Nearly three years ago, I wrote about the racism, bigotry, and hate displayed in Charlottesville when a group of white supremacists occupied the sacred grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village. At the time I noted, “the divisive rhetoric and violence over race issues had been brewing for some time and my fear was that we had not even reached the boiling point.” Sadly, I was right.
Last week, in a span of 24 hours, a white woman, clearly in the wrong, verbally threatens a black man; white cops, without cause, kill a black man; and there are probably more. These are only two incidents that spread virally across social media. Throughout the week tensions built, exploding into riots.
Our nation is tearing itself apart. When Colin Kaepernick took a knee—few listened. A white cop took a knee and killed George Floyd—we all MUST listen. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “America failed to hear,” and the riots we are witnessing now are “the language of the unheard.”
We all have a natural predisposition towards understanding class, race and gender and these filters create an odd culture—one that is a real threat to minorities, especially black men. Too many filters are clogged and it is bewildering that in 2020, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey needs to state the obvious, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.” Yet, too often, it is.
There is no place for racism, bigotry and hate in our nation. Kaepernick tried to address racial injustice and rather than supporting his call to action as a nation, too many vilified him. The conversation was distorted to question the patriotism of Kaepernick and others who supported his call to action.
There is a leadership vacuum at the top and the divisive tweets only ignite intolerance. Real change must come from the roots of our diverse and strong society. We must learn from all cultural, racial and ethnic groups and value inclusiveness and varied thinking.
Hate in the heart solves nothing. I was blessed to play football at the highest level, but most important, the values I learned on the field guide me today. We all must look inward and be thoughtful, moral and caring individuals who contribute to our communities.
As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” This is more than a call to action—it is about survival. No one can stay on the sideline. It is our civic responsibility to be involved, and there is no greater contribution to our nation than voting for leaders who listen, care and value every citizen.