You know how some letters, emails and articles have post-scripts? This isn't one of those. This is a pre-script, and the pre-script is this: If you don't think what's happening all over the world, with Black people being injured, abused, killed by the police is one of the most obvious injustices we've ever faced? Well, you should probably read this. We'll start with the info. Then we'll unpack some more.
First piece of info. The writer of this piece doesn't think the Community Shield should go ahead this weekend. Neither of them. Honestly? The start of the season, slated for 12th September, should probably be postponed.
MLS saw five of its six games postponed last night, after the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks took the decision to boycott their playoff match against the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin, a 29-year-old father of three sons who a video appears to show being shot multiple times in the back by a police officer on the night of 23rd August. In front of his children.
Blake, according to accounts from witnesses, was attempting to de-escalate a domestic dispute in which he was not involved. His father has told the press that he is currently paralysed from the waist down, and doctors are unsure whether that will be permanent.
Rather than being 'just' a news story, this became an unavoidable sport story on Wednesday night when NBA, WNBA, MLS and MLB games were postponed as a response to the shooting, and the reaction to it.
Protests erupted in the Midwest state in response to the shooting, and on Tuesday night multiple protesters were killed by a non-police gunman – 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse arrested and charged with first degree intentional homicide for the killings.
Let's not let that roll by. 17. Not old enough to drink in the UK, not old enough to open carry the kind of gun he (allegedly) had in Wisconsin. 17. And whipped into a fervour to the point that he, allegedly, shot two people to death on the street and left another injured.
Witness accounts and video footage, show police appearing to let a figure with a rifle over his shoulder – apparently Rittenhouse – walk past them, while protesters pleaded for him to be arrested, insisting that he had shot people.
The shooting of Jacob Blake, the reaction to the protests, the killing of demonstrators by a civilian – they're just the latest of countless flashpoints in the fight for justice against racial violence in the United States in recent weeks, months, years, decades, etc.
A person removed from the situation might argue: 'well, things are getting better – there's no slavery, Black people can vote now, it's (technically, but not really functionally) not legal to exclude Black people from jobs, tenancies, bank loans, etc.'
A person with working eyes, ears and a conscience might argue: 'what kind of person thinks that's enough? Who thinks that the slightest concessions are enough, that every person in the country shouldn't be enraged by the slightest racial injustice, never mind the very obvious ones being perpetrated in the year 2020, with a racist president and an abundance of racist media?'
A British person seeing this might ask...eh? Alright, this is all obviously very bad, but what does that have to do with us?
Turns out, the British police force's antics? Also racist. Is that exemplified by, say, the Met Police using force against 1 in 50 Black people in Greater London vs 1 in 200 white people? Black people being almost ten times as likely to be stopped and searched than white people? This? Even things as simple as Black people being twice as likely to be fined for COVID-19 lockdown breaches?
Yeah, police bias and violence isn't an American problem. They've got more guns and a more militarised country, that makes death figures much worse, but that doesn't mean Black people are treated fairly in the UK. They aren't. If you stop and look for a moment, that's obvious.
That's why the Community Shield shouldn't go ahead this weekend. Because none of the men or women playing at Wembley this coming weekend live in a country where Black people are treated fairly by the authorities (or sections of the public, but that's a bigger conversation).
Jadon Sancho was lauded for his 'Justice for George Floyd' shirt when he displayed it this summer. Players were widely applauded for the knees they took at kickoff in the Premier League, armbands and badges were worn. Great. Actually great, that's a big step forward.
It hasn't changed much, though. There haven't been any systematic changes – or even hints toward them – in the country since. They weren't empty gestures, but they weren't enough. The way is being led by athletes in the US, and to not follow those examples isn't good enough. Not, especially, for a glorified friendly.
Racial violence isn't an American police problem. It isn't an American problem. It's just a problem. Football has the platform to go beyond 'making a statement' about that, and actually forcing change.
It goes deeper than just forcing police reform or abolition though; an entire culture of subtle (and not-so subtle) racism has to be challenged and changed. Look at the football media, even – things as simple as the conversations had about Raheem Sterling vs the conversations had about his white colleagues. Things like the way Black players are far more likely to be praised for their physical attributes, and white players are more likely to be called 'smart', 'intelligent' and the like.
It's easy to say that, hey, Sterling's on millions of pounds a year, he can just not read the papers. Whatever. But most people reading it aren't. Most people are either reading this with open eyes, seeing these patterns and internalising the knowledge that the framework of this country is set up against them...or they're on the other side of the fence, internalising the message that the pieces are implicitly endorsing. Then the next story, true or not, is more likely to get a foothold in their brains. Racism by inches.
It's hard to look at the world, the unjust killings of George Floyd and countless others before him, and not come to the conclusion that the deck is stacked absolutely and cruelly against non-white people. Especially against Black people. In the US, in Britain and so many other places around the world.
What happened when players used their voices to protest? They were heard, they got on TV, the people commentating their games murmured their approval of the message.
What changed? Nothing.
If the things we like carry on as normal, guess what? So do the things that we don't like.
This isn't going to be a comfortable transition. It's going to be really messy. People are going to fight, people are going to lose friends, and maybe more. Things are going to be cancelled. Things are going to be an absolute state.
Question is, are you willing to accept that if it means a chance at justice, at genuine equality in a system that's designed to work against that?
Nah. Just kidding. That's not a question. It's your most basic duty as a human being. It's time for things to get really uncomfortable, and actually change.
Disclaimer: I'm not unaware of the fact that a white guy is writing this. 90min has work to do. We all do.
For more from Chris Deeley, follow him on Twitter at @ThatChris1209.
Source : 90min