Speaking Up About Our Pain – Again

A few years ago in this very space here at TSFJ, we mourned about a country reminding us of its preferred citizen hierarchy in violent ways. Professional and amateur athletes of all stripes and sports were becoming more vocal and demonstrative with their displeasure about the murders of unarmed Black Americans. There were also plenty in their locker rooms who aired out their displeasure about the commotion of it all – criticizing the methods of protests, lashing out at those tired of being tired, and deploying bothsideism with a dash of some sea lioning.

In the time since, a lot has changed for each of us who once or currently call this site home. Many of us still plug at it here while also lending our voices to an array of media outlets around the nation. Those who have moved on still have virtual desks here, remaining supportive of the movement through counsel, networking, and check-ins with one another. We added some new blood to bring fresh perspectives and grow their portfolios for whichever opportunities would find them.

Most importantly, there has been tremendous personal change and growth in our lives. A few of us got married – or have been on-deck for it – within the last three years. Most of those few, including yours truly, now have children who have effectively replaced prior workout regiments. (Raise your hand if you are chasing a toddler.) And while there have been some losses and setbacks, we have also gained new loves, new jobs and side hustles, new locales to call home and more.

But in all that joy and promise, America has reminded us that despite being positive contributors to society, it still has a preferred citizen hierarchy. Most of us, including TSFJ’s founding publishers, are Black and brown. And those who are not have been genuine allies to those who are. In short, as human beings and as Americans, we are at the very bottom or perhaps not even noticed.

To say this is all happening again in 2020 is inaccurate because it never stopped in the first place. While overt and horrific events have inspired many words in the past, the microaggressions have not always been penned about. The systemic challenges to our daily lives weren’t always worth our energy to discuss. We just wanted to sort through our lives in relatively decent shape despite America being America.

Now, we just want to have life. The coronavirus pandemic has taken so much from us in a stunningly quick amount of time. Losing loved ones and seeing others barely survive. Worrying about the suddenly branded “essential workers” who had always been the lifeline of our society. Trying to adjust to life without our in-person social gatherings – the largest and most lucrative, of course, coming from sports. Looking in absolute disgust at the clowns begging for nail salons and restaurants to reopen for full service just to served like the kings and queens America isn’t supposed to have. Side-eying the massive leadership deficit in too many states and countries – notably this country.

Then while we had been trying to fill these temporary voids, three unarmed Black citizens were killed by police.

Thousands, maybe millions of people around the world are protesting their deaths while the risks to their own lives are doubled because of viruses. There is the one we cannot see that has killed over 376,000 people – including 105,000+ Americans – and counting. Then there is the one that some of us can see while others deliberately blinded themselves to avoid.

In the time since NFL players raised their hands (then sat or knelt) and basketball players told you they couldn’t breathe; the world has simultaneously embraced and resisted the meld of sports and social commentary. We see that tug-of-war playing out right now in the messaging that has engulfed social media platforms in the last few days. The cynic can say that this is some virtue signaling that exists right now in lieu of no team sports taking place in the U.S. since mid-March. Yet, we have seen that more and more athletes – specifically, white athletes – are speaking up in ways they never would have five days ago, let alone five years.

Does this mean that suddenly there will be fewer bodies in the streets? Most likely not – in fact, I fear the awakening of more white Americans right now could push the degeneration of others, putting more lives at risk. For those who saw nothing wrong with the deaths of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor, an athlete who dares to speak out – and a white one, at that – just warps their minds even more.

But I hope this sudden awakening – not just of the athletes, but her or his families and friends that help shape society – is the result of the constant drum of their Black and brown brethren finally getting through to them. I hope this is the tide shift, even though most of their eyes are on November instead of right now.

I honestly hope that we do not have to write about this pain anymore.

But this is America.

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