AFC Westworld – One Nation Addition

 32 replies

Apologies to you if you opened up this column looking for snark. Normally I am happy to heap scorn and derision upon on our division mates and expose them for the football frauds that they have become. But not today. Not this week. Not while so many in our community are hurting. Not while all of sports takes a rightful backseat to the issues affecting real life.

My Privilege

As things have unfolded over this last week, and for a long time before that, I have been thinking back to the very first time I was ever pulled over by police. I was 16 years old and it was 1:30 in the morning on New Year’s Eve. And it’s a story that is relevant today.

I wasn’t speeding and I hadn’t been drinking. My taillights were out. A short in the fusebox of my 1978 Datsun 510. (My parents hooked me up with a sweet ride for my first car).

I think about the incident so many years ago, because even though it was New Year’s Eve, I was never asked to step out of the car. I remember reaching into my inside jacket pocket to get my wallet without so much as an extra word or flinch from the officer standing at my window. It never occurred to me it was dangerous. It didn’t seem to occur to him either.

A second police car pulled up while I was speaking with the first officer. He must have gotten the high sign that all was okay, because he ended up pulling away. The first officer, by himself, and very polite, decided he could handle me on his own. He was right of course, but how did he know he was right? Or more specifically, what about me made him think he was right?

I got a fix-it ticket and continued on home, not giving the incident much thought for years, other than to tell the story about how my parents – also on their way home that night – passed me along the side of the road. My father actually pulled over, got out of his car, and spoke to the officer – also without incident or the raising of any hackles.

Perhaps if there had been two of us in the car we would have been treated differently. Perhaps. But what I can say for certain is that first encounter with police has resulted in a lifetime of never being afraid of other police. I’ve been pulled over a half-dozen times since then, and it’s always been a relatively stress free interaction – aside from the money I know I’m losing. I’ve never once been concerned with my hand placement or the police officer’s demeanor. Never once have I feared for my safety, or even my temporary freedom. I’ve always known, without any doubt, that I would simply get a ticket and be on my way.

And that is always the way it goes.

My Mistakes

I was, for many years, in the “All Lives Matter” camp. How could that be wrong? I was a good person. I never judged people by the color of their skin. I cared about black lives, and all lives. Why was it wrong to say “all lives matter”? That was simply an enhancement to the message of Black Lives Matter. It wasn’t a counter to it.

My mind has changed.

I am a cancer survivor. Several times over in fact. I was originally diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was a senior in high school. I had a recurrence two years later, a third battle with it three years after that, and then two years after that I developed a secondary leukemia as a result of previous chemotherapy treatments.

All told I spent a total of 54 months during those four battles with cancer actively in treatment. I have also since had a heart transplant, but that’s a story for another time.

I care very deeply about blood cancers. My experiences throughout my late-teens and twenties shaped who I am. It set the course for my life, which has included being extremely active with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I have raised money, given countless hours to the organization, spoken to patients and volunteers, and been a huge advocate in the efforts to find a cure. And if, when I am speaking or fundraising, someone were to respond to me with, “All diseases matter,” it would piss me off.

It’s true, of course. I have an uncle with Alzheimer’s. Because of my heart transplant I knows scores of people suffering with heart disease. I’m friends with kidney and liver transplants. I have a good friend with Crohn’s disease.

Yes, of course, all diseases matter. But blood cancers are my focus. That’s what has touched my life. That is the fire I’m trying to extinguish. And while it isn’t wrong to say all diseases matter, it does diminish my efforts. It demotes my cause to a mere subset of other causes.

And I’ve come to realize the same watering down happens with all lives matter. It is true. But it is also not the immediate issue. My house matters just as much as my neighbor’s house, but it is his that is currently on fire. His house is what matters right now. His life is what matters right now.

Black lives matter.

My Commitments

We’ve all been there. Sitting among co-workers, friends, acquaintances, or whatever, and someone says something just a little bit racist. And we ignore it, because it’s easier that way. It doesn’t rock the boat or turn the gathering into “a thing.” Avoiding “things” is something I’ve been good at. I’m not a racist, and he’s not a very good friend, so I’ll just go on with my life, noting that he’s not someone I want to hang out with in the future.

But that’s not enough. It’s no longer enough for me to just not be racist. It’s not just about my actions anymore. It’s about calling out the actions of others. I – we – need to tell that friend that what he just said was not acceptable. It’s not who we are, and it shouldn’t be who he is. And if it becomes a little uncomfortable, so what. It’s right. I will no longer let my comfort dictate the action I’m willing to take.

