“So we’re different colours and we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs.” — Martin Gore
Yesterday was the first day of February. February is Black History Month. It seems that these collection of news stories were bound to happen, but it is still amazing nonetheless. The first one is one you all know well. The backlash against the 1619 Project and so-called critical race theory has been ongoing.
In the midst of all that chaos, numerous states have chosen to limit what teachers can teach their students during this month. For instance, we can talk about Jackie Robinson, but we can’t talk about why there was a color barrier in the first place. We can talk about Martin Luther King Jr, but we can delve too deeply.
The end result is that multiple generations of Americans believe MLK had a dream. They’ll quote the dream and even misquote it in order to pretend that he would support policies that further subjugate people. Meanwhile, we have students that think he freed the slaves, was the first black president, and a precious few seem to think he was related to Martin Luther.
It’s in this backdrop that the second news story makes even more sense. Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores started a class action lawsuit against the NFL charging systemic racism and racist practices. While it certainly wasn’t the most shocking revelation, the fact that Bill Belichek accidentally texted him and congratulated him for getting the Giants job (thinking he was Brian Daboll) before he interviewed was damning all by itself.
That happened to me once. A principal gave me a hand-written note thanking me for my interest in a counseling position and nicely saying they were going in another direction. It was a nice gesture except for the fact that she dated the note before my interview. I was seething for weeks based on that slight. Imagine living your whole life having to put up with things like that.
A league that is 70 percent African American amongst it’s players has one black head coach for 32 teams. There are three minority coaches combined amongst those 32. That’s impossible to defend. I’m sure teams like the Giants, Dolphins, and Broncos (who were specifically named in the suit) can somehow defend their hire and their decisions. I’m sure most teams can. That’s the difference between systemic racism and overt racism.
Hardly anyone comes right out and says it anymore. We are all too smart and too sophisticated for that. However, when the vast majority of the owners are white then they will hire white executives most of the time. Those executives will hire people that they know and have worked with. They turn out to be white most of the time. Head coaches hire assistants they’ve worked with before and they turn out to be white most of the time. I think everyone knows the score.
Ultimately, we don’t grow if we don’t force ourselves to acknowledge some painful truths. We can argue about intention until we are blue in the face. We can assert that we don’t hate anyone because of their race, ethnicity, country of origin, or religion. We can argue vehemently that we aren’t racist and even believe it down to our core.
Many of us can do so with a straight face. Yet, it’s hard to look around and not see the results of a society that has been systematically unfair for decades. Now, many of us are barred from pointing that out. We don’t want kids to feel bad. There’s a fine line between assigning blame in the present day or simply being aware that a discrepancy exists. We didn’t cause the discrepancy, but if we don’t acknowledge it we can’t move on. Then, we are the cause.