These are troubling and disheartening times in our country.
The senseless killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer can’t be reasoned away as one bad cop who is now facing a murder charge. If it were just one bad cop, then maybe we could explain it as a tense situation leading one overzealous man to act irrationally.
But that doesn’t explain why three other police officers stood by and did absolutely nothing to help a man who was crying “I can’t breathe.”
I don’t know what the answer to the problem is, though I’m convinced that breaking into a store and stealing a television is not part of the solution.
Since I was a young child, I’ve viewed every issue, problem and celebration through the prism of sports. I still believe one of the great things about sports is how it brings people from various backgrounds together.
Whether it’s youth league, high school, college or professional sports, the locker room is a place where the color of the jerseys your teammates and opponents are wearing is the only thing that distinguishes the players.
It’s not a mere cliché.
My personal journey related to race relations didn’t begin with relationships with black teammates.
You’ve perhaps heard the saying, “Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.” My low-level athletic career was heavy on activity and light on accomplishments.
Perhaps one reason for that is there was no diversity on our teams. From my youth teams in Hoover to my high school career in Shelby County, my teams were always exclusively white. But that doesn’t mean my athletic career doesn’t shape my opinions on race to this day.
Our biggest rivals from Calera and Vincent and Montevallo were always majority black. I can’t ever remember disliking any of them for any reason other than they were the opponents we wanted to beat.
That competition on the football field and basketball court and baseball diamond made me feel like I had a bond with all of those opponents. So, when I got a chance to spend my summers at Thompson High School competing with and against those same guys, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
It never crossed my mind that I had to decide if I was going to be racist or not. Being a racist would have meant I couldn’t play summer league basketball. That was the end of that possibility.
I know there are millions of other kids for whom sports are the vehicle to get to know people from other races and understanding the only thing that matters at that age — they also have a passion for sports.
Auburn Athletics Director Allen Greene is a good man. I know nothing about his experience with white people in general and white police officers specifically, but I would imagine he has at least one horror story to tell. He was a successful baseball player at Notre Dame as a minority before working his way up the ranks in college athletic administration.
Greene took to social media over the weekend with an inspiring message. Without mentioning the Minnesota incident, Greene talked about what he can do and what the Auburn community can do to make the world a better and safer place for everyone.
Greene offered his heartfelt thoughts without being preachy. His advice was for all of us to follow our North Star. I take that to mean we should be aware of what’s happening around us and always adhere strictly to the principles we know are right.
In the case of the Minnesota killing, that would mean to have the conviction and courage to step in and do something or say something when you see something happening that doesn’t match what you know to be right.
Greene went on to encourage us all to stop and listen to people who have life experiences different from our own.
Wise words. I’m glad Allen Greene has a voice in our state.
I’m not sure what Greene’s thoughts would be on the “No Justice, No Peace” mantra many people have adopted.
But I would be surprised to hear that any reasonable person would condone what happened over the weekend in Atlanta, where the College Football Hall of Fame was vandalized and burglarized.
“We are heartbroken to see the damage to our city and the Hall of Fame,” College Football Hall of Fame CEO Kimberly Beaudin said in a statement. “As our Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, we are better than this, better than this as a city, better than this as a country.”
We certainly should be.
You can’t convince me that police officer/killer Derek Chauvin represents most white people any more than criminal looters represent most black people.
My foundation of beliefs was built on the athletic field decades ago. Listening to Allen Greene further solidifies those beliefs.
Follow your North Star. Listen to each other. That’s a good starting point.
Randy Kennedy, who has been a leading voice on the Gulf Coast sports scene for 18 years, writes a weekly column for Lagniappe. His sports talk show airs weekdays on the new Sports Talk 99.5 from 7-10 a.m.
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