July 10-- Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
That thought is often repeated and it is based on a quote attributed to philosopher George Santayana. His original quote is, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
I bring this up because I think it is an important concept we remember in this rush to try and right every wrong that has ever happened or rewrite history in a way that soothes sensitivities.
And that's precisely why I think the NFL's thoughts about playing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" prior to games are shortsighted and an example of forgetting history, thus being doomed to repeat it. That song is often referred to as the "Black national anthem" and the NFL is spitballing ideas about how to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
I, for one, hate the concept of a Black national anthem. I hate even more the NFL trying to pander by adding it into their pregame ceremonies. For one thing, I have consistently said all sports leagues should stop playing the national anthem before games. It isn't necessary and it generates more controversy than it is worth.
But a Black national anthem is suggesting ... what? That we have two countries? The national anthem wasn't incorporated until 1931, almost 70 years after slaves were freed in this country, but many African Americans don't feel it represents their experience in this country. As an African American myself, I get it. We haven't been treated fairly. Our history in this country is laced with ugly and brutal realities.
What I don't get, though, is why we want to go back to a time when the country was segregated and we weren't treated as equals. Getting back to the history discussion, look up the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy vs. Ferguson. I am not saying that incorporating a Black national anthem is taking us back to the days of Jim Crow, but it does feel like a step in that direction.
African Americans fought, marched, and sacrificed their lives to rid the country of Jim Crow laws. They marched and fought to make sure black people today can stay at the same hotels, eat in the same restaurants, drink from the same fountains, live in the same neighborhoods and work in the same jobs as white people.
In 1954, for instance, African Americans celebrated a huge win when the Supreme Court in Brown vs. The Board of Education in Topeka, Kan., ruled that separate-i.e., segregated-schools could not be equal. This meant Black students could have the same opportunities of attaining an education as white students.
Our country isn't perfect and obviously has a long way to go in order to be what the ideals of the flag and national anthem stand for. There is no question black people are still marginalized in many ways and still not treated equally in all avenues. But the idea we haven't made progress is false. The idea that this generation of Black children isn't growing up in better times than my generation is false, as well.
That's why the idea of a Black national anthem becoming mainstream is off base. Our forefathers fought way too hard and sacrificed way too much to try and make the African American experience the same as the white experience to take steps toward creating the perception of two Americas.
And when it comes to the NFL, here are my thoughts: Stop trying to pander with mindless and meaningless things like playing a song before games and take real actions to support the ideals of Black Lives Matter.
More specifically, the NFL could work hard to create more mentoring programs that hook up executives, owners and front office people with Black high school and college students who are interested in pursuing careers on the business side of sports. Black coaches, general managers and executives largely-but not exclusively-are former players.
There are many talented people who didn't play the game that could contribute a lot. And the business and marketing sides of sports have incredible opportunities. That is an action step, one that makes sense and would help get to that goal of making sure everyone has the same opportunities under our current flag and national anthem.
There are plenty of other action steps-real action-that the NFL and other sports organizations can take that would go a long way toward supporting the ideals of Black Lives Matter. Pandering is insulting. Pandering doesn't solve anything.
I think the NFL can and should do better than pandering by playing a song, that, quite frankly represents a step in the wrong direction. It is bad enough that the league panders to what I call psuedo-patriotism by playing one national anthem. We don't need the NFL to play two.
The NFL should scrap playing both national anthems and focus on taking real steps toward building opportunities for minorities-because that's the point of Black Lives Matter in the first place.
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