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Commentary: There is no law and order when people of color are indiscriminately gunned down under the color of ‘law’

COVID-19, From the President

Kresge President Rip Rapson has been writing daily notes to the staff during the COVID-19 pandemic as we continue to work from home. We are sharing a selection of these letters that touch on current events and issues relevant to these unprecedented times.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the residents of Louisiana and Texas. Tens of thousands experiencing unimaginable suffering from Hurricane Laura while trying to evacuate, re-situate, re-build and otherwise maneuver through a pandemic.

And then, Kenosha. Jacob Blake lying paralyzed in a Wisconsin hospital after being shot seven times in the back by the police. In and of itself, horrific . . . indefensible. Side-by-side with Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor – it is unbearable, maddening, undeniable evidence that policing practices must change, now.

But these actions serve better than my words: A steady beat of professional basketball, baseball, soccer and tennis athletes refusing to take to the court or field.

  • The National Basketball Association canceling playoff games, stating: “With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression.”
  • Seven professional baseball games called off as many players and teams refuse to play.
  • Top-ranked pro-tennis player Naomi Osaka sitting out a semifinal match at the Western Southern Open, saying: “As a Black woman, I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand.”
  • The Women’s National Basketball Association delaying games, observing: “We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA and will continue this conversation with our brothers and sisters across all leagues and look to take collective action.”
  •  The WNBA’s Washington Mystics taking to the court dressed in white shirts with letters spelling out Jacob Blake’s name across the front and bullet holes across the back.
  • Major League Soccer teams locking arms and refusing to play.

The NBA’s  Milwaukee Bucks may have brought it home most powerfully in this statement:

“Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball. When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort, and hold each other accountable. We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement.”

So, enough with characterizations of public servants being anti-police, anti-law-and-order. Enough with the narrative that American cities are being overrun by out-of-control mobs producing mass chaos. Enough with allegations that under one party or another, Americans will not be safe.

There is no law and order when people of color are indiscriminately gunned down under the color of “law.” There is no mayor in America who is unwilling or unable to step in to prevent mass chaos. There should be no person who doesn’t understand that people of color are not safe, never have been – Doc Rivers, coach of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, put a pin it: “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones denied [the right] to live in certain communities. We’re [the ones] who’ve been hung.  And all you do is keep hearing about fear.”

So, let’s ditch the rhetoric and do something constructive instead.