Yes, You Can Be Friends With Black People…Sleep With Black People… And Still Be Racist
Everytime I hear someone claim to be color blind I cringe. Largely, because I know it’s a lie and second, because we shouldn’t seek to be color blind-EVER. We should still see race, but just decide it simply doesn’t matter. If we truly wish to even began to resolve the issue of race during our lifetime we need to be willing to discuss and accept some harsh truths.
If it’s one thing growing older has taught me, it’s how much of an ability we have to compartmentalize our lives, often without even realizing it. One can enjoy the company of person yet not necessarily be empathetic to their plight or appreciate their struggles. Our attraction to another person is usually only concentrated to the specific individual, not the culture or cultures they may belong to. Further, one can also be attracted to an individual yet not value or respect the race of people they represent as a whole.
Mike Ditka, former Bears star, coach and fierce critic of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination, is a classic example of a privileged white male whom is quite accustomed to black athletes yet refuses to learn anything about their personal yet universal experiences as black men in America as evidenced by his recent statement, of “no oppression the last 100 years.” The cynic in me hardly believes this 77 year old white man, born minutes away from one of the most racist cities in America (Pittsburgh, PA) has never seen or heard any evidence of oppression in America. Ditka was only alive during the Civil Rights Era here in America. I’m sure he was aware of who Martin Luther King Jr. was. I’m sure he was aware of the terms segregation and Jim Crow. I’m sure he was aware of Governor George Wallace being asked by the national guard not to block black children from entering a public school. Hell, Ditka was aware of Jackie Robinson. Ditka knows full well the racial composition of NFL positions are largely based on race. He knows black men have been blocked from being quarterbacks for years. Further, this man knows the Williams’ sisters, Tiger Woods and Joel Ward didn’t exactly have the red carpet rolled out for them as they broke barriers in tennis, golf and hockey.
When I hear people like Ditka, who lived through some of the darkest moments of our racial history yet, pretend they weren’t aware of such oppression- I hear dishonesty and defensiveness wrapped in white fragility, designed to protect their psyche by restricting knowledge and shutting down any conversation regarding race. But why?
There are those who know they’ve either directly or indirectly benefitted from racism, oppression and discrimination. This isn’t easy to admit and I’m sure it’s a source of shame once you come to such clonclusion. Further, how do you move past this? Short answer: You work to dismantle the systems which allowed this to occur to begin with. When you are resistant to this, well, it speaks volumes.