Former Pro-Bowl athlete Thomas Q. Jones is crystal clear about the recent lack of justice
And he doesn’t like being a ‘victim’ of racism
Thomas Q. Jones pauses for a bit, tossing a four-letter word over in his head. Hope. Does he feel any? Sometimes he’s not sure. The news headlines are harrowing, and he’s far more comfortable focusing on reality. And right now, the reality of a life free of overt racism in the near future seems … bleak.
“I would like to think there’s hope. But the only way things are going to change is when people acknowledge what’s real — and not what we hope. There have always been big race issues in America, from day one, with slavery. There are huge race issues now in America. Because you have a black president doesn’t change the DNA of the country.
“I would like to think there’s hope, but I’ve always been a real person. I’ve always acknowledged what’s real. I’ve always acknowledged what’s right in front of my face. And I think it’s about time for people to start acknowledging what’s really going on, and sacrificing their comfort to help change things. It’s uncomfortable to talk about issues, it’s uncomfortable to talk about race issues. But it’s more uncomfortable to be the ones the racism is geared toward.
“I love all people. Some of my best friends are white, some of my best friends are Hispanic, some of my best friends are black. The majority of my team in high school was white. There were actually only two black players on my whole team. These are kids that I have lifelong memories with … I would never, ever forget them, or ever forget our experiences together, ever.
“But … my reality is, I’m a black man. When I have on a football helmet for whatever team I’m playing for, that’s who I am. But when I take that helmet off, I’m still a black man. And there are still experiences that I go through that people don’t understand and they won’t understand. That’s the most frustrating part for me, is having to try to explain myself in spite of what is in front of your face.
“It’s very tough because you constantly feel as though — I’m not a victim. I’m a very strong man. I’m a strong person. I hate to be the victim. I really get annoyed when people become the victim. So, I don’t want to sit here and say I am a ‘victim’ of racism. As a player on the field, I’m very aggressive, very passionate. Off the field I’m very aggressive and passionate towards my goals. I’m the last person that wants to be a victim of anything. But I am. I am. And … that’s the reality that a lot of people don’t want to see, and that’s the frustrating part for me.
“This is my story. I can’t tell you anything else. I can’t tell you that this is not my story. I don’t want to go through this. I don’t want to deal with this. I don’t want to see people killed by the police and then get away with it. I’m not a cop. I’ve never been a cop. I know that’s a very tough job. I have friends that are police officers. I have the utmost respect. They put their lives on the line every single day for people they don’t know. Without police, the world would be in chaos because there has to be some sort of order. I completely understand that, but I just think that there’s a certain responsibility that also comes with that job. And I think that there are certain racial differences because of the lack of value that’s put on certain people’s lives. And in this case, it’s the black lives.
“And if you make a mistake, and you kill someone — which is a horrible mistake — the justice system should prevail. The justice system, that’s what we put our hope in. And I think that’s what people are really upset about — how you can kill a guy on camera and walk away. You get put on paid leave and you’re on vacation getting paid until they figure out the facts, or the way it seems to us, they figure out how to get you out of it.
”People take ‘black lives matter’ and they interpret it as no one else’s lives matter. That’s completely wrong. The only reason people are saying ‘black lives matter’ is because when black people are killed by the police, the justice system doesn’t prevail for us. It’s also frustrating how people divert the attention from the situation at hand. If a black person is killed by police due to police brutality, and they say, What about black-on-black crime? To me, that shows a sense of inhumanity for the person that’s dead. You’re dismissing the life of this person. [And] if I’m not making other athletes accountable … then I’m as much a part of the problem as everyone else is.”