping on on your end, too. thanks for reading and commenting.
As a writer who is interested in social issues like this, I was intrigued by and grateful for your article. I believe it is a shame that the media has framed events like this mainly as “racist white cop kills black teen” and fails to address police brutality as another major point. I believe it dismisses the issue as racist and does not crack down on the police brutality, although both are major problems. The fact that none of these officers have even been indicted is unfathomable, but a clear statement about how the judicial system backs its police officers.
I appreciate the points you made in the article. We claim to be a “melting pot,” although most of us mainly interact with those of the same race each day. It scares me when people think that the problems of race and other social problems are solved just because we have made progress. The job is not done. Ignoring race or being “colorblind” as you said is certainly not the answer. We must accept our racial differences and prejudices and take them into account when adapting to others, not pretend like they do not exist.
How would you suggest we move forward on addressing issues involving race in this country?
I agree that sports reporters are too caught up in trivial information and statistics rather than the personal and social aspects of the game. But, don’t forget, the NBA is a business. A business that, like you said, sells most of its tickets to and does most of its business with white men. Does it not follow that they would want to least offend the white men who are their sponsors, owners and ticket buyers? The NBA is a business first and the main reason most businesses take any action is, not for social progress, but for money.
Thanks, let me know what you think.
State sanctioned genocide? Are you kidding me? And blacks dying every day at the hands of police? So a guy in NY is killed by accident and you just start exaggerating beyond belief? I admit the cop went too far but 95% of the cops are good cops. You paint cops with a broad brush over an unfortunate incident? And don’t try the Michael Brown stuff. That was proven to be justified. Maybe people like Derrick Rose should speak out about the insane amount of black on black murders happening every day in Chicago instead of one incident in NY. He’s free to speak out but maybe he should look in his own backyard first. He could have a real effect on the Chicago youth.
Brian brings up a strong point. While these police killings and lack of accountability demonstrated by no indictment are real problems, the true number of deaths of African-Americans by police pale in comparison to the number of deaths by “black on black” homicide. Many of the urban areas where teams are located are the locations of some of the most depressing amount of violence in this regard. Why is no one in these prominent positions making an issue out of this far more destructive (in terms of African-American lives lost) social issue?
I believe black-on-black crime has always been under emphasized in the largely white-run media. The black-on-black crime is also a constant issue, while the white police officer killing the black man is seen as a more rare event (although it happens often as well). In addition, both whites and blacks can relate to the racial tension in the cases of the white police officers and black males, while whites cannot relate to the black-on-black crimes and the media knows that the white viewership will be less likely to tune in if they are talking about black-on-black crime because whites cannot identify with that.
I do agree that more should be made of black-on-black crime and trying to prevent it, but who would try to prevent it? White cops?
I think you missed the point of the article. The author is stating that the NBA is basically trying to clamp down on an expression of desire for social change to address a problem. The point noted above is that, from the persepctive of actual loss of African-American lives (#blacklivesmatter), black on black homicide is FAR MORE significant in terms of the actual number of lives lost. So while those promoting social change in terms of addressing police brutality and lack of accountability for cops who commit abuses have a truly valid point, to condemn the NBA for not making it a focus is questionable, as why should the NBA not make steps to help solve a problem that is ending far more lives?
I was giving you my opinion on why black-on-black crime is not a more prominent issue in the NBA and the media.
I received the point of the article. My point is, the NBA does not want to get involved in such issues because it is not economically beneficial for them to do so. The NBA is a BUSINESS. They do not care about social change or anything not financially beneficial to them.
Do I wish the NBA would use its power and reach to try to promote social change (for example reducing black-on-black crime)? Yes. Do I think it will happen? No, because it would scare away white ticket holders, white owners and white sponsors who, for the most part, do not want to think about racial issues, but would rather an entertaining basketball game. Bread and circuses my friend.
