I’m hurting, yet hopeful.
Some of you will never understand why.
You recognize me as the 76ers beat writer for The Inquirer, who resides in a suburban middle-class neighborhood where my daughter is provided opportunities that were not afforded to me growing up in Frankford on Tackawanna Street.
But I’m definitely hurting.
I’ve been this way since watching the video of the May 25 Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black male. The thing that triggers these emotions are the acts of unapologetic brutality that continue to crop up even as the spotlight is shining squarely on police behavior.
So what does this foreshadow for black folks when the spotlight is turned off?
That’s why there have been mass protests all over the world to demand an end to racism and to declare that Black Lives Matter.
I hope that these protests convince people that things need to change. I’m hopeful that the Democratic police reform bill, which will be introduced Monday, gets passed. We need to identify the bad cops, as a way to make the streets safer for everyone.
The attention Mr. Floyd’s death has received makes me hopeful that we’ll see major changes in regards to fighting racism.
Basketball great Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand announced Friday that they’re giving $100 million to organizations dedicated to promoting racial equality and social justice.
Other major brands — including Nickelodeon, Ben & Jerry’s, and Sesame Street — have also shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement and/or against racism.
But the pain I’m going through right now is real.
This pain brings back the hurt felt as a first-grader and learning that the nickname Super N-word a sixth-grader called me in my elementary school’s schoolyard wasn’t a compliment.
It reminds me of the countless times as a college student when white women would lock their car doors at the sight of me crossing the street.
And it’s definitely no different than the level of anxiety I still feel whenever I’m out driving and see a police car.
That’s why it’s hard to think about the resumption of the NBA season, or anything else for that matter. Mr. Floyd’s death and some reaction to it unleashed some of the painful experiences and fear I tried to conceal associated with being a black male in America.
On Thursday, I received an email in reference to my article about the Sixers’ Tobias Harris wanting people to “admit something’s wrong in this country” in a Players’ Tribune essay.
“U and him aren’t helping the situation nor being real!” the emailer wrote. “White lives matter, too. White people being killed; white women being raped, other crimes perpetrated by blacks. More blacks suffer death and crimes by blacks. Step up, use your platform to bring healing. We are all God’s children!!”
The emailer doesn’t get it, and, apparently, has certain views of black males. But I will use my platform to show why people are protesting.
I was born in 1971, Frank Rizzo’s final year as commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department. He went on to serve as mayor of the city from 1972 to 1980. The police department engaged in patterns of police brutality, coercion, intimidation, and disregard for constitutional rights, especially toward the black community.
I remember, as a preteen, sitting on my front steps and witnessing a few incidents when black males were roughed up by the police. Let’s just say that left me petrified of the police. So much so that one day, my mother introduced me to an officer during a festival at Penn’s Landing. She did it to let me know there are good cops.
But there were still some painful experiences, which I thought was just a result of growing up black in the inner city.
As an 11th grader while walking home from school with my best friend, a police vehicle rolled up on us. The officers jumped out of the car while one of our classmates was seated in the backseat.
You could hear our classmate saying, “That’s not them” before the officers quickly retreated back to their vehicle and sped off down the street. I learned the next day that our white classmate was robbed by two black males. We just happened to be the first two the police officers saw after the incident.
I kept telling myself things would improve after I got a college degree, and the police would consider me less of a threat.
With an out-of-state license plate, I was stopped by the police several times in Virginia Beach as a post-graduate intern for The Virginian Pilot. I was stopped once because an officer said I looked lost, which, in fact, I was. But before I could ask for directions, he asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance. There was also the time when, as a reporter at The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., I was stopped at night while on I-20 with my sports editor Thad Livingston on the passenger side.
Livingston, who is white, talked for days afterward about how the cops took their hands off their guns once they realized he was in the car.
I’ve continued to be stopped several times over the years.
Sometimes for legitimate traffic violations. A few times for what I felt was being deemed a suspicious person driving in an area where there were people who did not look like me.
Now, I’m close to completing my seventh season on the Sixers beat. People tell me I have a dream job, and should count my blessings. They recognize me for my articles that appear in The Inquirer.
My job doesn’t take away from the level of anxiety I still feel whenever I see a police car while driving.
That’s because every black man in America, regardless if you’re a sportswriter, a doctor, an accountant, or even a mayor, there’s no account of credential, accomplishment or money that can change the fact that we all could be the next George Floyd.