Across the Board: The White Athlete Speaks Up

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Kyle Korver, one of the most recognized white basketball players in the game today, wrote an article for The Players Tribune with details of his path to the realization that he is better off in the world because of the color of his skin.

In 2015 Korver’s teammate Thabo Sefolosha was arrested by police in New York, the arrest lead to a broken leg. The injury ended his season due to the severity of it. In the months prior he was found not guilty on all charges. Korver’s first reaction was questioning what Thabo was doing that night that lead to his arrest. Even though they were close friends his initial reaction was “Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong.”

The story quickly faded as they usually do in the 24 hour news stream but retrospectively that initial reaction stuck with Korver. Fast forward to March 2019 there was an altercation between a fan and a player on the bench. Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was caught on video verbally jabbing back and forth with a fan, Korver had a first hand view as he was playing against the Thunder that night. The initial reaction was blaming Russell for getting into it with the fan, but it later came out that the fan yelled multiple racist jabs at Westbrook, and this incident brought back some feelings for Korver.  

It made him think of the incident 2015 but this time it was through a different lens. He began to realize that a white man playing in a league where 75 percent of the players are of color, he actually fits in better with the hecklers in the crowd. And that because of this he has been given the privilege of being able to stand up and defend Russell or Thabo, but he can also easily sit back and blend in with the faces of the fans and not say anything. He was given this opportunity because of the color of his skin. He now plans to continue to support people of color and make sure he steps up, but this is no easy task.

He will start the process by listening, and knowing when to step back and let the marginalized groups speak, and also hold his fellow white man accountable. He states the difference between guilt and responsibility. He asks “As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so. But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.”

In his opinion in order to follow through with the possible solutions we have to realize that they are not about putting guilt on anybody, however it is about taking the responsibility for the actions of our ancestors. He then addresses the hidden side of current racism the people who can interact comfortably with people of color but in private conversations wish that people didn’t have to always make it about race. He believes that is the most difficult type of racism to combat.

As a white man reading Korver’s article a lot of his same feelings resonated with me. I have been sitting at a table with relatives and heard them say “why does it always have to be about race”. The answer? In my opinion is because the white man made it about race thousands of years ago when we traveled to Africa and started rounding up black people to work for us as slaves. Our country was built in large part at the hand of slavery, and while it is a terrible skeleton in the closet, that is when it became about race. One of my favorite parts in the Korver article is when he says that we are not guilty of the actions of our forefathers, but we are responsible for them. You can’t blame me for slavery because I am white, but I absolutely have a responsibility to be better, and hold my fellow Americans accountable in their attempt to be better. This article continued to push something in me that I have been feeling for a while and that is recognizing the systemic racism in the United States today, and doing my part to stop it.

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