HELL’S KITCHEN, NYC – Earlier this week, yours truly put it out there that as per the protesting, white guys need to shut the flick up. And that means even the likes of a Drew Brees. Why? We don’t have a clue… even if we think we do. It’s like trying to understand what being pregnant is like. It’s impossible.
Brees didn’t heed my advice and has now tarnished his legacy. This is despite all intel indicating he is far from being a racist. He does a great deal of work for the impoverished and minorities. And while his comments about the flag and military are not racist comments, they fail to take into account the Kaepernick message. THAT failure to connect the messaging is tragic. How many of you out there still think the kneeling is only about disrespecting the flag? The guess here is that it’s the majority.
My Dad fought in WWII and then was recalled for Korea. 55% of those that fought in it died. They didn’t air-vac wounded out like they did in Vietnam. If you were blown in half, you died in the field. Dad always felt sorry for the guys that fought in Vietnam because they came back missing lower halves or without limbs and where treated as circus freaks because A) They personified horrors of war people had historically not seen on that scope, that is – seeing blown-apart survivors (Lt Dan in Forrest Gump) and B) They were not the heroic John Wayne persona spoon-fed to the masses.
The point is that the flag has a very different meaning for people and we live in a knee-jerk, react-without-digesting society. We need to connect the dots more effectively, to eliminate at least one possible source of unrest. Here’s a suggestion for Roger Goodell and the NFL, who can help bandage some freshly -opened wounds: How about we all kneel for the Anthem, representing those that fought, those that were lost and those that were taken from us unjustly? Perhaps that could bridge at least part of the divide. Envision the first day the NFL is back and all are on one knee together, including families of our George Floyds next to cops and Kaepernick and soldiers and… Brees. Hand on the heart optional. We bring Tebow back for it.
Yours truly grew up in an ethnically-mixed neighborhood and went to racially mixed schools. I coached baseball in Harlem for Harlem RBI for 11 years and formed a mixed-bag team of mutts called the Harlem Shaskys, which plays in a predominantly brown and black league. This hybrid of rugby players and kids from the Harlem RBI (now known as DREAM) program is set for a pandemic-delayed start to our 27th season. Each player gets an old-time baseball nickname and the jersey number is retired immediately. “Irish” is Ray Dominguez’s nickname.. He is Dominican. “Lars” is Guyanese… We blur lines further by chanting “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” This tends to make the other team uncomfortable. Buddy Diaz, whom I’ve had the pleasure of coaching/playing with since he was 12, can vouch. He calls Irish, whom I’ve also coached since he was 12, “dumb in a can.”
Back to the present… Our home got hit. The building was a casualty of the rioters – not the protesters. The Duane Reade, Wine Shop and Jenny’s Deli all had their windows broken. We still have to go out to walk the dog. After curfew. It’s real. You have to think of all scenarios strategically, and I can’t decide if my Harlem Baseball jacket or New York Rugby jacket is the better choice – in case something should escalate.
All told, I have had some enlightening experiences and yet, I KNOW NOTHING of what it’s like for someone that isn’t white. Can I feel empathy? Yes. Can I help by being a friend? Yes. Can I speak on their behalf? NO. Do you think Brees would speak up again if given a second chance? Hell no. If he did it would be entirely different… and brief. Speaking up on sensitive issues by somebody that isn’t subjected to the issue, is a fumble, to coin football parlance. And that is also part of the problem. Fear of Flogging keeps some impact personalities from uttering a peep, and that’s not good either.
It’s a Catch-22… a damned-if-I-do vs damned-if-I-don’t situation, and as a representative of middle-aged white guys everywhere, the advice is the latter. Like John McNamara in the must-see documentary, “The Fog of War.”
Listen. Support. Befriend. Act… only if asked by someone that ain’t white.