People in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and elsewhere often express bewilderment about how hypersensitive Americans are when it comes to racial matters: always fighting, arguing, bringing up or ignoring past injustices and seeking to take advantage or prevent advantage from being taken. Who is the victim? Who feels guilty? Who should apologize? Who is outraged? Who has color or is colorless? The blame game goes on and on. I was born in the United States and spent my first 54 years there, and I still don’t understand it. I doubt that anybody truly does. All this tribalism pulls at the fabric of American society, and I sometimes wonder how long it can hold under the strain. Former President Bill Clinton used to say, “Our diversity is our strength.” It is a trite line of which I am skeptical.
I have made a good-faith effort to grasp what National Football League players (and now coaches and owners) have been doing in recent weeks. They are kneeling during the national anthem, sitting on the bench, locking arms or just staying in the locker room for the purpose of making a social or political statement. This is all about the alleged mistreatment of black men, who comprise 70% of NFL players despite being just 6% of the U.S. population. There does seem to have been a spate of shootings of blacks by European-American police officers in recent years. In some cases, justification was absent. But take note—mitigating factors can play a role. Police officers are aware that blacks commit violent crimes in numbers far greater than European-Americans. They are also much more likely to resist arrest than European-Americans or people of other races. The inordinately high numbers of black men who are imprisoned may be traced to a flawed judicial system or raw racism, but the unpleasant fact remains that they are doing something that warrants being arrested, convicted and sent to the big house. Violent crime has risen in the last two years, possibly because cops are now reluctant to do pro-active policing. Criminals have become emboldened, as we might expect.
These demonstrations (exacerbated by some foolish Tweets by President Donald Trump) at NFL stadiums are all in the news, and you can rest assured the media has been lock-step in approval. Professional athletes, regardless of ethnicity, generally do not have the time, energy or inclination to make valid postulations about societal issues. Many of them are barely literate. I found the beating of Rodney King by LA cops in 1992 as horrific as anybody, and I am not one to pretend that racism does not exist or has evaporated in modern times. Even so, I think it’s important to recognize that European-Americans are quite often victimized by blacks. I do not mean to be a contrarian, but if these self-righteous NFL jocks can take a knee, I can, too. I offer the following examples, some but not all of which pertain to sports.
I take a knee for Rudy Tomjanovich, a European-American. On December 9, 1977, Tomjanovich, a member of the Houston Rockets, received an unprovoked punch from the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kermit Washington (black) that left him with a fractured skull, a cerebral concussion, a broken jaw and a broken nose.
I take a knee for Gregory Reddick, a 14-year-old European-American in 1989 when he was jumped by Todd Mitchell and eight other blacks in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Angry after watching Mississippi Burning, they beat Reddick and left him in a coma for four days, although he survived. Mitchell did two years in prison.
I take a knee for Danny Ainge, a European-American. Coach of the Phoenix Suns in 1997, he suffered quite an indignity when one of his players, Robert Horry, a black, disagreed with Ainge’s play call, cursed him and threw a sweaty towel in his face. Eighteen years later, virtually the same thing happened with the same franchise. In this case, it was Markieff Morris (black) cursing and throwing a towel in the face of Coach Jeff Hornacek (European-American).
I take a knee for Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, Jr., European-American students at the University of Tennessee. In January 2007, they had the misfortune to encounter George Thomas, Letalvis Cobbins, Lemaricus Davidson and their female companion, Vanessa Coleman (all black). The details are too awful to restate, so I will summarize: Thomas, Cobbins, Davidson and Coleman were convicted of carjacking, kidnapping, torture, rape and murder. The authorities declined to call it a hate crime, insisting that race was not an issue. The media was on board with that.
I take a knee for Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman, both of whom were European-American. On June 12, 1994, a black former football player named O.J. Simpson hacked them to death with a knife in Los Angeles. The fact that Simpson was acquitted of murder by an overwhelmingly black jury is beside the point; if he didn’t kill those people, grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry, and Mona Lisa was a man.
I take a knee for Chase Budinger, a European-American. In January 2009, the universities of Arizona and Houston met in Tucson for a basketball game. With 9:51 left in regulation, the Cats’ Chase Budinger (European-American) took a charge. The recipient of that charging call, Aubrey Coleman (black) of UH, proceeded to intentionally step on his face. Coleman, grinning like the Cheshire cat, got high-fives from his black teammates. He was sent to the locker room, and a member of the Houston sports information department soon wrote an obligatory apology. Coleman was suspended for one game by Conference USA—one game!
I take a knee for Denton James Ward, a European-American. Early one morning in 2012, he was out with his girlfriend. Needing to use the restroom, they stopped at a McDonalds’ adjacent to the Texas A&M University campus. Perhaps this was unwise because inside and outside of the fast-food restaurant were more than 100 black males—many of them shirtless, for some reason. About 20 of them beat and stomped him to death. The race of Ward’s assailants was scrubbed from local news coverage.
I take a knee for Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patricio “Patrick” Zamarripa (all but the latter European-American). On July 7, 2016, Micah Johnson (black) shot and killed these Dallas police officers during a downtown rally to protest the recent shootings by police of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. When cornered, Johnson refused to talk to any non-black officers. He stated candidly that he had wanted to kill as many European-Americans as possible.
I take a knee for Kent Benson (European-American) of the Milwaukee Bucks. In 1977, in the first game of his pro basketball career, he was sucker-punched by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (black) of the Los Angeles Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar, his hand broken, was fined $5,000.
I take a knee for Haruka Weiser and Harrison Brown, both European-American and both killed by blacks on the University of Texas campus in the 2016−2017 school year. Their killers were Meechaiel Criner and Kendrex J. White, respectively. Criner sexually assaulted and strangled Weiser, a freshman dance major. White used a Bowie-style hunting knife to stab Brown to death. Three other male students (two European-American and one Asian) were stabbed but survived.
I take a knee for Melanie Smith, a European-American woman whose earthly life ended on September 24, 2017. She was a member of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ outside of Nashville. Services had just concluded when Emanuel Kidega Samson (black, a native of Sudan) pistol-whipped an usher, killed Smith and injured six more people. Whether this can be compared to Dylann Roof’s rampage in South Carolina in December 2016, I am not sure. Let’s just say both were awful; maybe Roof and Samson can share a cell together since they have so much in common.
I take a knee for Frank Lucchesi, a European-American man who was serving as manager of the Texas Rangers in 1977. He had old-school motivational tactics, which irked at least one of his players—second baseman Lenny Randle (black). When Randle was benched, he found his manager near the batting cage before a spring training game and attacked him, busting his jaw. Randle paid a fine and apologized, but an enraged Lucchesi scoffed: “He could apologize from the Golden Gate Bridge with the fog rolling in, and I wouldn’t accept it.”
I take a knee for all the European-Americans who are harassed and beaten on “Haole Day” every year in Hawaii.
Finally, I take a knee for myself. I am European-American, by the way. In May 1981, I was living in Denton, Texas. Residing in the downstairs apartment was a very swishy gay black man named Lorenzo. I had never even spoken with him, but one night he showed up at my door with a bogus excuse. He then proceeded to throw something like Clorox right in my face and tried to force his way inside. I managed to fight past him, cursed him roundly and sought first aid. It so happened that I was leaving Denton for Austin soon. But in my remaining days there, he hid out. I took a hammer and beat on his door, threatening him with serious bodily harm. Several months later, I got a newspaper article from a friend. Lorenzo had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a young man.