I would give a large portion of my left arm to become best friends with Patrick Mahomes, Chris Jones, and Tyrann Mathieu. The four of us would workout together (me holding the water bottles), cook out in the backyard, play video games, and just be best buds in all things. Sure, I’d be Alan in The Hangover, singing our song of friendship:

We’re the four best friends that anyone could have…

The four best friends that anyone could have…

And we’ll never ever ever ever leave each other.

But I’m okay with that. All pride left when I said goodbye to my left arm.

All of us scream wildly for these players that are black men. We pay more money than we should for jerseys, Super Bowl T-shirts (I’m up to 14 different LIV shirts), autographs, and tickets. Surely that’s a sign that I love and understand black people. If Frank Clark ever decided to start a side hustle as a pet sitter I’d pay any amount I could to have him take care of my cats.

Listening

But let’s be real. Cheering for a black man, and even having confusingly erotic reactions to re-watching WASP over and over again, isn’t the same as loving and supporting black people. And it sure isn’t listening to their grievances, their stories, and their pain. It isn’t listening to their criticisms of our actions (or inactions) as white people, and allowing them to direct us in how we can do better.

And of course we can do better. We must do better. Because it is right, but also because it makes us better and more complete human beings.

Seeing

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a fair bit in my life. I lived in the UK for five years and my current country count is 37, including many countries where my white face stood out just as much a black face did in my childhood Wichita neighborhood.

In early March my wife and I were in Sri Lanka, educating the locals on who the current Super Bowl champions are, but also taking in the culture, language, and food of this place halfway around the world and so different from us. And I’m always struck when we’re overseas how even though we don’t look, dress, eat, talk, and worship the same, we laugh at the same things. We cry at the same things. We love in the same way.

But when we were in Morocco, and the Muslim call to prayer would ring out across Marrakech, I was acutely aware of our differences too. And they are to be embraced and celebrated.

For too long I thought that being color blind was the answer. Many years ago I dated a Mexican girl. To me she was just Jessica, she wasn’t Mexican. It would have been wrong of me to think of her as Mexican, when she was so much more than that.

But that was a mistake. Yes, she was so much more than her heritage and race. But she was those things too, and they helped make her who she was then, and still is today.

It’s not only okay to see a person’s color, it’s necessary. When we’re at Arrowhead I care about the red you’re wearing. And when we’re in life I care about the color of your skin because it’s a part of who you are. It informs me of your experiences, and it helps me to honor that part of you.

Understanding

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been around the health crisis merry-go-round quite a few times. Four battles with cancer, a bone marrow transplant, a heart transplant, necrotizing fasciitis that nearly took my leg. A devastating lack of athletic ability that ended my pro athlete dreams in junior high.

“I had to work for this…”

“I’ve struggled too…”

“I was lost relationships and jobs because of my health…”

These were all ways that I thought I could understand what it means to have a system against you. These were my justifications for my own inaction. We all have our crosses to bear, so suck it up and drive on. Look at what I’ve been through. I know exhaustion. I know real struggle.

But the reality is that I will never understand what it means to be anything but a white guy. I will never have someone follow me around a store. I will never be profiled by a police officer. I will never lose out on a loan, or a lease, or an invite to a club because I’m seen as “different.” I will never fully understand the black experience in America, and I now understand that.

I commit to never thinking I understand. And by recognizing that I don’t, I will become a better listener. And by being a better listener, I will see people more clearly. And with my eyes fully open, I will be better equipped to take action. And that action will include being proudly intolerant of intolerance.

I won’t always be perfect. I won’t always be great. But I think that I can always be good. And if there are enough of us committed to being good on a regular basis, this will get better. It must get better.

We want to return to the shared joy of February 2nd. We want to be as unified as we were three days later as the champions paraded through Kansas City. And we want everyone who calls this country home to be able to fully realize the freedom and bounty that it promises to provide.

God bless to all my brothers and sisters in Chiefs Kingdom.

And for this one time only, god bless, Raiders, Chargers, and Broncos fans too.

(I really expected to burst into flames by typing that. So glad I didn’t.)

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NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs
06/05/2020 1:15 pm

Wow. One of the better things I’ve read here or anywhere about all this. “All diseases matter”. That’s about how it sounds, too. First time I heard ALM, I wasn’t put off by it but after reading more and thinking about it, my mind changed too. It’s ok to be wrong. It’s not ok to stay wrong.
5 stars.