You make it sound as if black people don’t care about violence in their own communities… combating violence in cities like Chicago has been a major point of emphasis and effort for black leaders for a long time, just because you don’t hear about it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
Why don’t the players wear shorts that say “obey the law” or “be responsible”? Wonder if Mike Brown our Eric Garner would be here today if he did. I doubt any black athlete would be strong enough to wear an obey the law shirt nor would anyone tolerate white player wearing one.
I don’t necessarily disagree with your overall point, but I don’t think the ridiculous exaggeration, twisted narratives and falsehoods are necessary or helpful.
There is no “state-sanctioned genocide” occurring, and the police force does not “exist..to oppress and kill”.
“another unchecked murder by a racist white man” - there is no evidence that the killers were racist (you may have an argument with Pantaleo, but there’s no evidence regarding the other officers you talk about. You cannot just present your own opinion/assumption as fact).
“Blackness is simply not discussed because there are no black people writing about sports” - again, this is simply not true. There are plenty of black NBA writers and media personalities.
“Those in the NBA who wish to recognize this as a tragedy are left to their own devices; left to wearing shirts in pregame, or protesting outside of arenas during and after the contest. This is how black lives matter right now in the NBA” - this is a completely unfair statement. For instance, children are abused by abusive parents all across America on a daily basis. The NBA hasn’t made public protests during games against this type of abuse, does that mean we can say “children’s lives don’t matter right now in the NBA”. Obviously I can list 1000 more examples like this one.
Nick, I think your response is spot on. Very well said.
I’d only like to add on the following:
Jacob, I appreciate the perspective you have offered, but a lot of the words you use give off the impression that you believe the individuals you noted (Martin, Brown, Rice, Garner) were all completely innocent and did nothing wrong. After all, those individuals who were lost on 9/11 were, in fact, completely innocent. While I certainly don’t think those individuals you mentioned who lost their lives deserved to lose them based on their reported actions, it can’t be ignored that they can’t be spoken of in the same light as those who simply went to work one day, not to return home due to an act of terrorism against a nation.
The fact of the matter is we don’t know the motivating factors behind police decisions, or any decisions for that matter, unless they are told to us (and even then it could be a lie). We simply can’t get in the minds of the police officers who made the decisions they did. Is it possible they are racist? Absolutely, but it isn’t certain. Situations escalate quickly all the time and to assume they escalate solely based on the perception of one individual towards another based on their skin color only perpetuates the idea of hatred based on a foolish factor, although, unfortunately, some do share this ideology. Bottom line, I really don’t like how these situations have morphed into a battle of skin color on many fronts when it can’t be stated, for certain, that the end result of these situations was motivated by racial hatred.
In specific regards to the NBA, others have noted this, but they are a business. Their business is basketball, not social reform. Silver does a great job in conveying that he is understanding of athlete’s desires to support something they believe in, but they are paid to showcase their talents on the basketball court. When leagues took a stand against the acts of 9/11 through alterations to game apparel, the message was one that said we, as a nation, are against terrorism and are united. The message was quite clear. With the recent situations, the message isn’t nearly as clear and can be interpreted by many as a frustration stemming from racial perspectives which helps to divide a nation, not unite it. It is in the NBA’s best interest financially and socially to not take a stance on something that could be taken in a variety of ways from it’s fan base, thus dividing them and potentially hurting the integrity of their league.
Thanks for the article, Jacob.
Nick - “state sanctioned genocide” is indeed strong wording. However, I think the point is that, in our society, it’s ok for a police officer to kill a black person, particularly a young black male, on the sole basis of feeling fear. That seems to be the whole criteria, whether the person in question is armed or not, whether they’ve even done anything worthy of suspicion or not. That, to me, is deeply oppressive. The problem, of course, is that every case is different, and should be judged based on it’s own merit, but we’re at a point where police officers are being given free passes based on the positions they hold and the respect they command from the white communities they protect. While most police officers might be good guys, they are a part of a system that - consciously or unconsciously - protects white people from black people. When white people are afraid, they dial 911. When black people are afraid, they figure it out themselves. There’s no doubt in my mind that black on black crime is heavily exacerbated by a total lack of trust in the police.
