We Stand Together
Black Lives Matter, and because they do, today we take a break from the norm.
This is usually the part of the newsletter where, if I feel that I have to write about something that doesn’t have to do with the Knicks, I’ll say “skip down to the next bold heading to read about basketball.”
There is no next bold heading today, and that’s because for the moment, everything else needs to take a back seat to real life.
In the 40 months I’ve been writing about basketball in some form or fashion, I’ve never felt the need to do this, but then again, what we’re now experiencing is 400 years in the making, so it seems more than warranted.
I’ve had to write about 30-point blowouts, front office blunders, James Dolan doing James Dolan things, and earlier this year, the death of an icon. Never once have I dreaded opening up my laptop and putting my thoughts into words.
It isn’t because I don’t know what to say, or know what to say but don’t want to, or feel conflicted over the fact that this newsletter serves as a distraction for many people and for the first time, I can’t provide that distraction, both because I feel strongly that we need to engage with these issues and because I frankly just don’t feel up to writing about hoops.
No, today’s newsletter is damn near impossible for me to write because I’m just sad. I’ve been able to channel pretty much any emotion into my writing over the years - elation, agony, anger, bewilderment and grief all come to mind - but never out and out sadness.
No matter your opinions about the myriad issues that are all at play on the streets throughout this country, if you are not deeply saddened by what you see, you are not human. Myself, I’m sad for a lot of reasons.
I’m sad for George Floyd and his family.
I’m sad for every person of color who feels his pain in a way that I never could.
I’m sad for all the white men and women of this country who don’t understand that white privilege prevents them from ever having to feel that pain.
I’m sad that nothing I can ever say or do will be likely to change their minds, because those sorts of opinions are deeply ingrained from a young age, and it takes levels of introspection, awareness and open-mindedness that most people simply don’t possess to change that wiring.
I’m sad their kids will probably grow up the same way.
I’m sad that so many people look at the news and social media and see only what they want to see, and that our society is as black and white as it has ever been in every sense of those words.
I’m sad that there are people - people who have never once had to worry about being targeted or disadvantaged by the color of their skin - taking advantage of all that is transpiring by looting and committing senseless acts of violence.
I’m sad that there are white people who watch the news and see a burning building, or a black person exiting a store that has been broken into while carrying something that they have stolen, and use this to dismiss the legitimacy of their plight, and I’m sad we have a leader who stokes the flames of their rage rather than shedding light in this time of darkness, and instead, hides in a darkness all his own.
I’m sad for all of the police officers in this nation who entered the profession with the noblest of intentions and have since allowed the systemic rot within which they exist on a daily basis to turn them into the worst version of themselves. I’m even sadder for those officers who have resisted that urge and now find themselves in an impossible situation, but I am most sad, of course, for the officers who wield a badge that should have never been handed one in the first place.
I’m sad that there are probably people who will read today’s newsletter and choose not to read what I write anymore, not because I’ll miss having them as a reader, but because it is more proof that open conversation amongst individuals with disparate opinions are as rare as it have ever been.
I’m sad over my own relief that my daughter is white, and that she will never have to deal with any of the pitfalls of being hated for how she looks.
Most of all though, I’m sad that I’m sad at all, when I genuinely feel that I have no right to be. As a straight white male, I should not have the privilege of being saddened by a world that has done nothing but give me every conceivable opportunity with the same swiftness that it has denied it from others.
So yeah…today sucks all around. And for once, it has nothing to do with the Knicks.
But perhaps thanks to those same Knicks, I have also developed the ability to be optimistic in times that don’t warrant it, and amidst all the sadness, I do also feel hope.
I hope that this will all, finally, bring about real change.
I hope that there are enough moderates out there who will see what’s going on and acknowledge that there is nothing “great” about any of this, and will go make their voices heard in November, even if they are acting purely out of their own self interest.
I am hopeful that the other three officers will get arrested, that the existing charge will be raised to what it out to be, and that they will all be found guilty by a jury of their peers.
I am hopeful that out of the ashes of this blaze will arise a new generation of civil rights leaders, and that famous white people - people who white kids listen to, follow and admire - will put their bottom line on the line and speak up for black lives in a way that we have not yet seen.
I am hopeful that we will have real reform within our policing industry, and that it will be a stepping stone to real reform in our prison industry.
I hope that any person who is still reading but is on the fence about any of what I’ve said can at least recognize this: once upon a time, the people I write about in this space were considered property, and then they were considered 3/5 of a person, and then they were denied equal rights in the eyes of the law, and to this day, they are viewed differently by those who enforce the law that is supposed to protect them. I hope that you can consider this past and present when you go to judge people of color who are angry and have let their anger get the best of them over the last week. I hope that you can ask yourself: if this were your reality, how well would you be able to compartmentalize that anger?
I am hopeful that this is just the beginning, and that George Floyd did not die in vain.
As with the Knicks, somehow, my hope today outweighs my sadness despite all evidence pointing to the naiveté of this stance.
The world may be a fucked up place filled with fucked up people who blame others for the ills of society when they should be looking in the mirror, but every human being is born with the capacity to love every other person regardless of how they look. Hate is a learned condition, and if nothing else, maybe the sins of our county being laid bare on television and social media can help the children of those who would teach that hate instead see things as they are rather than how some wish it to be.
Change is long overdue. Please be an agent for change in whatever way you can - by protesting, by donating, by being an ally from afar, and of course, by voting.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’ll go back to writing about basketball with the next newsletter, but that shouldn’t change the fact that this conversation must continue until real equality is achieved.
To every black man or woman who reads this, I stand with you today and always. We can do this.