This is not the time for white voices to explain or comment on the systematic racial injustice prevalent in our nation and the need for reform to sweep away institutionalized prejudice. It is, however, essential that white people like me use our platforms to raise up the voices of those calling for societal change, who might otherwise not be heard.
What follows are selections from the most prominent voice in the community of LGBTQ sports journalists, a black man who has a column in the Los Angeles Times and has been fortunate to maintain a mainstream media platform throughout his career. I’m hoping LZ Granderson’s words will reach those of you looking for perspective that anyone not born, raised and living as a Black or Brown person in America lacks, so that we all might find a way forward, together.
I was 12 when an officer placed his gun to the back of my head while his knee rested in the center of my back. I had been sent to the store to buy a gallon of milk. I came home with trauma. As the officer placed me in handcuffs, he said I looked like a burglary suspect he was searching for.
I was told something similar in my 20s, a full-time reporter fresh out of graduate school, after I was pulled over and placed in handcuffs. The officer asked what I was doing in the neighborhood. When I told him I lived in it, he asked what I did to be able to afford to live there.
In my 30s, shortly after moving in with my now-husband, Steve, in his predominantly white Michigan suburb, I was pulled over and placed in handcuffs. Another officer telling me he thought I “looked like someone.”
Six years ago, now in my 40s and on assignment for CNN during the Ferguson uprising outside St. Louis, I was pulled over yet again for looking like someone.
And those are just a fraction of the times I’ve been pulled over for looking like someone.
So, yeah, on most days I choose to be numb just to survive.
For those of you who are tired of reading about racism, trust me when I say this — I’m tired of writing about it.
I’m tired of our humanity slowly being bled out from micro-aggressive encounters slicing at our collective psyche. Social media may give the impression that incidents like the Central Park encounter between avid birdwatcher Christian Cooper and Amy Cooper — the woman who put his life in danger by falsely telling police he was threatening her life — are recent developments, but they are not. It’s just that 14-year-old Emmett Till didn’t have a smartphone back in 1955, when he was lynched after Carolyn Bryant falsely claimed he made a pass at her.
In a 2018 encounter, another white woman, Teresa Klein, falsely told police a 9-year-old black boy sexually assaulted her. That accusation is sadly similar to the circumstances surrounding the execution of George Stinney Jr., the 14-year-old black boy who was put to death in 1944 after being falsely accused of killing two school-aged white girls.
For those of you who are tired of reading about racism, I’m tired of black and brown bodies being killed by it. I’m tired of watching some white people be more upset by those who are protesting racism as opposed to the racism itself. Being numb is characterizing what happened to Floyd, Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery (who was hunted, shot and killed by two white men while jogging), as unfortunate, disconnected anomalies. Feeling is understanding they are not disconnected at all but, rather, the reason why James Baldwin once said “to be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
One night I drove to the store to buy Steve, then my boyfriend, allergy medication. Somewhere between the parking lot and the driveway of my house, a police officer started to follow me. Before long I was surrounded by multiple squad cars — lights flashing, guns drawn.
From the car, I called Steve, who is white, to come to the door to calm things. At first he didn’t understand the urgency, but I told him that if he didn’t come to the door there was a chance I would be killed. As I expected, the situation deescalated when he came outside and identified me as the homeowner. I was allowed to go in the house. The officer who followed me home believed I might have stolen the car. To this day, I joke to Steve that while he always knew he was with a gay dude, that was the night he learned he was dating a black man.
It’s a funny story on the days I choose to be numb.
It’s the scariest moment of my life when I choose to feel.
Read the entire column at latimes.com by clicking here.
"I just couldn't do it. I couldn't watch another person who looks like me just get murdered in the streets and think, 'somebody else will fix it.'"— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 1, 2020
Columnist @LZGranderson spoke with protesters in downtown Los Angeles Sunday. Here's what they had to say. pic.twitter.com/8juXaUbtGI
A therapist I had used as a source on a story about mental health... had watched a couple of my recent appearances on CNN regarding the death of George Floyd and was worried about me. It was not only a kind gesture but one that carried with it a great deal of wisdom.
I was suppressing trauma and anger I didn’t even know I had.
I’ve been so busy covering the unjustifiable deaths, murders, of black and brown people over the years that I had grown accustomed to ignoring the toll it had taken on me as a black journalist. In journalism school they teach you the importance of removing yourself from the story. But there aren’t any courses on managing your mental health when you are repeatedly reflected in gut-wrenching stories.