KenW
06/04/2020 6:24 pm

This was a truly awesome post…thank you for making it…

Mahomesisgreat
Mahomesisgreat
06/03/2020 3:23 pm

Could not disagree more. All lives do matter. We are all in this world together. All individuals, all loved by God. How many more innocent deaths have resulted from rioting? The cop is in jail awaiting trial, the other cops just standing around watching a murder will be charged as well. That is how our justice system is supposed to work. Standing out in the street screaming won’t change a thing, and shouldn’t.

Tyrone
Reply to  Mahomesisgreat
06/03/2020 6:29 pm

What are you disagreeing with? The whole article or that “not all lives matter”? Because I think you’ll find that Kyle never said that not all lives matter.

Mahomesisgreat
Mahomesisgreat
Reply to  Tyrone
06/03/2020 10:51 pm

I just do not like the insistence that we say black lives matter. It is not racist to say that all lives matter. It just isn’t. Also, I do not think it is impossible to imagine what it is like to be a black man in America. We are all human beings. I am weary of the protests, riots, etc. Justice is being served in this case and police are not hunting black people. I also do not think the color of your skin matters at all. I think assuming you understand something about someone’s experiences because of their skin color is absurd.

upamtn
Reply to  Mahomesisgreat
06/04/2020 10:49 am

I am weary of the protests, riots, etc.
 
we all are, but had systemic change come sooner, we MIGHT not be at this juncture now … the system, and the prejudices it brings, needs to change
 
had there been meaningful institutional change the last few years (what Colin Kaepernick was trying to say by kneeling) perhaps the Floyd death might have been avoided

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  Mahomesisgreat
06/03/2020 8:23 pm

How much did George Floyd’s Black life matter to them? They brutally cooperated to kill him, completely ignored him begging to breathe, shooed off bystanders begging them to let him breath, take his pulse, or even get off him when he stopped moving at all. Then they got up and walked away, heading off to finish the paperwork and get home to dinner, maybe call the union lawyer, just in case. Would you tell his survivors that his life mattered that day?
 
I’m not terribly interested in your answer today, but perhaps you should look yourself in the mirror and ask if all the rioting really is George Floyd’s fault for dying under that crushing knee and starting all the trouble.
 
Also, the killer’s accomplices will never face any serious legal penalties. They may even find work with other PDs if they’re terminated and the union can’t get them arbitrated back in. If Floyd’s life didn’t matter, then saying “all lives matter” is a distraction away from that. All lives won’t matter until all lives matter to the police, unpopular minorities included.
 
Final point: Is it the protesters’ fault that police illegally fired less-lethal weapons on innocent reporters in direct and intentional violation of the First Amendment? Standing up for that isn’t patriotic at all, it’s just pro-cop.

NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs
Reply to  Mahomesisgreat
06/05/2020 1:23 pm

When you say “All lives matter”, you are not saying “Yes, and so do the lives of us all so we should work together”, you are saying “Get over it. You’re not more important”. The problem is, they aren’t asking to be MORE important. They aren’t saying “ONLY Black lives matter” or “Black lives matter more than White lives”.They are just asking for the same treatment that white folks get. That’s it. Equal. Not too much to ask, IMO.

upamtn
06/03/2020 1:35 pm

My house matters just as much as my neighbor’s house, but it is his that is currently on fire. His house is what matters right now. His life is what matters right now.

God bless to all my brothers and sisters in Chiefs Kingdom.

And for this one time only, god bless, Raiders, Chargers, and Broncos fans too.

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Snafu
Snafu
06/03/2020 1:16 pm

Great article! Your eloquence started at an early age, too.

probablyamistake
probablyamistake
06/03/2020 9:17 am

I know I’ve been shacking the tree around here, but sometimes it’s necessary. What I will say about this article:
 
EXCELLENT!!!!
 

Last edited 1 month ago by probablyamistake
Leaf
Reply to  probablyamistake
06/03/2020 10:33 am

Though I don’t agree with all his points, I appreciate his perspective.

upamtn
Reply to  Leaf
06/03/2020 1:38 pm

… and while I couldn’t agree more with his points, I’m pleased that you can at least appreciate his perspective and go from there
 
curious, just what do you DISAGREE with? specifically …
 

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  upamtn
06/03/2020 2:08 pm

I’ve been pretty loud about where I stand, because it’s the only meaningful stand I’m aware of that I can take, defend the Bill of Rights until all Americans enjoy its protection from the abuses of the gov’t at every level.
 
