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I can’t pull the race card when the deck is stacked against us

Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and why they matter everywhere

“I’ve literally had enough” is the message I received from my 15-year-old brother. I watched the Philando Castille and Alton Sterling videos, but not over and over. I would like to say that I was shocked at the events that occurred, but instead I had to turn my cringing head before hearing a gunshot sink into another black body. It’s all too familiar, but never easy. Ever. Witnessing someone’s father, son, brother, brutally murdered for reasons we all are still trying to figure out makes my stomach quiver. Watching a young man cry out for his dead father and a mother forced to raise a child alone makes my heart hurt with frustration, mourning and confusion.

I’m not going to continue to ask why? We know the why. We know that there is a resounding racial divide at the core of this country’s foundation. The same divide that forces me to celebrate my black American independence in June. The same divide that silences communities because it’s “not relatable” or too “uncomfortable” to talk about. The same divide that blames acts of violence motivated by hate and brewed from resentment, anger and retaliation to an entire movement that stands for peace and justice. The same divide that rejoices in the death of policemen. The same divide that desensitizes and dismisses the oppression that has plagued black Americans for generations.

And we know that it is far from being resolved. Out of wisdom, we have to take legislative action to monitor those who use their rights and authority for evil. However, people harbor evil and evil spews hate toward others who don’t act, think and look like them. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t change hearts. Until hearts change, we are far from lasting change.

Conversely, when incidents such as this happen, we are asked to protest peacefully and not to make it about race.

We will continue to peacefully protest, but I’d rather you not have to request my peace. In the same way, we will continue to denounce and expose ignorance and corruption within our police forces, but I’d rather you not have to ask me to stop dealing the “race card.”

Stopping the cause is the only way to eliminate the effect — the dehumanization of black lives. But even if the issue is incomprehensible and unfathomable, then there must be some sort of reasonable explanation for lethal force, right? There must be some reason, some justification. Discrimination is a crime that is often disguised by “self-defense” and a badge. There is no justification for devaluing a life by pulling a trigger on someone because of an ignorant assumption. If all lives mattered, there would not be a need to emphasize that Black Lives Matter, too.

In the world of athletics, praise and glory consumes the black community as we as fans watch in awe of their ability to dunk, hit, catch, kick and throw a ball. So what does this situation have to do with sports? Nothing. There is no direct correlation, but the victims of these tragedies reflect the same injustice and inequality that haunt so many black athletes we exalt and crucify in the media every single day that continue to marginalize and disenfranchise them.

This hits home for me not because I was raised by a black man who was once one of those professional athletes, because I am an older sister to a black man, because a family member of mine was racially profiled by the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police force, or because I am a black woman. This hits home because another human being, someone who bleeds just like me, breathes air just like me, has a family just like me, is an American citizen just like me, was killed by individuals who may have allowed their blue suits, guns and unconscious or conscious bias get the best of them. So when told not to pull the race card, as the human race, we must.

We are one race made up of many ethnicities, cultures and societal ranks. As human beings and citizens of one nation under God, we all must feel the yearn, the need for justice. I am not afforded the luxury of worshipping and criticizing athletes who are a reflection of Sterling, Castile and so many others if I am not willing to stand with them in this crucial time of injustice and if they do not stand with me.

And not just black athletes. This is exactly what men and women such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson, Billy Jean King, Bill Russell, Althea Gibson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and so many others stood and fought for. Their stance for equality proved that their platforms are to be used beyond just sports and for that I must stand in agreement with their fight. The splendor in all this is that athletes from all facets of life have been speaking out against injustice and here are some of their responses:

https://twitter.com/JOEL9ONE/status/750578027608862720

First off let me start off by saying " All Praise Due To The Most High." Secondly, I'm all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I'll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn't change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn't work. We tried that. I've tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn't work. We've all tried that. That didn't work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. While I don't have a solution, and I'm pretty sure a lot of people don't have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I'm calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change. There's NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge. We can't worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7 #StayMe7o

A post shared by Carmelo Anthony (@carmeloanthony) on

Black lives have cheapened to a hashtag. I can’t be silent. We can’t be silent; we have to acknowledge and speak against the racial terror happening on our American soil. However, hateful retaliation will never be the answer. We allow our differences to excuse our division and violence toward each other and hinder love from prevailing. So we have to use the beauty of our uniqueness as a platform to denounce hate and promote and fight together for unity and justice for all.

Kayla Johnson is an associate editor for the ESPN social brand. She is an avid Kobe fan and may consider retirement if given the chance to interview him one day.