Yamiche Alcindor of PBS told me on Saturday that she’s noticed a change in her own emotional connection to these particular tragedies over the years... “the journalist in me was covering George Zimmerman and his family with objectivity and professionalism. During Ferguson I started getting sadder.
“This time around, as someone who is married and wants to start a family one day, I feel like I got in a car accident. I survived, but I can see all of the air bag, which is unnerving. Then I get back in the car and get in another car accident, and the airbags go off again. They keep going off.
“I feel this story in my bones. I wake up in the middle of the night crying at times. I’m experiencing a different me.”
The sleepless nights are a recurring theme among journalists of color who have made deaths of persons of color their unofficial beat. I haven’t slept more than six hours in nearly a week. Suzette Hackney, director of opinion and community engagement for the Indianapolis Star, told me, “I walked six miles today trying to beat back the sorrow and depression.”
“I was on furlough this week,” she continued, citing a company mandate that takes her off the job for one week this month because of the financial shortfall created by the coronavirus. “Imagine being unable to write about this. Honestly, that’s another reason this has hit me so hard. I did some journaling but it’s not the same. My city was insane last night and I had to sit quiet.”
It has been a triple whammy for journalists like Hackney, Alcindor and others— covering a pandemic that is killing black and brown bodies at a disproportionately high rate; dealing with the economic fallout from COVID-19; and another cycle of violence that follows and results in more death to black and brown bodies.
“My journalism is about emotion and being attached,” Alcindor said. “The moment I cover a story and I don’t think about it nonstop, I need to find another story.”
Still, some topics force her to assume a heavier burden than others. In 2016, when her fiancé proposed to her, she couldn’t help but think of Sean Bell, the black man New York City police shot and killed 10 years earlier on the morning of his wedding. The three detectives charged in the shooting were all acquitted.
“The day he got down on one knee and proposed I started praying he would survive to the wedding day,” she said. “That’s not normal, but that’s what America has become.
In these moments, we don’t have a choice. Journalists of color recognize how important, essential, it is that we be there to bear witness. I do not look forward to going back into the streets to hear the cries of a hurting people. In fact, I dread it. But I do it because I recognize the melody. Their song is my song. Their pain is my pain. They have taken to the streets because they feel they have no other choice. So I, and others, follow, because neither do we.
Read the entire column at latimes.com by clicking here.
"People like to go back and say we've been doing this since Rodney King, but the truth of the matter is that we've just been doing this." Columnist @LZGranderson talks more about race in America tonight on #LATimesToday at 7 and 10 p.m. on @SpecNews1SoCal pic.twitter.com/xYc7UjJtAh— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) June 2, 2020
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn is one of my favorite people. Not favorite coach or favorite former player, but people. When I got a call that he’d like to talk about the death of George Floyd and the fallout, I dropped everything to drive to his home.
Lynn and I get along so well because we share a lot of the same values, particularly spiritually. He told me that when the world goes crazy — as it is right now — he gets on his knees and prays. “I don’t have all of the answers,” he told me, “but I know who does.”
He had not made any public statements about the events that have unfolded across the nation. On Monday we spent a couple of hours talking about the protests, criminal justice reform and what the NFL did to Colin Kaepernick for trying to get the word out.
Anthony Lynn: I don’t want to just put [a statement] out there because it’s the right thing to do. I want change . . . so I guess it starts with having this conversation and talking things out. In 1992 I remember watching L.A. burn and here we are in 2020 and I’m watching it again and it just hit me, nothing has changed.
I haven’t done anything to make this a better place for my son. I remember having the talk with him when he was 16 about how to handle police and then at age 30 I called him up and just had the talk with him again because I’m so scared. I want to do something but to be honest with you, I don’t know what that is.
LZ: The conversation about police brutality and criminal justice reform used to be something bubbling underneath. Now it’s talked about more in the mainstream. When you hear that phrase, what specifically about the criminal justice system would you like to see changed most?
Anthony Lynn: First, there are so many good officers. I did a first responders commercial a couple of years ago because I respect the first responders so much. They deserve so much more than what they get. They put their lives on line for us. Two of them helped saved my life after I was hit by that car in 2005. My son’s godfather is a police officer. So I’ve always had a great relationship with the first responders. But I also know it’s a club like a football team and they stick together like a football team. And the good ones get a bad rap because of the bad ones. I would challenge the good ones to speak up and not be silent anymore. That’s what I take away from all of this. George Floyd died with three officers right there who watched him die. It’s time for good officers to speak up and not accept that anymore.