So, the officer kills out of fear. Why is that officer fearful? Perhaps because he or she has made a request of that individual that has not been followed? Perhaps because that person has advanced on the officer when instructed not to? Has that person, black or white or whatever, escalated the confrontation to the point the officer is fearing justifiably for his/her health or even life, that the weapon is drawn and the trigger is pulled? Are there bad cops? Sure there are, but I have a hard time believing that every person (of any race) who is shot by the police simply because they want to commit murder. I have a hard time believing that some police officers are so bigoted that they shoot black men simply because of their racism. I suspect it occurs, but not to the numbers being suggested.
If there is a disconnect between the black community and the police force who are obviously supposed to protect everyone, then that’s something that needs to be worked on (from both sides). Black people should feel the same comfort from police as white people do. I agree that as a white person, I don’t understand this feeling of distrust with the police. So let’s work on that! There are ways of fixing this problem, which involve dialogue, education, etc. But please avoid the blanket accusations of racism against the entire white community or police community. That’s a massive generalization, and there’s no way you can defeat one type of generalization with another. The author of this article is clearly and unfairly generalizing multiple groups of people. I don’t know if that fits the technical definition of ‘racism’ but the principle is the same.
Can you show me a legitimate study that shows how many blacks are killed annually by police forces under questionable circumstances? I’m not trying to be facetious, honestly trying to gauge how big of a problem this actually is.
Police officers probably do get away with things more than the average joe. IMO the Michael Brown shooting was justified, and an average citizen (white or black) could probably also avoid prosecution or at least conviction if in the officer’s shoes.
The Garner death was different; it obviously wasn’t intentional murder, but he did use a banned takedown method that ultimately ended up in death. The average citizen could never get away with doing that to someone else. The police officer in question should be facing at least some discipline, even if it’s not prosecution. I don’t know if this is a white vs black issue though
If it was acceptable for 911 then why not now. After all Science,DNA and Ruby tell us all that,we all around the world are related through our initial blood line of the black from Africa.
We are all just different shades of that original blackness.
I followed a link to your blog from a page on nbcsports.com. As a white male, 50 something in age, and without a prejudice toward any group, I find it discouraging to read your commentary. You make bold statements that seems to indict all of us whites. When you say “This is a problem of experience and postionality (I don’t know what that word means); an inability for predominantly white, male writers, readers and fans to properly understand, respect and explicate what black men have to endure on a daily basis.”, I have to wonder if you understand the position of the vast majority of us. Perhaps we don’t discuss it, write about it, ponder it out loud, because we just don’t think about it. We aren’t prejudiced, we like folks of all persuasions and live our life as such. We tend to think that you should obey the law, and if you do have a brush with the law we feel you should interact respectfully with that officer. Doing so seems to work out well. I think most of us whites are greatly disappointed when we see you attempt to boost your cause by hanging your hat on some of the recent tragedies that have occurred, and have prompted the “I can’t breathe” shirts. You lose a lot of us, that is lose a lot of our empathy, when the outrage is based on a person committing a crime and resisting arrest.
You comment “In 2014, as a national tragedy of a different sort enters the collective consciousness of the average American - the murder of people of color at the hands of unchecked law enforcement, a state-sanctioned genocide that has killed exponentially more people over the years than 9/11…”. That seems to be a bold statement. Can you cite a reference for it? Murder by definition is an unlawful act, usually with malice and sometimes with premeditation. Have that many people of color been murdered by police officers in the years since 9/11? That could be 30,000 or even 300,000 if your are calling it “exponentially” more than than the number of dead on 9/11. Now, if you just picked that number, or that term “exponential”, out of the air to make a greater impact you lost some more of us. If not, cite your reference and I’ll have a better understanding.
