100 Years Later
It appears that one nation, under God, continues to prove that it is very divisible. Within a sport that finally embraces the truth of the black quarterback and the black coach, lines have been drawn.
Lines have been drawn, not in the sand, but at the 50-yard line. Patriotism versus Peaceful Protest headline the playoff for the Trophy of Progress. There is a dogmatic defense of an anthem and a five-three scheme to cover the flag. Every time the ball of bigotry is kicked, a knee is taken after the fair catch of freedom of speech is called. Where there should be a First and Ten, it is just first down as the penalties are being tabulated. First and Ten should reflect the first ten amendments, but instead it is just the first down. The first ones down from racism, discrimination, economic and political oppression, and socio-economic privilege.
Peaceful Protest must start its offensive possession from the back of its end zone.
End zone. What a word. Can you imagine being so close to the end before you even have an opportunity to begin? Well, according to Mike Ditka, no such penalties have been assessed to African Americans in the last 100 years.
According to Mike Ditka, African Americans have not suffered from oppression within the last 100 years. The United States military was not integrated until 1948, even though African Americans had participated in every major US War. Many African American men returned from fighting on foreign soil to communities that demoted them to the term “boy.” It was not until 1954 that Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas deemed segregated schools unconstitutional. Even when trying to integrate schools, African Americans often needed federal escorts to enter the thresholds of the schools.
Most African Americans had to relinquish their high schools to the ranks of middle schools and lose their legacies and leadership to assimilation into the majority culture.
A young black boy, Emmett Till, was brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman, and the two white men charged were acquitted by an all white jury. The men boasted about the murder to their neighbors! In 1963, four black girls were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1965, state troopers attacked peaceful protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. It was called “Bloody Sunday” and the horrific event was broadcast into American living rooms in realtime.
In 1972, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment ended and reflected 40 years of biological warfare upon the African-American community by the government.
None of those dates reflect the recent murders of unarmed black men such as Travon Martin, Philando Castille, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray. None of those dates reflect the prison industrial complex that disproportionately imprisons African Americans and allows privatized prisons to prosper in a quasi-sharecropping paradox called the justice system. The dates do not reflect discrimination in housing and housing. The dates do not reflect gerrymandering and gentrification of African American communities.
I am not sure which America Mike Ditka has lived in.
Maybe he has been in a parallel universe, or Bizarro Earth where everything is backwards. All I know is that as an African American, oppression is real and alive in America. Until those who have benefitted from white privilege recognize that America is not in a post racial era, the Mike Ditkas of the country will always see America, the beautiful, with a blind eye. What will they see 100 years later from today?
(Steven Evans is a minister in Clinton.)