Early in the recliner, quarter past six or so, drinking coffee and reading a book of essays by Aldous Huxley just the other morning, a solution to the ongoing problem of racial relations in our country flashed in my mind. I want to write about that now, in addition to a number of related thoughts that have floated through my eclectic head since then. I’m going to ask The New England Patriots football team to help me out here. And also a couple of young guys from the world of music.
But first, a fun quiz. Of the two young men pictured here, both New England Patriot football players, who do you believe is more likely to be stopped by the police driving through town? (See answer below.)
So, here’s my idea, you know, how to fix things. It’s a two-part plan. The first part will take only a few thousand people to work. Part two will require a few more, probably 250 million. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Let me start with this premise: there are unequal justice opportunities for members of different races in the United States. Maybe you believe that or maybe you are a practicing ostrich – with your head buried deep in the sand – and don’t. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s say you do. (Spoiler alert – remember the fun quiz?) Recent widely and rightly publicized events in this country have brought this question – which has actually been a current and legitimate question for about 300 years now – to the forefront of our national, and hopefully personal, attention. You can believe what you want about Michael Brown and Eric Garner as people and still agree that the question of how justice is meted out in this country has been raised again, in a more than 15 minutes of fame way. There is a spotlight on our legal system, and all kinds of things – behaviors and interventions and mindsets and assumptions and consequences and accountability – all of that and more is right here, right now. Just turn on the TV.
The question is, what will get done about it? Is it today’s front page news but buried on page 12 tomorrow? Will something else, say apocalyptic weather, take its place. There is always that chance, it is often how we roll, and if that becomes the case all the opportunities that raise their hand during crisis, especially crisis of heart-breaking and stunning sadness, will be missed, and we will not have grown yet one more time. Which brings me to part one of my solution. I respectfully suggest that every person of color on a professional sports team in our country refuse to suit up and show up, refuse to play even one more second of his or her chosen sport, until the leadership of the country – national, regional, local – calls for a time out and establishes vast community conferences, with free food, in which — and here’s part two — those 250 million or so residents of our country participate. And the deal is that we don’t do anything else until we figure out how to turn the country around and begin moving in the real direction of life, liberty, and justice for all. It might take a couple of weeks of sitting and talking together, really talking, but it won’t be that hard to figure out – really – it won’t be. There just needs to be the will. The collective will. And I guarantee that if every person of color stops playing sports until it gets figured out, the will will come.
You know why? Here’s another question. How many people in our country who have deep-seated and questionable views about how one person should be treated versus another, are sports fans? Live and die for sports? “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts during warmups are a start, but the super rich and super racist ultimately chuckle over those feeble efforts toward justice. But stop playing the games. Stop playing all the games. Permanently. It’ll work. Believe it.
My sophomore year in college I had a black kid from my high school as a roommate. When I told my mother – bless her soul – before the school year, she asked me why I had to live with him. My Mom was not a racist. But she had some old fashioned ideas. At the end of that school year my Mom asked me, one day, why I couldn’t be more like him. My black roommate. This after she got to know him. It’s like Mos Def kept telling Bruce Willis in “16 Blocks” – “people can change”. That same kid with whom I roomed, who always had it way way more together than me, was encouraged to look into a technical school after graduation by one of our esteemed high school counselors, while I was encouraged to go to college. Sad and stupid.
Which brings me to these two cats. You know them. A southerner and a northerner, both wildly successful and downright agents of change in the world of music. Nothing was ever the same again after they both showed up. Brothers from another mother. One of them sang this: “Take a look at you and me, are we too blind to see? Do we simply turn our heads and look the other way?” The other this: “I said if you’re thinking of being my brother, it don’t matter if your black or white.”
Remember this? www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkkLUP-gm4Q “Don’t taze me bro.” Did Eric Garner struggle like this? No. He just didn’t breathe, cause he couldn’t. Is justice delivered the same way to one and all? Are things even in this country? Will it change? Will it change if everything other than the National Hockey League shuts down? Because all those people that everyone cheers so wildly for are, well, a different color. And they don’t want to miss their games. You don’t want to miss your games. So, yeah, I’ll go and sit and talk with them for a while. Will it? You damn skippy.
Here’s another thing. I have a great marketing idea. A get rich scheme for sure. I am creating a line of dolls, actually only two dolls. Both of the dolls will be those kind that have a string on the back that you can pull. When you pull the string of the first doll he will yell the “F-Bomb” on national TV, over and over again. Pull the string on the other and he will be stopped and frisked, over and over again. Pretty much anywhere. I call them Tom and Dont’a. And there’s the answer to the quiz.
By the way, up top are Tom Brady and Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots, left to right, and down here are Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, singers up there in heaven.
“If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make that change.”
We can fix this. No more games.