“This is a problem of experience and postionality; an inability for predominantly white, male writers, readers and fans to properly understand, respect and explicate what black men have to endure on a daily basis.” Since I am a sports fan, I’ll consider myself in the group you describe. As far as athletes, of any color, it’s hard to understand what they “endure”. Huge salaries, adoration of fans, meet princes and princesses (as LeBron did), hang out with stars and so on. As for the average black man, like the average person of any race or other minority group, I suspect our lives are similar – how do we feed our families, is our work stable, are my kids going to turn out okay – you know, the concerns all humans have. If you want me to understand black men, say Michael Brown, well I just can’t. I don’t understand strong arm robbery, and I certainly don’t understand disrespect for a police officer. It’s going to lead to trouble, and young Mr. Brown’s case is an excellent example.
“There are people of color being murdered every day by a police force who exist not to protect and serve, but to oppress and kill.” Really? Once again, cite your references, please. Now, if this generalization includes those persons killed during the commission of a crime, I’m not going to count them. If it includes persons resisting arrest, or giving that officer reason to believe his or her life is at risk, I’m not counting them either. I used the work “person” intentionally, as I don’t care of they are black, white or purple, that person put themselves at risk for what ultimately happened. So let’s sort it out to black people, murdered (as in the definition I mention above) purely because they are black. That would be a horrible thing, and the murderer should be swiftly prosecuted, and I am sympathetic to any cause that tries to change it.
How about this? Let’s encourage athletes of all races to encourage people of all races to respect the law, to educate their children as to the importance of education and the value of work. Let’s teach our children to respect those of all colors, and extend a hand to each other in friendship and assistance. I think many of us whites have grown tired of the inflammatory talk coming from the black community, not because we are racists, but because we are not, and we try to live our life that way. Put aside your anger for a minute and ponder that idea. The vast majority are not racists, we like and respect everybody, and want to support your cause but cannot, because in certain ways you are asking us to endorse lawlessness, and we just can’t do it.
You wrote a lot of very boring, silly and pedantic things in this response to Jacob’s article. It is fundamentally lacking in empathy or desire to understand the perspectives of someone else, which, I suppose, is what being a white man is all about, so I don’t really know why I am replying at all because you probably won’t listen to me any more than you would listen to Jacob or anyone else
But, someone should AT LEAST call you bullshit on “As far as athletes, of any color, it’s hard to understand what they “endure”. Huge salaries, adoration of fans, meet princes and princesses (as LeBron did), hang out with stars and so on.”
You know that pro athlete weren’t always pro athletes, right? For at least 19 years, they were just another young black man. And, hey, guess what: young black men of pretty much every station in life experience a torrent of harassment and bullshit from American police! And just because they EARNED the right to make money as a pro athlete that doesn’t mean their minds are wiped and they forgot those experiences while they chow on caviar until they turn into corpses.
Also “As for the average black man, like the average person of any race or other minority group, I suspect our lives are similar – how do we feed our families, is our work stable, are my kids going to turn out okay – you know, the concerns all humans have.” is the motherfucking height of smarm. There are a lot of similarities! But guess what! There are differences, too! American society, Western society, is geared towards making life harder for people of color! A N Y P E R S O N O F C O L O R will tell you this if you listen! But you don’t, so why would anyone talk to you.
Before you say that you have “no prejudice toward any group” you should stop and consider the assumptions you voice about entire groups of people. By stating that “If you want me to understand black men, say Michael Brown, well I just can’t. I don’t understand strong arm robbery, and I certainly don’t understand disrespect for a police officer. It’s going to lead to trouble, and young Mr. Brown’s case is an excellent example” you pretty clearly reveal that you tend to believe that you connect black men to “strong arm robbery” and “disrespect for a police officer.” You literally referred to Michael Brown as an “excellent example” of the whole group of people – black men – you don’t understand. Just because you’ve never thought about or talked about your subconsciously held beliefs about certain groups of people doesn’t mean you don’t have them. The fact that you believe that you speak for the “vast majority of us” white people (not myself, for your information) about how we feel about black people shows how deep your group prejudices are. It’s pretty laughable that you say that discussions like this cause “us” to lose “our” empathy, because it’s clear that this author and the people he is speaking about never had your empathy to begin with.
