If some people didn’t get the message of the protests against police brutality, with persons around the world marching down city streets and country roads after the death of George Floyd, then the athletes of the WNBA, the NBA, and MLS are repeating it loud and clear. Lebron James tweeted, “Enough is enough” and he is not alone. There is a large swath of Americans who are tired of these images and videos of police brutality and excessive force, tired of this scene and these conversations, tired of hashtags trending and pointing to the sad fact that America continues to be headed in the wrong direction, tired of telling persons that their lives matter. African Americans already know that they do and if persons don’t agree, then everything stops as it should.
Because we cannot move forward, we cannot take another step on the court, the field or in this life we share together if this is not understood.
Yes, Jacob Blake had a warrant and resisted arrested. Yes, he walked back to his car and did not obey lawful commands. But Blake did not deserve to be shot in the back seven times by Officer Rusten Sheskey in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23rd. And for all of the discussions of what he could have done or that there was a knife under the floormat on the driver’s side, Blake had no weapon in his hand. Unlike seventeen- year old Kyle Rittenhouse who crossed state lines with an illegal firearm, an AR-15, killing two people and wounding one other. He was not arrested but went home and later turned himself in.
See the difference? Even as I pose the question, I know the answer is not as straightforward or obvious for some. Fox News commentator, Tucker Carlson justified the teen’s actions, saying that he had to “maintain order when no one else would.” Did he now? Well, then why did he? And why is he the one to do it and not members of Blake’s own community?
Because he had to protect his home? Because he was deputized by the local or federal government to take up arms and provide security detail to the citizens of Kenosha? Because there is a long history of socially colored white people feeling called to police, to surveil, to punish socially colored black bodies in the name of “law and order”? Because “this land is (his) land” and he has a right to protect and defend it, wherever the “threat” appears even if he has to cross state lines to do so? Because America continues to locate good and bad, right and wrong in particular bodies and a crime has occurred or will occur or is definitely a crime depending on who is holding the weapon?
People are tired of these mind games and the mental acrobatics needed to make these points. If you can find every reason to justify Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times but not find a single problem with a seventeen- year- old in possession of an AR-15, killing two people and wounding another, then there is really nothing to talk about. These conversations are for persons who are serious about mutual respect and accountability, courageous truth- telling and healing confrontations, community- building and authentic belonging. These discussions are for those who are committed to social justice and equality, who are ready to deconstruct colonialism, race, racism, white supremacy, white Christian nationalism and any other systems that prevents us from believing that we are and behaving as our sibling’s keeper.
So if you have time to sit in front of your television to yell and cheer at a screen, then you have time to talk about these issues. Because there are sides, even teams. There will be no entertainment, no distractions, no reason for you to not respond to race, racism, colonialism and conquest, assimilation, American slavery, eugenics, Black Codes, Jim Crow segregation, lynchings, redlining, white flight, the school- to- prison pipeline, police brutality, whiteness, white Christian nationalism and white supremacy. Have your snacks handy because this is going to be long conversation but one that you should not have a problem with. Just think of it as overtime or additional innings.
Because these athletes are not playing with police brutality and neither should we.