I had the following email exchange with Allen Brown this week.
Brown: News Flash! BLM (Black Lives Matter) takes their community improvement team to Kenosha, Wisconsin. What a great organization! Hope the local high school chapter is taking notes!
Second email: NEWS FLASH! Biden, Harris, Pelosi condemn violent protests/riots/looting in Kenosha. OOPS! No, they didn’t!
My reply: You’ve seen the video, right?
You saw what the cops did to that man. Seven shots in the back.
I’m ashamed of those officers, ashamed for my country.
When will officers break ranks? When will the good ones realize that they can’t continue to avert their eyes while the bad ones pull this shit?
Brown: Saw the video, looks horrible. Unlike you, I’m content to wait and see what the full investigation/story reveals! There’s always more! Also, unlike you apparently, I don’t think this incident that initially appears so terrible justifies riots, looting and now more deaths. Second email: Ted, hope you know I like you, I do. Yeah, I saw that video, looked terrible. What I saw when I watched that video was a guy not following police instruction, resisting arrest AND, it looked like he was reaching for something on the floor of his car. Doesn’t change realities, still horrible. I was never a real peace office although technically I was, just a juvenile probation officer. What did I learn from that? There’s almost always SOMETHING more. We should all want justice and be willing to know the full story rather than just rushing to judgement and using a terrible thing like this as an excuse to riot, loot and kill even more people. Third email: You know I’m right.
*Two people were later killed in Kenosha by a self-described 17-year old militia member who said he was there to preserve order and defend property.
The above represented chapter one of my mentally processing the murder of an unarmed man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin by a police officer. Chapter two was presented by Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers when asked by a reporter about Jacob Blake during a postgame press conference.
Rivers is a black man, extremely successful and articulate. He attended college at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s coached an NBA championship team. He married his college sweetheart, a white woman he met during his freshman year. They’ve been married 34 years, and have four children.
“What stands out to me is just watching the Republican Convention. They’re spewing this fear, right? You hear Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that were denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad. Like, I should just be a coach.
It’s so often … [I’m] reminded of my color. It’s just really sad. We’ve got to do better, but we’ve got to demand better. We’ve got … it’s funny. We protest and they send riot guards, right? They send people in riot outfits. They go to Michigan with guns and they’re spitting on cops, and nothing happens. The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force.
My dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us, just like they protect everybody else. I didn’t want to talk about it before the game, because it’s so hard, to just keep watching it. That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be black to be outraged. You need to be American and outraged. How dare the Republicans talk about fear? We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over? It’s just ridiculous … It keeps going. There’s no charges. Breonna Taylor, no charges, nothing. All we’re asking is you live up to the Constitution. That’s all we’re asking, for everybody, for everyone. Thank you.”
NBA players, and then athletes in other sports, have sat out games the past few days in protest.
I recognize that we live in a culture with an extremely short attention span. That we’re accustomed to having news events resolve themselves in very tidy timeframes. There was George Floyd and the subsequent protests that ignited throughout the country and then … the protests subsided and things got back to “normal” and then – Jacob Blake happens and a lot of folks can’t gear up for another round of it, of conflict. But really, of truth splashed in their faces. In my face.
Chapter three came when the panelists of “Inside the NBA” expounded upon what Doc Rivers said. Now the panel features three former, top NBA players (Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith), all black, and a longtime broadcaster named Ernie Johnson, white.
It’s probably the most relevant show on television. The former players are candid and self-deprecating and bust each other’s chops and tell jokes. Watching the show is like hanging with your friends – especially for those of us who inhabit the same 50s age range.
Barkley followed up by asking Johnson if he’d ever had to give the traffic stop lecture to his children. Never.
For the other panelists, it’s a frequent conversation. Kenny Smith said he finds himself unconsciously talking about personal safety and caution with his kids multiple times per day. It depends upon the neighborhood. In some neighborhoods, these are the unwritten rules and codes. In other neighborhoods, different rules and codes apply.
And it hits home, that these gentlemen who’ve enjoyed so much professional success, who are so well known – they still worry about stuff that many of us have never worried about in our lives. And if the black elite can’t find any peace or security on a day-to-day basis, what’s it like for the vast majority of minority populations who aren’t rich or famous?
The fear element that Rivers talks about – I wonder how much of that relates to the declining white majority in this country. By 2044, the white share of the population in America is supposed to fall below half.
In 2018, the New York Times spoke with Jennifer Richeson, a social psychologist at Yale University who analyzes group behavior. According to the story, “She knew that group size was a marker of dominance and that a group getting smaller could feel threatened. At first she thought the topic of a declining white majority was too obvious to study.
But she did, together with a colleague, Maureen Craig, a social psychologist at New York University, and they have been talking about the results ever since. Their findings, first published in 2014, showed that white Americans who were randomly assigned to read about the racial shift were more likely to report negative feelings toward racial minorities than those who were not. They were also more likely to support restrictive immigration policies and to say that whites would likely lose status and face discrimination in the future.”
In short, they are fearful. And as Rivers describes above, fear is a very powerful and divisive political tool.
The most depressing part to me looks like succeeding chapters over the next quarter century, as politically, fear has proven a very winning card destined to be played again and again.