There are times where we would love for professional athletes to speak up. A lot of us tire of those such as Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan not speaking on social issues while both were in their prime.
And when some of those pro athletes do speak out, we kinda wish they took the time to fully understand what they speak out on. Or as I have heard someone say, “before speaking up, try READING up”.
Which brings us to Dez Bryant.
Bryant felt compelled to speak out on race relations in this country in an Instagram post Monday evening. Instead of re-typing the highlights, here are the screenshots for your reading pleasure:
First, I am not here to excoriate Dez.
I actually applaud the young brother for attempting to gain some perspective on such a complex issue as race. I also commend him for not having any ill will to anyone who treated him wrong. I just felt that while he is trying to gain such perspective, particularly on our own accountability, he was off the mark a bit.
Second, this is not a diatribe against White America.
This is more a conversation with my fellow black people who tend to blame our own for the problems that exist in our community. Those of us who wonder why some of our own can’t pull themselves by their own bootstraps to better themselves instead of offering a help hand or two. Those of us who forget that there are some things put in place LONG before the cows came home (yeah, I grew up in the South).
In other words, forgetting that if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Let me be clear about one more thing. Do I believe that race relations are light years ahead of what my grandparents and parents went through as children? Absolutely. Am I grateful for living in the greatest country in the world? You’re damn right I am.
Having said all of that, do I believe we STILL have a LONG-ass way to go in race relations? Hell, BLEEPING yes.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let me address some of what Bryant said with some thoughts of my own.
Do I agree with Bryant when he said about focusing on “individual accountability to be better as a whole”? I do – to an extent.
There is nothing wrong with accountability. My parents preached it to me, and I intend to preach it to my son when he is old enough to understand such a thing.
However, I don’t think I could just leave it there. Doing so would mean forgetting about the policies that were put in place to make it difficult for black people (and Latinos, Native Americans and the LGBT communities) to succeed.
Failed Reconstruction. Segregation. Voting rights. Redlining. Police brutality. Institutional and systematic racism.
Who should be accountable for that? Why would I, and others like me, be accountable for the effects of what those aforementioned events did to the Black community for several years?
You never hear people tell Jews, “the Holocaust happened a long time ago, let’s move past that and not continue to divide” and “you weren’t in the Holocaust, I didn’t start the Holocaust – get over it”.
You never hear people tell Native Americans, “you weren’t being slaughtered by the Europeans who colonized your land”, “you didn’t walk that ‘Trail of Tears’, get over it”.
It’s almost as if we Black folks are being blamed for events that were perpetuated against us.
Look, in terms of resources, I’m good. My younger brother is good. My wife came from an upper middle class black family. My college buddies, my best friends and fraternity brothers are good.
We all worked hard to get to where we are today, I get it. Hell, I actually once shared the same thoughts as Dez (and am STILL fighting such thoughts).
“I made it, I beat the odds – why can’t YOU?”
But why not offer a helping hand to those who want to “make it”? Why not give them some tips or at least point them in the right direction?
What Dez (and many others like him) fail to understand is that he is the “one percent”. Thanks to his fame and what he does on the football field, he (and others like him) is insulated against the reality of many Black Americans.
Most of us are not in positions of leadership in the news and sports media, so we can’t control our narrative. Most sports and business franchises and companies are not owned by us.
That means that most Black Americans are not in the position to right the wrongs that affect our community.
So I would advise Dez that while he does have valid points on accountability, that he should put his money where his mouth is, and offer a helping hand to those in need who WANT to “make it”. Our community would be MUCH better for it.
Besides, we have to be careful of the “personal accountability” quote because it only feeds a certain small segment of the population that says the following:
“See, I told you!”
“Dez Bryant agrees with us”
“Charles Barkley agrees with us”
That’s dangerous territory to tread upon.