Beware the woke wave. White folks may think they can surf it, but it is just as likely to crash them into the reef and leave them bloodied and broken.
Review the long weekend of University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. Iowa posted a video of their top Hawk talking about listening, learning and growing on the issue of racism that has again gripped national discourse in the wake of a Minneapolis police officer’s killing of George Floyd.
Ferentz went on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt to talk about an open and productive team meeting that included the subject.
Ferentz came across as earnest both in the video and in the interview. I don’t know Ferentz, but I’ve no reason to doubt his sincerity.
But before any white person cuts a video like that, they should ask themselves an important question: How clean is my house?
Ferentz soon learned his house was just as messy as any American institution. Former Hawkeye players came forward on social media with allegations of racist talk and behavior by the team’s strength and conditioning coach and his own son, Brian Ferentz, the team’s offensive coordinator. Others said adapting to the “Iowa Culture” caused anxiety and failure to do so would be costly.
Ferentz quickly regrouped. The strength and conditioning coach is on leave pending an investigation. (That coach denies racism. Brian Ferentz remains on the job.) Iowa will form an advisory committee chaired by a former player.
Ferentz cut a new video and shouldered the responsibility. He choked up talking about the allegations of racism in meeting with reporters Sunday afternoon. Again, Ferentz seemed earnest and his actions seem like more than just reactionary pandering.
Coaches, teams and schools all over the country have posted videos and text messages similar to Ferentz’s. They pledge to listen, learn and grow together.
I want to believe them, yet I am cynical enough to be wary of college coaches gesticulating their concern over racism after Floyd’s killing.
Few institutions reap as much one-way benefit from the talents of African Americans as NCAA college football and men’s college basketball. It benefits coaches to come out and say, “Hey, we support African Americans here. We’re behind you.”
I wonder what percentage, even if it’s a sliver, of these messages are motivated by marketing and recruiting concerns. Did your school tweet that black lives matter? No? Then maybe a prized African-American recruit goes somewhere that did.
But it’s kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.
If you don’t, then your program will be labeled racist. If you do — and you don’t know or are willfully ignorant of racial issues in your program — then you will be beset with racial allegations anyway.
Lost in all this is any ability to gauge sincerity.
Like I said, Ferentz seemed earnest. I tend to believe both his videos. Many coaches from across the NCAA and into pro sports posted similar videos or text messages in support of the movement for equality and against racism.
I want to believe them all. I choose to believe them because I want to believe the people I love and celebrate are good and decent and real.
But life is more complicated than that. About 20 years ago, I moved from Des Moines to Omaha for a job. I thought Omaha, about twice the size of Des Moines, to be much more openly racist than Des Moines.
I read a column by a former editor of mine who works in Omaha now. He said he heard the most overt racism in his career in Des Moines. He’s worked in Texas and Detroit, among other stops.
I don’t doubt my former editor’s experience just as he didn’t doubt mine. I believe we see what we want to, especially when it’s our hometown and our home teams.
We are willing to accept information that supports our belief that we don’t do the bad things that happen in other places as if we are somehow exempt from the indecencies and inhuman treatment that plague every other place.
That’s called confirmation bias and I am as guilty of it as anyone.
I made that mistake earlier this month in these paragraphs. I suggested protestors go to Minneapolis where Floyd was killed rather than protest good, hard-working cops in Des Moines.
That was naive on my part, maybe outright ignorant.
Racism isn’t limited to one city, state or nation. They’re protesting in England, France and Germany, too. White people have been terrible toward black and brown people for centuries.
Study colonialism. For centuries, white people showed up in other nations, killed some (or a lot) of the natives and said, “All this is ours now and you’re now ruled by us.”
Ferentz handled his situation with class and dignity, but how it shakes out for the Hawkeyes going forward will be interesting and important.
As for me, well, allow me to come clean: I’m dirty. We are all sinners.
I truly, absolutely and without hesitation do not believe that I am superior to anyone because of the color of my skin.
But I have had racist thoughts. I have laughed at and told racist jokes. And I’ve benefited from a society designed by rich white men to benefit other white men.
I don’t cut myself a break because I was born a ward of the state. I was a white baby boy. I was adopted quickly, though the results of that pairing were mixed at best.
Still, I don’t know how many African-American babies were in the county hospital the same day I was that ended up in foster care and never knew a permanent, stable home.
Racism is a virus in which all white Americans are carriers. The debate is how active it is in our thoughts, actions and deeds.
I have no idea what the solution is. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be unemployed.
All I can say is this, which I repeat often: We are all children of God, created in His image and deserve love, dignity and respect.
Act as if this is true and we will make it true.
Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life ignored by the oligarchy.
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