A part of me knew this would happen. I wrote about the Jacob Blake case a few days ago. It has touched off a firestorm on both sides of the issue. The immediate aftermath brought protests as everyone would naturally expect. I would have been shocked if there hadn’t been protests. We had George Floyd. We had Breonna Taylor. We’ve had Ferguson. For the African American community this literally goes back decades.
To make matters worse, an Illonois 17 year old shot and killed two protesters and injured a third. I did major in journalism for about thirteen minutes so I still remember some of the old rules. He has been arrested, but he is also a minor. I’m not reporting his name. I’ll let the big boys do the dirty work on that front.
According to reports, the boy brought the rifle in plain sight of police. It is illegal for minors to have assault weapons in Wisconsin, but apparently that wasn’t enough to question him and detain him. I guess he looked older than he was. He shot those people in front of a crowd, but he was somehow allowed to walk through without getting stupped. He returned home and ended up surrendering to police there.
So, an unarmed black man gets killed by police and then those same police allow a white teenager to kill unarmed protesters without even attempting to stop him. Anyone else see an issue here? Sure, we can say the two situations are not the same and so it is unfair to claim the police are treating people differently based on race. Right now it’s about optics and the optics are really bad for the cops in Wisconsin.
The story took an unexpected turn when the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the floor for their playoff game today in Orlando. The Rockets and Thunder followed suit later on this afternoon. Suddenly, the entire slate of games was postponed and the players are holding a players only meeting tonight. For the moment, cancelling the season in protest is on the table.
I predict we will hear something from the Trump team before the convention is out. He will announce he’s never watching the NBA again or that they should shut up and dribble or that they should be thankful for the opportunities they have. It’s my stone cold lock for the week. We can even make up bingo cards because I’m sure a combination of those phrases will be uttered.
If they aren’t uttered by him directly then they will be uttered by surrogates. We will see friends and maybe even some family say some of the same things about protesters or the NBA players themselves. In case anyone wonders what I’m thinking, I’m thinking it is a huge act of courage. Some of those players may never play again. Some of those coaches could lose their jobs. They certainly won’t get paid and it could limit their earning power moving on. More importantly, they are willing to forsake the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of their sport in exchange to fight a cause that’s bigger than them. They have my respect.
The events of this week have reinforced a couple of things. First and foremost, racism is not just the dirty little secret that lives in the South. George Floyd was killed in Minnesota. Blake was killed in Wisconsin. You don’t get much more north than that. Even if we assume the officers did not act out of racism, than the 17 year old kid’s reaction was definitely motivated by race.
We should have known that after Ferguson, but many still talk about the “southern strategy.” I’ve certainly talked about before. In this case it is just a euphemism. The appeal is a general appeal to like-minded people throughout the United States. Somehow over the last few years those dog whistles have turned into bullhorns and trumpets.
Point number two is much harder and much more difficult to articulate. I have a number of friends and family that are conservative. I still firmly believe that conservative doesn’t mean racist. However, it has become increasingly obvious that conservatives have a choice. Wise people once said thet when you lie with dogs you are bound to get fleas. If you support Donald Trump there are bound to be people that think you are either racist or it doesn’t particularly bother you that he’s one.
I get that a vote is a complicated thing. As a Catholic, I vote against my church’s stance on abortion. I vote for its stance on almost every other issue. These are the moral tradeoffs we make as voters. So, I get that racism might not be the biggest issue for many of you. After all, if you are white then this is something you’ve never had to worry about.
Yet, we are rapidly coming to a crossroads. Either you support the desire for equal justice under the law or you support the status quo. You can call it whatever you like. You can call it “law and order,” “respect for the law,” “respect for authority,” or whatever else you want to call it. You can call yourself a member of the “silent majority.” I think most of us know that isn’t true anymore. If it is true then it is an extremely sad day to be an American.
I’m not going to tell you what to do. I’m willing to voice my thoughts here, but i haven’t joined in the protests. I’m not really in a place where I can comfortably do that. However, there is a moment when we are all called on to stake our claim to which side we want to be on. A vote for Trump says you are hunky dory with what’s going on. You don’t have to vote for Biden to be for equal justice under the law. You can vote Libertarian. You can vote for Evan McMullen if he is on your ballot. You can write in someone else’s name. You can fill out your ballot and leave the presidential one blank. Still, we are rapidly approaching the point of no return. You cannot support the president without supporting his racism.