Hands down, Shut up: White America’s Message to the Rams

We’ve seemed to reach a familiar, awkward juncture in America: the intersection of race and sports. Several St. Louis Rams players decided to take a stand on Sunday by walking onto their home field in a “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture of solidarity with protesters of police brutality.

On November 24th, a Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for murdering Mike Brown. In the months since the shooting occurred, racial tensions have ratcheted to a fever pitch in America. In this country, race “relations” are nonexistent, and the hysteria surrounding the Rams’ subtle protest exemplifies it. The fact that the game was played in Missouri, the current ground zero in the war on Cops, is fitting.

After the demonstration, there was backlash against the players on social media. Twitter users who sided with Darren Wilson called for the involved players to be released from their NFL contracts. The St. Louis Police Officers Association is upset and demanding an apology. The Rams have reportedly been banned from a bar in the city.

There is a growing movement on social media in support of a misguided article stating Mike Brown did not have his hands up. This current hysteria has become yet another example of white America not seeing the forest for the trees.

Regardless of where Mike Brown’s hands were when he met his fate, that dialogue doesn’t address the climate that subconsciously infected Darren Wilson to view Mike Brown as a suspect the second he saw him. It doesn’t address the very real concern that black men are literally being targeted for their skin color. It doesn’t siphon the awareness of Rams players or anyone else contributing to what’s becoming the most important movement of the 21st century. It doesn’t change the discussion that will ensue when a young black child asks an elder what “hands up” is referring to.

Make no mistake, no matter what argument any corporate shill or misguided new black attempts to make, the acrimony between police and the black youth of America is entirely a racial issue. This is a country where black men are killed while simply walking down the street, yet white serial killers and mass murderers are apprehended safely, romanticized and married behind bars. There is blatant hypocrisy surrounding this countries’ acceptance of violence. The color of the violator seems to be the only factor in justifying it’s commission.

Minorities who still expound respectability politics have to wonder why the players who supported a positive social movement are seemingly receiving the same backlash as Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, who committed crimes. The NFL had to announce they wouldn’t penalize the Rams or the players, as if social activism is a punishable offense.

The “hands up” gesture is a passive one, a physical demonstration that one poses no threat and doesn’t want violence. In a season where off the field violence of football players threatened to overshadow the actual games, why would anyone be mad at that?

The mainstream media’s disillusionment tacticians have attached being pro-Mike Brown to being pro-looting and pro-violence to disorient the public. The core issue that Ferguson protesters and social activists such as Killer Mike are fixated on is being muffled by people who have zero understanding of the inherent racism of police brutality. They’re focusing on minutia as the evidence of absence and attempting to sweep the justified outrage of Black America under the rug.

This country fixates on memorializing tragedy in “never forget” moments, but the second black America attempts the same, it engenders rage. Compound that calamity with the ever rife matters of white paternalism and inherent racism in sports, and this debate is another example of society attempting to clip leaves off a long-rooted tree.

They want football players to be silent, helmeted figments of entertainment. They want athletes to simply play the games, cash their checks, and embody the stereotypes that are in part the seeds of racism. They want the emissaries of their pass times to be anything but reminders of reality.

Intersect that with what Officer Jenny Pohl reminded us, that no matter how much money a black athlete makes, on their own merit they’re viewed no differently then a corner dweller to a sizeable portion of white America. From inception, rich or poor, a black existence is not supposed to be about the progress of anything but corporate America.

There was a flock of St. Louis Cardinals fans who hurled vitriol at peaceful pro-Mike Brown protesters in front of St. Louis’ Busch stadium in September, some wearing “I am Darren Wilson” shirts. That didn’t dominate the mainstream media headlines, but a subtle show of solidarity has. It appears the sanctity of free speech is in a perilous state in 2014. It’s as if white America wants to own that too.

 

What were your initial reactions to the Ram silent protest? Do you think its important for celebrities to be political? Was the backlash fair?

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andreg

Andre G is a freelance writer, poet, music producer and co-founder of ColorTheFuture.org, a platform for young artists of color.
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