I have a lot of good white friends and I’ve said to them that sometimes I feel our biggest enemy in this fight is good white people because they don’t believe people can do the things they do and be this evil. They just don’t believe it. And I’m like, “Guys, you are so naïve and you’re so naïve because you’re really good people. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, but your naïveté is hindering the cause.”
LZ: To piggyback off of what you said, one of the things I’ve been really focused in on are the good apples getting a bad name from the bad ones and I equate it to this analogy: If you’re thirsty and I offer you a glass of water, you likely will drink it with no problem. But if you’re thirsty and I pour you a glass of water and then spit in it, you wouldn’t want to drink that water. Even though the vast majority of the glass is refreshing, cold water, that spit ruins the entire glass.
In the real world, that drop of spit is racism, so all those good things that you do — go to church, treat your wife with respect, donate to good causes — all those things get ruined because you tolerated that drop of spit in the glass. What would you like to see the NFL, government do to get rid of that drop of spit that’s ruining all of the good water?
Anthony Lynn: I would say one thing and it’s one of the things my mother raised me on: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat everyone fairly. You wouldn’t want someone to spit in your glass; why in the hell would you want to spit in someone else’s? To me it’s not that hard, but obviously it must be because we can’t do it. It seems simple, right?
Yeah, it seems simple but 400-plus years we still have spit in our glass. Speaking of: The NFL did something I found highly offensive and intellectually dishonest. I saw a statement after this weekend and I didn’t see the words “black,” “white,” “race,” “racism” or the name “Colin Kaepernick.” How difficult is it to know what he was trying to fight for and how the NFL responded and treated him, and yet continue to work for the NFL?
People completely misunderstood Colin and what he was trying to do. People talked about disrespecting the flag . . . the flag covers a lot —patriotism and civil rights and other things. And Colin was speaking out against the injustice and a lot of people didn’t catch on to that because it was happening during the national anthem. They thought it was disrespectful to the flag. I was surprised by the number of people who didn’t know why he was protesting. I got letters from people. I had people walk up to me and ask, “Coach, what are you going to do if someone on your team protests?” And I had to explain to them that Colin is taking a knee for criminal justice [reform] and police brutality and once you broke it down, they were like, “Oh, we didn’t know that. We thought he was protesting the flag.” And that was the case for a lot of people I came across.
LZ: Let’s talk about solutions. You said you wanted to make the world a better place; what does that look like and how do we get there?
Anthony Lynn: First thing I had to do is get out there. I’ve been sitting here in the house and was just consumed with these protests and the coverage. I felt there was a game going on and I wasn’t in. Reminds me of the time when I was a young coach and the head coach came to me and said “You need to buy a ticket.” I was like, “What do you mean I need to buy a ticket?” And he said “You’re coaching like a damn spectator right now,” and so that was the last time a coach called me a spectator, because my head was always in the game. So with the protests, I felt like a spectator. So I went out and joined the protesters in Huntington Beach. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to see what it was like to experience it and it was pretty intense. I saw a lot of passionate people and it felt as if I was marching for the right reasons.
After an hour or so I sought out the leader and we had a conversation and we talked about what was the endgame. After the protests, what is this going to lead to? That’s when I got a little disappointed because there was no plan. The protest was there to help people express themselves but there was no endgame, no plan. All of the sacrifice and protest, I wanted to know at the end of this, if something was going to be done. I don’t want to be doing this again 20 years from now, and so I’m looking for ways to sit at the table and have a conversation about this broken system.
The Chargers have done more in the community than just about any organization I’ve been with. I’ve been out in the community, talking with Mayor [Eric] Garcetti and I’ve been to the juvenile detention centers to encourage young men to do something positive with their life when they get out, and City Council people about making L.A. a better place. But this stuff that’s taking place with police brutality and unarmed black men dying and white people feeling like they can use their privilege to threaten black people like that white woman did in Central Park, that’s ridiculous. How do we effect that type of change? Where’s the accountability for that kind of shit? That’s where I’m at right now. I’m angry, I’m pissed off and I don’t want to just put out a pretty statement.
Read the entire column at latimes.com by clicking here.