White athletes — both collegiate and professional — have finally used their voice to speak out against racism the past few days in light of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Everyone has likely heard the story at this point, but Floyd was arrested on suspicion of a $20 fraud charge at a south Minneapolis grocery store. Police officer Derek Chauvin, now charged with murder, killed him by kneeling on his neck as his law enforcement colleagues stood by and allowed it to happen.
All of this as horrified onlookers pleaded for the officers to stop.
On Thursday, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr joined Chris Long on the former NFL defensive end’s podcast. Among other topics, the pair discussed Carson Wentz’s statement on racial tensions surrounding Floyd’s killing.
“I think that’s something white players, white coaches, influencers, should hear. I just had this conversation with Carson Wentz,” Long said. “I shared with you that tweet. I was very moved by that. You heard Shannon Sharpe talk about that this week. He said, ‘Who’s gonna step up? We need Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. It’s great that we’ve got X, Y, Zs of the world but we need the big-name quarterbacks’ and that sort of thing.”
“So to see that happen and [Wentz] said ‘institutional racism.’ He typed those words out. That was really important to me. I got chills thinking about it. It’s so bare minimum, but that’s all we need. We just need guys to address it.”
Chris Long is right, these conversations among white individuals are necessary. Wentz’s voice now is critical, especially given his upbringing in North Dakota, where, as Wentz noted, there are few folks of color. It shows that anyone who wants to know what is going on in this country has the full intellectual consciousness to wrap their hands around it. To work against a virus that has been at the center of this country since its inception: racism.
Long has spoken out about racism the last few years, even putting his boots on the ground alongside Malcolm Jenkins, his former teammate, in state capitals and state prisons. His point about Wentz is important and his criticism about white players in the NFL is just as spot on.
I realize oftentimes white people don’t know what to say, nor what to do, to help black communities combat racism.
Malcolm X said it best in a 1964 speech before the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
“We need allies who are going to help us achieve a victory, not allies who are going to tell us to be nonviolent. If a white man wants to be your ally, what does he think of John Brown? You know what John Brown did? He went to war. He was a white man who went to war against white people to help free slaves. He wasn’t nonviolent.”
John Brown was a 19th-century American abolitionist who championed the use of armed insurrection to end slavery.
Malcolm’s argument echoes a larger sentiment to white allies: If you see that you are benefiting from the system, speak out against it. Take steps to dismantle it. Donate your coin to organizations that fight it.
Heck, show up at the offices of lawmakers to demand change. If they aren’t working toward dismantling racism, vote them out. Disrupting the status quo is the bedrock of any path toward equality, and white people must be willing to participate.
“In the end,” Dr. King said, “we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Everyone has to be an active participant in dismantling racism at all levels in this country.