You don’t know if Mike Brown committed a “crime;” it doesn’t matter what the grand jury said because the indictment process is controlled by the same folks who are set up to protect the police – no one is going to indict the system that writes their paychecks. Our (meaning our culture’s, not just your, not just white people’s) ideas about “criminals” are influenced by who we as a culture (which is built on white male supremacy) think of as threatening, suspicious ,and dangerous –“Crime” is defined by the white supremacist legal system, and then is shaped by who police come into contact with through surveillance and who fits their idea of what criminal behavior looks like (racial profiling – ever heard of it?) How we think about crime isn’t based on specific behaviors, its based on who’s doing it. A very clear example of this is when the cops can assault someone for no reason because we think it is ok for them to do violent things because of who they are, but people who are not in the same position are called criminals for doing the same behavior. The fact that you are so quick to believe that Mike Brown was a “criminal” shows that you hold the same underlying assumptions that Darren Wilson and many other people in our culture do about people who look like Mike Brown. It doesn’t matter what he was doing that day, by walking while black, Mike Brown and the many others like him who have been targeted or will be, was seen by Darren Wilson and our larger society as guilty until proven innocent.
If you really want to understand “black men” – or any group that you see yourself as different from – even though you claim you can’t, stop telling them what they have experienced and who they are, and start listening.
you’re right, jacob should be more respectful, like cops are, when they shoot and choke unarmed black men over selling loose cigarettes. It’s pretty fucking easy to say “Be reasonable” when a cop almost certainly won’t shoot you over nothing.
also racism isn’t what you think it is.
And what cop shooting someone over nothing are you talking about? Michael Brown? He was shot because he tried to take a cop’s gun, assaulted him, and charged him, not because he was black.
you’ve got it all figured out.
Never said I had it all figured it out. But the fact that your best reply is that proves my point. You’re no better than Al Sharpton. Rhetoric like this helps no one.
Where are you getting your info about all of this btw? Since you seem to know so much about the experiences of black people and communities of color.
Also please stop speaking for all “whites.” You clearly don’t know what all white people think anymore than you know what people of color think.
Great piece, and quick comment on the 9/11 statement people are giving you so much grief for.
About 3,000 people died on 9/11.
According to a recent study, AT LEAST 313 Black men were killed by either cops, security, or vigilantes in 2012. Extrapolating that value leaves us with over 4,000 Black men killed by “authorities” since 9/11, so Jacob wasn’t that off base.
According to the study, Black men made up nearly half of all of such victims, and the vast majority were unarmed. Putting this together with what we know about the disproportionate “justice” dolled out to men of color, Jacob seemed reasonable with the points he made.
Wow, great sentence.
“Indeed, the NBA would prefer their players look past their own blackness, so that fans can continue to ignore that their favorite players, themselves, are black, and continue paying for basketball without any sense of misgiving or unease.”
Interesting post. However, I do think you mischaracterized Cody Westerlund’s statement about Rose’s evasion of the media. From the section of his article that you quoted, it seems that Westerlund was saying that Rose’s decision to wear the shirt was remarkable because he’s bringing attention to an issue that is not acknowledged by many people to exist, and Westerlund believes this lack of acknowledgment is a problem. I don’t agree with your interpretation of that quote as Westerlund stating that Rose’s refusal to comment “brings into question the very existence of police brutality itself.” The sense I got from reading the article is Westerlund has a positive stance on Rose’s statement (“Taking a stand on a raging social issue is commendable and a move many, many high-profile athletes before Rose have chosen not to do”), but was disappointed that Rose didn’t speak to the media about it. I’m guessing because Westerlund is a writer and couldn’t write an article about the story with quotes from Rose himself. Nothing in that article makes me think that he takes any issue with Rose’s stance on the matter or his decision to wear the shirt.