Black Lives Matter

posted on: June 5, 2020
author: Brian Lomax

As a sport psychology professional, I have an ethical obligation to address multicultural issues such as racism in our society. But I am also an Amercian and a human being, and given what is happening in America today, I want to communicate my thoughts on this topic and reiterate my firm belief that Black Lives Matter.

The killing of George Floyd last week at the hands of police officers was chilling to watch and emotionally disturbing. Quite rightly, people are enraged at this latest incident of violence and have taken to the streets to protest the abhorrent treatment of members of the Black community by police officers in the United States.

Over the past few days, I have had several conversations about this latest episode, as well as about numerous other incidents of violence against the Black community in the recent past. As a result of these conversations, I have found myself becoming more and more impassioned and angry about the topic of systemic racism in our society. It is a part of America that has troubled me deeply for years. And it needs to change. We need to be the ones that change it. For if not now, then when? For if not us, then who?

What Can We Do?

In moments like this, I believe that we have to do more than just say that we are not racists. That is too neutral of a stance and will only serve the status quo. Instead, we must actively call out racism in all its forms and work on dismantling its systemic presence in our society.

On the face of it, that seems overwhelming, as it is a deeply rooted problem. But we can no longer hide behind that excuse. We have to deal with this issue honestly and directly. How do we get started? By starting small. We start in our communities, our professions, and our organizations. Consider the following courses of action to contribute to systemic change (Yu et al., 2016):

  1. Become a social justice advocate: Address racism when you see it. This can be as simple as calling out a racist joke for what it is – racism. Participate in a protest. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Volunteer for a group that is fighting racism.
  2. Mentor diverse members of your professional field or other organizations that you are a member of: One way that racism has become systemic in our society is through a lack of opportunity. We can change this one person at a time. Help young people from diverse backgrounds to advance in your field.
  3. Actively promote multicultural leadership: More diverse leadership will be much more representative of your organization’s membership, and will provide further opportunity for advancement.
  4. Increase your own education on multicultural issues: Books, films, and courses are just some of the ways that we can broaden our perspective on the topics of multiculturalism and racism. To become better educated in this area is a commitment to creating a better society. See the end of this post for some book recommendations.
  5. Expand your social circle to include more diversity: This may be easier said than done, but one way to do this is to join organizations that already have a multicultural membership.

Stay Focused

Engaging with multiculturalism in these ways can help us to change the system from the inside-out. Protests and other statements of support for the Black community are acts of social justice advocacy. These are important acts, and in this cause, I believe that it is imperative that our focus remains on the salient topic – systemic racism. Stories in the media about looting and violence only serve to distract from the real issue. We cannot afford to be distracted. We must continue to stand with the Black community and reiterate that Black Lives Matter. Property can be fixed and replaced; lives cannot be.

Photo credit: Mike Morbeck via Flickr

Athletes and Social Justice

With respect to social justice advocacy, I would be remiss if I did not mention former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in this post. When he took a knee during the playing of the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season, it was to protest the treatment of Black men in America by police officers and to shine a light on the systematic oppression that diverse populations face in our society. It was never about disrespecting the flag or America. That was a narrative created to distract people from the uncomfortable truth – that racism and oppression in America is systemic.

When athletes use their platform to highlight social issues, we need to listen to them, even if it makes us uncomfortable. We become better as people and as a society by acknowledging and addressing our flaws. It’s not un-American to criticize America. In fact, it’s the only way we’ll ever get better. As parents, coaches, leaders, and athletes, we are continually providing feedback to others to help them improve. We should do the same for America.

It appears that Kaepernick’s example is inspiring some of today’s elite athletes to use their influence to advocate for social change. In my opinion, that’s a good thing and we should support them. The country needs their voices to be heard.

It is my hope that we can come together in the cause for creating a better society for all Americans. It won’t be easy, but doing the right thing seldom is.

 

Book and Podcast Recommendations

If you are interested in reading more about racism in America and in sports, check out these books:

  • The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism by Howard Bryant
  • Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field by Howard Bryant
  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Here is a list of other books on this topic from Newtonville Books. You may not agree with everything you read in these books, but you will broaden your personal perspective on this topic, and that’s the point.

The following podcasts have a number of episodes that deal with racism in America and are worth checking out:

  • Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill
  • Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes – one of the recent episodes features Howard Bryant, author of two of the books in the list above.

 

References

Yu, A. B., Nguyen, T., & Petrie, T. (2016). The Jeremy Lin effect: Being an Asian sport psychology consultant in a Black and White world. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 10, 289-308.

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About the Author

Brian Lomax founded PerformanceXtra™ in 2009 with a mission of helping athletes achieve their goals and their top performances more consistently through a progression of mental skills that enables them to focus on what is truly important.

Learn more about the author: https://performancextra.com/brian-lomax/

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