And a big reason I can’t stand anywhere else is that I am convinced that the decades of anti-racism social engineering (PC-speak, et alia) isn’t just unhelpful, it’s counter-productive. If the racism’s involved in the system, embedded within the rules and regulations, policies and procedures, you could replace everyone and the racism will still be there doing damage. That’s why I don’t wholesale hate cops as individuals, it’s futile and counterproductive, too.
 
But what infuriates me most is that criticizing and wanting to reform these systemic problems is something that the Blue actively fights and takes offense at. Short illustration follows:

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
06/03/2020 2:14 pm

A police officer illegally uses an official database illegally for personal benefit and gets caught (still happens, but anyway).
 
I object and say that such free access shouldn’t be allowed, outside restrictions are needed. Response? That was just him, and everyone else is good. Just a bad apple so stop hating on cops, jerk!
 
Time passes and another cop does the same thing for their own personal reasons and gets caught breaking the law. Then it’s lather, rinse, repeat.
 
I am sick and tired of having to battle the emotions of others while keeping my own in tight check, and still not being able to have a reasoned, fact-driven discussion without having to weave through all the sacred cows of others. It’s a hard and thankless task, but someone’s gotta do it, and one of that someone is me.

Leaf
Reply to  upamtn
06/03/2020 4:00 pm

I’m not sure I’ll articulate this clearly, but I’ll try. I don’t like labeling people. Don’t get me wrong, I see the argument he’s making, but it’s human nature to fear/hate what is different. The minute we start saying we need to see African Americans, Mexicans, whatever, for what they are, we are just asking for people to put up separations. Putting up separation leads to mistrust of that which isn’t part of your group.

Last edited 1 month ago by Leaf
Tyrone
Reply to  Leaf
06/03/2020 6:38 pm

I can see both points of view.

On a human level, we’re all the same and should all be treated the same, and we shouldn’t see any difference in each other.

On a cultural level, different groups have their differences, and it’s hard to understand, appreciate, empathize with, and celebrate those differences if we pretend we’re all the same.

MasterChief
MasterChief
Reply to  Tyrone
06/03/2020 7:03 pm

It’s a good point, but I think it’s a good thing to find commonality. It’s like when Ronald Reagan said that we would stop fighting each other if aliens invaded. We’d immediately be Earthlings first, dividing ourselves from aliens, and would therefore all work together for the common cause.
 
In this case, we might consider all Americans as equal human beings. Forget race, religion, political leaning… Just focus on being decent Americans who love other Americans. Probably won’t work but it’s a nice thought.

Tyrone
Reply to  MasterChief
06/03/2020 7:05 pm

“Just focus on being decent Americans who love other Americans.”

Now I feel left out. 😭

MasterChief
MasterChief
Reply to  Tyrone
06/03/2020 7:08 pm

Uh oh! I didn’t know you’re not “one of us”.
 
🤣🤣
 
Let me fix that… We all need to zoom out another level or two… All humans need to stick together! Where is that alien invasion when we need it!

Leaf
Reply to  MasterChief
06/03/2020 7:51 pm

Eh, I was okay with leaving him out 😜

MasterChief
MasterChief
Reply to  Leaf
06/03/2020 6:53 pm

Man, this is a big problem in human psychology. We tend to categorize everything possible. When we put ourselves into various categories, we draw lines of distinction. Once the lines are drawn, it’s “them” and “us”.
 
I am x race.
I am from x country.
I am in x political party.
I am a fan of team x.
I am x gender.
I am x sexuality.
I make x amount of money.
…and so on and so on.
 
We naturally group ourselves and then it’s our nature to prefer our own group over others. I’m not sure we can get past that, other than to keep fighting oppression stemming from these divisions.

Tyrone
Reply to  MasterChief
06/03/2020 7:03 pm

We should really be smart enough to be able to recognise differences without discriminating based on those differences.

Leaf
Reply to  Tyrone
06/03/2020 7:50 pm

We should. Only problem is after 500,000 years we still haven’t learned that lesson.

Leaf
Reply to  MasterChief
06/03/2020 7:56 pm

Yep, that is a problem. I’d love to think we are evolved enough to ascend to something better, but the cynic in me says that ain’t happening anytime soon.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  Leaf
06/03/2020 8:26 pm

I don’t think that’s quite what he meant, but otherwise I agree with you. The melting pot had some really bad stuff chucked in there that’s still not removed, but the salad bowl’s made things worse.
 
That’s why I stand for the Constitution, because it’s for everyone and I don’t have to pick between factions.

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