Saturday, September 24, 2016
Sending the Message
It comes as no surprise that I got some flak over my last post of the Marine’s letter to the NFL Commissioner objecting to the player demonstrations during the National Anthem. In fact, it was pointed out to me that these demonstrations have quite a bit of support, especially in the younger demographic, regardless of race. Even some high school and college players have started taking a knee or raising their fist in response to the Star Spangled Banner.
First of all, I get it that black people are upset about the way they are profiled and treated by law enforcement. Do we have a problem in this country? Absolutely. No question. We can come up with all kinds of reasons or excuses. But unwarranted excessive force seems to be applied way too often when law enforcement officers encounter black citizens. Again the underlying reasons are complicated and, if you’re in law enforcement, somewhat justifiable in your mind. If you’re a black person who’s been on the other end of that excessive, unwarranted force it is outrageous and unbearable.
So I get it. I remember back in the late 60’s and early 70’s when a young white guy with long hair driving a VW bug was more likely to have a negative encounter with police than a young white guy with short hair, wearing a cowboy hat and driving a pick-up. Today, if you’re of a certain age, look a certain way and happen to be driving a car that says to police you might be up to no good, you are more likely to get pulled over than if you’re an old white guy like me. The last time I got stopped by law enforcement was two years ago. I was out in West Texas going about 90 mph on an empty stretch of Hwy 82/114 between Guthrie and Benjamin. The Texas Highway patrolman was nice as could be and just warned me to slow down. Do I think that encounter would have been different if I was 25 years old in a sports car with California plates rather than an old white guy with his wife in a Dodge Ram wearing a Texas Tech ball cap? Duh…yeah. Do I think an old black guy in my place would have been treated differently? Maybe. Probably. At minimum there might have been more Q & A with the officer just to make sure there wasn’t something illegal going on. So yeah, I think I got profiled in the best possible way and if I had been black the experience would not have been positive.
So if I am a black person, especially a young black person, even more so a young black male; I am frustrated, angry and fed-up with being presumed guilty of something most of the time. Go on and protest. Vote for change. Make noise and force our nation to address the issue. But, don’t undermine your cause by looting and rioting and destroying property. If you’re a high-profile athlete or even a low-profile high-school athlete; don’t deliver the message in ways that are counter-productive. And disrespecting your country, your flag and your national anthem is about as counter-productive as it gets. If athletes want to wear Black Lives Matter socks and wrist bands, fine. If they wear that BLM t-shirt to the post-game interviews, so be it. It they want to tweet their support for the movement, I say go for it. But do it in ways that build support for the cause, not opposition. You can say and do the right things and still get the message across and get it across even better.
“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”
― James Baldwin