The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one.
That line was uttered by the fictional Will McAvoy during a diatribe on the problems plaguing the United States on the HBO drama The Newsroom. While the message was part of a scripted series, there is little doubt that the words ring true in our current, real-world state of affairs.
When it came to the issue of race and equality, I used to think that my youth growing up in sports had me in the clear. I had teammates of all colors and depended on them all to achieve the ultimate goal of winning games, so I clearly had worked past issues with race.
That’s not good enough.
Anyone who knows me personally also knows that I can be pretty loose with language when in casual settings. I can run afoul of FCC guidelines with the best of them, but foul language referring to racism and homophobia have always been on the other side of the line I’ve drawn for myself.
That’s not good enough.
I’ve spent plenty of time over the last couple of weeks reading about the ongoing protests for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement and against police brutality. I’ve shared plenty of social media posts that are sympathetic to those causes.
That’s still not good enough.
While I’ve been encouraged at the seemingly shifting barometer of our country in terms of race relations, it has occurred to me that I haven’t been the level of ally and proponent for others that I like to think I am. Participation in sports may have taught me to treat everyone as equal in the heat of competition, but simply acknowledging wrongdoing towards other demographics isn’t being a good teammate; it’s becoming a spectator.
Regardless of all my sympathy, empathy and social media advocacy, there’s still a problem that I’ve been a part of.
Whenever I’ve heard people say something teeming of racism and turned away, confident that I was the better person for not agreeing, I was ignoring a bigger threat and adding to the problem.
When I listened to several acquaintances who are or have been police officers make throwaway comments about black people showcasing a double-standard when it comes to confronting suspects, I would sigh and roll my eyes, but not challenge them on the issue. I didn’t fight for something plainly wrong because the issue would never hurt me, but could jeopardize a friendship. I added to the problem.
Saying that I’ve added to the problem isn’t about some persecution complex or turning the volume up on my concern for issues now that a national discourse is underway. This is simply the thinking of a guy who has been comfortable and confident in his acceptance of every person I’ve come across, only to look closer and realize that acceptance is a far cry from advocacy for the friends I’ve made and the injustices they endure.
There is definitely a problem. And we need to fix it.