Youth sports offer a unique opportunity for individuals of different ethnicities, incomes, and social standings to come together. I can reflect back on my time as an athlete now and realize how lucky I was to build a brotherhood with my teammates, regardless of who they are, what they looked like, or how much money they had. We didn’t really think about this as kids because we just saw people for who they were. In a lot of ways, I think we have life figured out at a young age before we allow biases to take hold of our opinions. It is true that bias is unavoidable. However, where we do have a choice is in our ability to self-examine those biases and realize where they stem from, both the good and the bad. Over the past week or so I have had a lot of time to think about the protesting around the death of George Floyd. No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on, it has quickly become a case of either you’re with me, or you’re against me. Dealing in absolutes leaves one susceptible to a margin of error. With that said, some situations can be seen as clearly right or wrong. In a vacuum, is the killing of an unarmed, non-threatening individual punishable by the full extent of the law? Without a shadow of a doubt, yes. With that said, life doesn’t occur in a vacuum. This was the case of another African American man who was killed by a person in a position of authority unjustly. Twelve year old me would be upset with my current day self if I didn’t speak up on how truly evil and saddening this is.
Part of self-examination is realizing your privilege as well. As a Caucasian, heterosexual, middle-class, male I am in the majority in every way imaginable. There are things that I don’t have to worry about that others stress over every day. While I am not out there physically protesting, I want my African Americans brothers and sisters to know that I stand with them against the injustice that has been going on far too long. Does this mean I am against the police force? Absolutely not. I know countless police officers who serve and protect all individuals in our country. I want those who are either a part of the force or now retired, I appreciate you and everything you sacrificed to protect the greater good of our communities. It is true that the vast majority of police officers fall into the same category as well, but that does not justify there being individuals who act out of hate and racist beliefs. At some point, enough is enough. When I have children one day, I would like for them to live in a world that is just and accepting of all individuals. It will take those of us who represent the majority to turn the tide. As U2 famously once sang in relation to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Early morning, April four, Shot rings out in the Memphis sky, Free at last, they took your life, They could not take your pride.” Do not let George Floyd and countless others die in vain. Do what your 12 year old self would want you to do and advocate for a greater future for those who are oppressed.
U2. Lyrics to Pride (In the Name of Love). Genius, 2020. https://genius.com/U2-pride-in-the-name-of-love-lyrics