Racism In America

We need to do better.

Jim Rome
June 01, 2020 - 9:51 am
George Floyd

USA Today

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As I have said before, this is a sports show. But it is not a dumb show. It’s not a clueless show. It is not a tone deaf show. And it would be dumb, clueless, and tone deaf to try to act like today is just another day to just talk about sports.

I get why you might want that. I get why you might be seeking an escape, but this isn’t the time for that. When it comes to the issue at hand, there’s been too much escapism and too many diversions for some people.

So here’s what we’re going to do. There are three guests we’ve already booked. We’re going to do those interviews.

But we’re also going to talk about something else. Something that is much bigger than sports.

I want to talk about George Floyd. And Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Eric Garner. And Michael Brown. And Tamir Rice. And Freddie Gray. And Walter Scott. And Philando Castile. And so many more.

You’ve heard all these names before. And we hear them again now. The thing is, you probably haven’t heard the countless other names of Black men and women who have been killed by police officers.

When Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce was on the show last week, we talked about the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and Pierce’s reaction to it.

There is no way you could’ve heard that interview and not be moved.

Because it was Pierce speaking as a Black man, not as an NBA head coach. As he said, the title of NBA head coach could fade at some point, but he will always be a Black man in America and for his entire life, and lifetimes that have preceded him that has meant that feeling safe and protected is not an option for him.

Here is the thing - as moved as I was by that conversation, I cannot begin to comprehend what that feels like.

I have no idea what it feels like to live with that every single day. To know that you are never safe. And to know that if the worst does happen to you, there is little chance of justice.

So I cannot pretend to speak about that experience with any authority at all. I can only speak about my experience. I am a white man and I am looking to speak in particular to other white men right now.

You might be tempted to turn off your radio or change the station. Please don’t.

Because you and I need to have a conversation. It might not be a fun conversation or an easy one, but it is a very necessary one.

I can’t speak to the experience of Lloyd Pierce, but I want to try to speak to my experience and I know a lot of you listening right now share a similar experience.

And again, I’m just a guy with a sports radio show. I’m not an expert by any stretch, but let’s acknowledge some facts. Some tough facts. Some things that might be painful to confront.

As white men in America, we have things easier than most. It doesn’t mean we have it easy, but we have it easier. This is a system has been designed by and run by white men.

I have worked very hard to get where I am. But it has been easier for me to get where I am than it would be if I had different skin color. That is not really up for debate. We all know that.

Again, it does not mean it’s easy or that I didn’t work hard. But it is easier than if I was born in a different zip code and had a different skin color.

George Floyd died a week ago after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Is there any doubt in your mind that if George Floyd looked like me, he would still be alive today?

Is there any doubt in your mind that if it was my neck that Derek Chauvin was kneeling on, he would’ve reacted differently if I was the one who was saying “I can’t breathe”?

But I never have to worry about that. I don’t have to worry about police brutality in that way at all. That is not a part of my life. Or my experience. I do not carry decades of that tension and fear in my body.

I do not have the talk with my sons about how they should act if they are pulled over. And I do not have to live in fear every night that they might not come home because a traffic stop went bad.

And I bet a lot of you listening right now are in the same boat as me.

So when you see George Floyd lying on the ground and you’re watching him struggle to breathe, if you are white, you and I know that we’ll never have to live in fear of that happening to us.

But just because it isn’t happening to you, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And just because it’s not happening to you, doesn’t mean that you and I don’t have a role in preventing it in the future.

Too many people have died. These men and women are not statistics. They are people. Tamir Rice didn’t get to celebrate his 13th birthday. Michael Brown was 18. His family never got to see him fulfill his potential. And neither did the rest of us. We all lose when this happens. 

But because it doesn’t directly happen to us or someone who looks like us, it is too easy to just look the other way. To just say, “That’s too bad” or “Something has to change” and then keep right on going with our lives.

Or worse, it’s too easy to look at the protests that have happened around the country and see them as problematic, instead of seeing them for what they are. The protests aren’t the problem. Continued police brutality is the problem.  

So if your reaction is to say that you wish that people would protest the continued killings in a different way, I suggest you check in on your thoughts about Colin Kaepernick.

Because he peacefully protested police violence and a whole lot of people freaked out, and he ultimately paid the price with his career.

This is exactly what Colin Kaepernick was protesting against. Colin Kaepernick placed one knee on the ground to protest police brutality. Derek Chauvin put one knee on the back of George Floyd’s next. The side by side comparison could not be any more clear.

And if you’re reaction to the protests is “what about the looters...” Then you have completely missed the point. And you’re probably doing it intentionally.

Do not waste my time or anyone else’s with “what about the looters.” Of course nobody is defending looters. Do not confuse looters and protesters. 

And if you really want to get into a discussion about behavior that led to immoral gains, let’s talk about slavery, convict leasing, Jim Crow, and redlining to name just a few topics. Why would you be more worried about a Target than all of that?

I am not a sociologist. I am not a politician. I am not an expert in police reform. I don’t have any great plans.

But here’s what I know. What we, as white men in particular, have done little to this point to end police brutality and institutional and systemic racism is not enough.

We need to do more. We need to do better.

You see, we know this is happening. This isn’t new. You and I know that. We’ve known this for a long time. But it’s been easy to look away, because it hasn’t been our problem or we haven’t been affected by it.

But the truth is, it is our problem.

Maybe Rodney King was your first exposure to it. That was nearly 30 years ago. But this problem goes back further than that. This isn’t something that started recently, what started recently is that people have video cameras and phones to capture it.

And yet capturing one death after another on video doesn’t seem to have changed anything. There are almost never consequences. A family and friends are left mourning the tragic killing of a loved one. And millions are left to wonder why there is never any justice.

So here are a couple more things I’m thinking about and I hope you are too:

It is not enough to claim that America is post-racial. It isn’t.

It is not enough to claim that we are color blind. We aren’t. And generally speaking, the vast majority of people who claim to be color-blind are white.

It’s not enough to say that we aren’t racist. We need to be anti-racist.

We need to be actively fighting against racism. We need to be calling it out. We need to be looking at ourselves and seeing what conscious or unconscious bias we hold. We need to be holding our friends accountable when they say or do racist things.

We need to be learning about institutional racism and identifying it. We need to be learning about structural racism, identifying it, and taking it down.

It’s not enough to just encourage people to vote, we need to be making sure people have the ability and access to vote.

Tragically, none of this is new. But what can be new is how you and I respond to it. I am going to try. I invite you to come along. It’s not going to be easy. But it will be worth it. 

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