I am a lot of things. You know me as a Memphis Grizzlies blogger. But what I am most proud of, what brings me the most clarity in a life and world that all too often becomes clouded by so many factors, is being a father to my two little girls. They are, quite simply, the world.
So it is with that clarity that, upon viewing the following clip, I found the words that I have been trying to find a way to say for a week.
With a smile, and a statement of truth, a six-year-old inspired countless people. Including me.
Black lives matter. It’s important to differentiate that from words others may say in response because it attempts to make it seem as if all are given equal treatment in this country. This is unquestionably untrue - it has once again taken the national stage after the murder of George Floyd, but it has been a sad reality for people of color (especially black Americans) for 400 years. In 1619, at Jamestown in Virginia, slaves began the process of building a country through forced physical labor. That continued until the passing of the 13th amendment in 1865. Simple math tells you that for over half of the time that there was a colonial presence, and now an independent nation, in the continental United States there was a system in place that classified human beings as property. Lesser than a white person.
The ending of slavery did not bring about equality. Nor did the subsequent legislation over 150 years, which was met with tension to outright rebellion depending on the area of the country. Even today, in 2020, black people are not able to have the confidence in law enforcement to take care of them. To protect them. To serve them equally, as they would their white counterparts.
I never have to teach my daughters how to protect themselves from police officers that may not treat them fairly. That wouldn’t have been true of George Floyd, if he had the opportunity to teach his children about such unfortunate realities. Instead, he was killed, added to a far too long list of black men who did not receive what I would have received in a similar situation. Due process. The right to a fair trial, and judgment by my peers. Floyd never got that.
And now, a little girl is without her daddy forever.
I will never, ever, be able to understand what it is like to be a black person in America. The pain that runs through generations of families, the feeling that you’re not judged by the character and talent you possess, but by the color of your skin. The anger and sadness that is on display for the world to see on a daily basis at this stage is heartbreaking, and a reminder that shared humanity far too often gets lost in adverse moments. A police officer neglects the rights of the man he is arresting, as well as the fact that he is a father, and a person.
He was a man.
Hopefully Gianna Floyd is exactly right, and her father’s death will not have been in vain. The world does seem more engaged at this stage, and with multiple institutions like school systems and universities severing ties with the Minneapolis Police Department there is greater accountability being enforced from important areas. But real change - an evolution - starts with people like me. The white male who acknowledges his privilege and wants to better understand how it impacts others. The consumer of sports and person whose professional life is connected to young people whose talents make them beloved, yet their lives off the court far too often get neglected or outright disrespected. In order for the chain of 400 years of racism to be broken, it must be a teacher, a coach, and a father teaching his students, his players, children that our differences shouldn’t divide us, but should be celebrated and a uniting force. It must be him being willing to admit he doesn’t understand...and being willing to learn.
The world can be so much better. We must be better, for the next generation that looks to us for guidance and answers...even when we don’t have them. We must not just hear, but listen. We must not just post on social media, but stand up in our communities. We can’t just lash out at the federal government if we’re frustrated, but we have to educate ourselves about local politicians and elections. And we must educate ourselves about the lives and experiences of those different than us, whose perspective of American life is vastly impacted by factors out of their control.
Later today, I will be able to pick up my daughters and give them a hug and kiss. I will be able to tuck them in at night, and tell them I love them. I will get to watch them grow, graduate, potentially walk them down the aisle as they get married. As I grow old, and reach the end of my days, I will have the chance to be a grandpa and impart my life’s lessons on the next generation of our planet. George Floyd will not get that opportunity.
For him, and for Gianna, I will make sure that part of my lessons to my children and grandchildren will be that black lives matter. That grace and compassion matter, no matter the look of a person. And that person’s character - as well as their own - will be revealed in moments such as the one our nation is currently in the midst of. How they respond will dictate their future.
William Shakespeare wrote “what is past is prologue”. Do not forget the lessons of history. Remember George Floyd, and Gianna, and be the change you wish to see.