Recently, we’ve seen that even affluent current and retired Black professional athletes aren’t removed from things that continue to have a polarizing effect in our country.
Remember when former Duke guard Nolan Smith tweeted about how a police officer pulled a gun on him during a traffic stop and later asked him for an autograph?? He tweeted about it:
The encounter I had with the police tonight...... Guns drawn, yelling, no questions asked... Smh... What's really going on?— Nolan Smith (@NdotSmitty) May 28, 2015
Soon as they relaxed and asked questions.. They became fans... Chill you not getting a autograph now, you just pulled a gun on me. Smh— Nolan Smith (@NdotSmitty) May 28, 2015
Or back in 2009 when former Texans running back Ryan Moats was stopped by a police officer when he rushed to the hospital to see his dying mother-in-law?
Former Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark and his wife were arrested last week at a suburban Chicago high school after they expressed their displeasure with a string of racial incidents that their family was involved in.
Clark was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct while his wife, Maria, was charged with misdemeanor assault. According to reports, the Clarks had feuded with school officials over the treatment of their son.
Clark took to Linkedin to describe the incidents that led to the arrest:
- In 2012 My son is called a nigger at school
- In 2013 he is told by someone his family hangs from trees.
- The next year he is single out of a crowd at school and asked his purpose for being on campus after hours
- 2015 my wife is called a nigger bitch and provoked into a fight and then the perpetrator maliciously pursues charges because she lost the fight. (She even says in her statement that she called my wife a nigger bitch because she has freedom of speech)
- Last Saturday my son is again singled out and is implicitly called a bad student and a criminal
“We’ve been dealing with this blatant, institutional, and systemic racism for 4 years," Clark went on to say. "Now the police department and the school have turned their back on us.”
Libertyville-Vernon Hills Area High School District 128 released a statement in response to things Clark alleged:
"In recent days, the parents involved in this situation have raised concerns in the media about how their child was treated by students and staff at VHHS over the past few years. As any parent would expect the school to do, VHHS took those concerns seriously at the time they were raised, and addressed them accordingly."
The school district went on to say:
“There are appropriate forums in which to address those grievances beyond the way the parents chose to address the recent situation.”
When I first heard about the things Clark and his family went through, it took me back to my high school years.
Recently I met up with one of my high school classmates. We talked about some of things we endured back then. I mentioned the “Watch out for the whites boys” conversation my mother and father had with me before I started high school.
Some might find that alarming, especially in the overly sensitive climate we now live in. However, my parents wanted to prepare me for the culture shock that I was going to get myself into. After all, I came from a mostly Black educational climate to a most White one. My parents worked in the Chicago Public School system. Since they had summers and weekends off, we traveled a lot. I interacted with different races and cultures quite frequently. Many of the Black students at my school weren’t so lucky.
Many of them struggled with being in a White-dominated educational system. When a coach or teacher would speak with them, they rarely made eye contact. Me on the other hand, I once got a detention for doing just that. The teacher said “Why are you looking at me?” I responded, “Because you’re looking at me.”
Due to the climate I went to school in, racial slurs and uneven punishments were the norm. Also, our concerns were often downplayed. These days, it’s called race-baiting. But how were we race-baiting if we were called the n-word or a coon to our faces?
I was once of called the n-word by a teammate during football practice. Even as a 15-year-old, I knew how it would look if I threw down then and there. So I waited until we scrimmaged. As soon as the whistle blew, I laid him out.
Of course everyone thought I had only made a solid hit, but I looked at it as a way to stop the taunting. The sad part was that this kid later spread a rumor saying I hated white people. Ultimately, he was just embarrassed that I had laid him out in front of the whole team.
There were also times where fellow students challenged me physically, and they told the teachers I had called them a ‘honky.” Funny how all that race card talk works.
Even though I later transferred to a different school, I don’t look at freshman and sophomore years as wasted time. In fact, I look back at it as learning experience. And I’m pretty sure, the White kids struggled with diversity as much as many of my fellow black classmates did.
As I’ve said in recent columns, people who claim to treat people fairly often stop short of that premise when discussing race. Race is too heavy for some folks. However, when something moves from an anomaly to a pattern, we ought to take notice.
For instance, right after Brandon Marshall’s comments last week, James Blake got tackled by a police officer, and now this. America can’t keep ignoring this stuff. Instead of shaming the Clark's, the school board ought to look into if other families have voiced similar concerns.
At any rate, Clark may sue the school. His lawyer, Frank Avila, recently told reporters that school officials were "...glossing over the fact that they have not addressed the issues of racism, bullying and discrimination and of the maltreatment of the student at the high school and the Clark family."
Some in Chicago are speaking out in support of Clark and his family:
@dezclark88 just know you have people behind you and support you. Crazy how some people can be.— Jacob Carroll (@JakeC79) September 12, 2015
But I often wonder if they are only outraged because this happened to a notable Black man. After all, these things happen to people who aren’t famous each and every day.
At this point, people ought to be upfront with race and racism. Maybe these incidents were a rude awakening for Clark. His celebrity won't save him from what many of us have to do deal on a daily basis.
No matter how many yards you compile, touchdowns you score, games you win, the one thing that can never be hidden is the color of your skin.