Audra Lorde was talking to the greedy — those concerned only with materialism — when she said, “Your silence will not keep you safe.” She was targeting the willfully ignorant and indifferent who busy themselves with small-minded pursuits and never truly engage or try to change the world as it lurches back and forth.
Most of all she was speaking to the cowardly without a sense of humanity — those who do and say nothing because of paralyzing fear. How does it feel to be constantly afraid? You over there. Yes, you! You who say nothing at work when you and others are mistreated because you know you are mediocre and don’t want to be found out. You there, coward in a terrible relationship but you stay because you are afraid of being alone. How do you feel?
You, low aimer. You never seek loftier heights personally, professionally or structurally because you have no sense of greatness. You there, gossiper. You busy yourself with bringing confusion into others’ lives because you lack the fortitude to construct a decent one of your own. You, my white friend who is comfortable in jealously guarding your racial privilege because you are afraid of a truly level playing field. Oh no, I haven’t forgotten about you, black man and woman who run from your blackness because you see it as an affliction. You are cowards, all! How does it feel?
After my last article, fans of U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (of “You lie!” renown) wrote me in droves telling me that I, not Wilson, am the true racist. I welcome the aspersions cast by such people.
Now, these same types are lobbing bombs at black football players who stood up last week and said they would not play for the St. Louis Rams if a proposed ownership team that includes Rush Limbaugh were allowed to buy the team. They say this is a free-market economy and nobody should be disallowed from such endeavors if they have the money. I say good for these players!
Do not remain silent, my friends. Do not live your lives as cowards. I have followed and played sports since I was a small child and even consider myself somewhat of a sports historian. I know of times before Tiger Woods’s escapism. I know of times before Michael Jordan opined, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” when he was asked to stand up. And I know you cowards love them. You pull them to your bosoms because their lack of a social conscience reminds you of yourselves. They are your good guys.
Well, I remember and love the bad guys. I remember Cookie Gilchrist and other black ballplayers in the old AFL boycotting an All-Star Game in New Orleans in 1965 because of its segregation. Bad guys, and many suffered professionally for it. I remember Muhammad Ali standing up against war and being blackballed before you all claimed love for him once he was ravaged by Parkinson’s and could “do no harm.” Bad guy. I remember Bill Russell standing tall and straight, brave and defiant … a man. I remember him saying, no matter what racial animus people harbor, they “will not visit it upon me.” Bad guy.
I remember Jackie Robinson braving your feral vehemence. Bad. I remember Pee Wee Reese standing up for him. Badder, because he liked a Negro. You fear Jim Brown to this day. Baddest of the bad.
In a time when Malcolm X’s (bad guy) daughter opines that Barack Obama is doing enough for black people by “simply showing up with dignity”; in a time when Martin Luther King’s (a really bad guy) children are gay-bashing and suing one another over money; in a time when some regard bigots like Wilson and Limbaugh — with his “talent on loan from God” (yes, I keep tabs on him, too) — as good guys and heroes, it is obvious we need more “bad guys.”
So, call me racist for standing against you. Hate me. Rebuke me. Call me what you will. Just hear me well and remember that I am prepared for it all. Why? Because right here, right now, on this day, at this time, in Louisville, Ky., as Little Walter said: “I IS the bad guy!”
By the way, under pressure, the Rams’ potential ownership group dumped Rush last week. Chalk another one up for the bad guys.
Until next time, have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools — or cowards!
Visit Ricky L. Jones at www.rickyljones.com