This column is extremely Black.
But Mike, what if a white man wrote a column saying tHiS CoLLuM iS esktREMLy wHiTe.
Well, that would be any hour on Fox News.
This column in extremely Black because it’s Juneteenth and its purpose is a simple one: to remind Black athletes of the extreme anti-Blackness movement they and most Black Americans face, and to ask them to use their power to fight what is an aggressive push to eliminate the exact kind of history that’s being celebrated on June 19.
This is something I’ve discussed before, but it needs to be repeated because Black Americans are facing some of the strongest white nationalist headwinds since the Reagan era.
The wealth and power of athletes gives them immense advantages. In some cases, they reach more people than politicians.
They can be the leading edge in what’s a battle to preserve Black history and power.
“An unrelenting assault on truth and freedom of expression in the form of laws that censor and suppress the viewpoints, histories and experiences of historically marginalized groups, especially Black and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, is underway throughout the country, most clearly in Florida,” wrote Janai Nelson, the president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund.
She added: “Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s ‘Stop WOKE’ law — which would limit students and teachers from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender — Florida is at the forefront of a nationwide campaign to silence Black voices and erase the full and accurate history and contemporary experiences of Black people.”
This attack on Black history is happening all across the country. The reason why is pretty simple. It’s to curtail Black power. As historian Kate Aguilar wrote in the Washington Post: “The late historian Manning Marable argued that Black Studies embodies three primary tasks: description, or the documentation of the actual experiences of Black people; correction, or the tackling of mythologies and stereotypes that shape the Black experience; and prescription, which involves using education to develop models to effect change.”
People like DeSantis want to remove all of those motivations because if you erase them, and Black history, you essentially erase Black people.
It’s true that athletes have historically and currently done plenty to fight this current anti-Black movement. LeBron James is one of the great athlete activists ever and he fights it with not just direct words but also with his actions off the court. His business and entertainment endeavors alone say so much about who he is as a person, and it’s all positive.
What the Atlanta Dream did in sinking the candidacy of Kelly Loeffler remains one of the greatest moments in the history of athlete advocacy. In 2016, WNBA players were among the first to wear “Black Lives Matters” shirts to protest several incidents of police violence.
Colin Kaepernick understood this as well and sacrificed his career to bring attention to the plague that is police brutality. While the NFL was able to target Kaepernick, and seemingly make an example of him, leagues would have a difficult time stopping a coalition of players.
But why is this all on athletes?
It’s not and it wasn’t all on Muhammad Ali when he protested the Vietnam War, and it wasn’t all on Tommie Smith and John Carlos when they raised their fists at the 1968 Olympics to protest the racism Black Americans faced.
They and other athletes understood the power they possessed and used it.
What if the Miami Heat boycotted several regular season games or even a playoff game to protest what DeSantis was doing? Or the Dolphins did the same for one game during the regular season. Or some of the best college athletes across all sports organized and protested the rising tide of anti-Blackness?
Gregg Abbott, the governor of Texas, signed a bill that prohibits diversity, equity and inclusion offices at public universities and colleges starting in 2024. What if Cowboys players or members of the Longhorn football team protested his decision?
Imagine the attention that would bring and the examination it would lead to.
So, yes, this column is extremely Black, and it should be, because it’s Juneteenth, and there are people trying to erase anything associated with Blackness. They are even trying to erase Blackness itself.
And you know who can help stop that?