Kyle Korver's Story is a Reminder About Self Awareness
I need to start this with a couple of qualifiers: I'm not going to pass judgement on what is said here because if for nothing else, these two things: (1) I'm not a professional athlete and (2) I'm not an expert on culture and race. It's a personal issue thought of and dealt with on a totally individual basis.
All that being said---quite a few sports fans by now have read Utah Jazz guard Kyle Korver's moving, thoughtful and though provoking story on "The Players Tribune". website. If you haven't---click on the link, because you should.
Korver described at length what I guess can only be termed an "Enlightenment" as he became frighteningly aware of his lack of awareness about racism and the impact it has and continues to have on the game he plays.
Korver cites two incidents in particular, one in 2017 when then teammate Thabo Sefolosha was injured by New York City Police as he was leaving a Nightclub. Sefolosha wasn't armed and never was a threat yet was taken down and his leg broken with a baton weilded by officers who got angry when he asked a question.
Sefalosa would win a $5 million settlement with NYPD for the incident.
The other happened this season when Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had to be restrained after trying to go after a Utah Jazz fan who had been hurling a multitude of racial slurs towards him.
Both incidents as separate issues are disturbing, together they form a pattern, one not unique to most everyday people in their everyday life, but becoming increasingly common for athletes who hold a much higher profile.
Racism runs far, far deeper than Korver describes on a far larger scale in every day life---but the fact he, as a Professional Athlete was willing to talk about it is truly a revelation. Arguably the hardest part about addressing the problem---is the act of actually addressing the problem.
Racially tinged incidents while always there, have been on the uprise over the past few years for reasons which are hard to explain in a world where we should long have moved and evolved past it. Hate for others for some reason have spiraled back towards being an issue in a world that considers itself allegedly much more self-aware and past such primitive thoughts.
Listen---I can't sit here while typing this and tell you I can relate to the issues people of color have had to and continue to deal with in their daily lives because I've never walked a mile in their shoes. It's hard for me to even describe it as I've never looked at anyone in that way, I've never seen color with anyone at any point in my life. Just the idea of thinking someone is different or should be looked at differently because of the way the look is a concept that has never entered my mind.
I also can't sit here and tell you I'm "Woke" , "Enlightened" or whatever else you want to call it. Maybe it's nativity, it's never been an issue for discussion in the circles I've moved in and interacted with. It hasn't impacted my life directly though that is an excuse much more than an explanation. I am and always have been aware of the issue but never before have I felt able to do or say anything which would bring attention to it or change it.
At the same time: Having spent time working in TV News, on the street, I've seen racist acts happen. I've taken calls from people who have said horrible things about people of color for no readily apparent reason other than they had some sort of pent up anger they felt compelled to act on by calling a Television station. I've seen Police Officers give certain people a much closer look for no particular reason other than their skin tone. Growing up in the south---I've seen and heard things said by people in power that were shrugged off as "It's just the way they grew up saying things". Sorry, no, that doesn't make it right.
There are other subtle ways race gets dropped into conversations, particularly here in the Southern U.S. A perfect example is here in Atlanta: Any discussion involving MARTA (Rapid Transit). For years, people living in the Atlanta suburbs wanted no part of the transit agency. When asked the reason for some was "It would bring crime out here to our neighborhoods". You can interpret that as you will. But if that isn't a subtle form or racism, nothing is.
It still is an issue today, when the people of Gwinnett County recently agreed to put a MARTA expansion tax increase on the ballot---there were still a frightening amount of people interviewed who said they don't want it for that very reason--it would bring crime. Not that rapid transit was needed (It desperately is), not that they can't afford it---but rather they didn't want criminals and others to have a way to get to their communities.
To this day, it makes me shake me head, it's unfathomable people think that in 2019....or for that matter have ever thought this. And racial issues aside---how exactly does a criminal steal a TV and other things from a house and then get on a transit rail to ride back?
Honestly, I know full well by myself I can't change or fix the things that have happened dating back hundreds of years. I can't undue nervous stares people give others of a different background or whispered conversations away from inquiring ears. Neither can Kyle Korver.
But..if I speak out, maybe someone else will. If they do it, maybe they'll encourage another. The point being if enough people keep bringing it up, eventually we'll all be forced to deal with to steal a cliche' "The Elephant in the Room".
The whole adage "It takes a community" really is true. It sometimes only takes one person to initiate a conversation---to light a fire and spark others. I really hope this conversation continues, that someone else brings it up too.
I don't know if Korver, a 38-year old journeyman NBA player from California can be the one person who can force a seemingly ignored and unspoken issue further towards the forefront, but if 100 or 1,000 or just one other person echos the thought than is that not a good way to start?
Think about it.......