NFL legend Mike Ditka may have had the worst take of all time this week when he said, "There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of."

The former coach and star tight end of the Chicago Bears appeared on Jim Gray's national radio show ahead of Monday Night Football, Oct. 9 to talk football, protests, and apparently his rudimentary knowledge of American history. Gray even tried to help Ditka out of the hole he dug for himself, citing the social activism of athletes like Muhammed Ali and Jesse Owens. Instead, Ditka doubled down (emphasis added):

“I don’t know what social injustices [there] have been. Muhammad Ali rose to the top. Jesse Owens is one of the classiest individuals that ever lived. I mean, you can say, ‘Are you (saying) everything is based on color?’ I don’t see it that way. I think that you have to be color blind in this country. You’ve got to look at a person for what he is and what he stands for and how he produces, not by the color of his skin. That has never had anything to do with anything.

The color of someone's skin has never had anything to do with anything. Let me put that in bold so you can really see the foolishness of this take: The color of someone's skin has never had anything to do with anything.


Mike Ditka testifying during a congressional hearing on NFL compensation. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Well, Mike Ditka, I've got some news for you. There has, in fact, been oppression against people of color in the last 100 years.

Lynchings, Jim Crow laws, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, the 1994 crime bill, gentrification, gerrymandering, ICE raids, police shootings, and more. But hey. I get it. How could we expect someone like Mike Ditka to recall a century's worth of discrimination, hatred, and bigotry, what with all those concussions he (probably) incurred, coupled with the insular world wealthy white men of advanced age tend to create for themselves.

Ditka and his ilk may feign ignorance about the history of this country, but their willful ignorance doesn't erase the systemic oppression happening right this second.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

So if 100 years is too much to consider, here are nine examples of oppression against people of color from the last 100 days.

And, frankly, most of these are from the past month. Just because it's not happening to you, doesn't mean it's not happening. Take a seat, Ditka. I'm about to drop some knowledge.

1. The public skewering of Jemele Hill

ESPN journalist Jemele Hill was suspended from the network over tweets calling out Jerry Jones for threatening to fire any players who kneel during the national anthem. She's been publicly attacked by the president, who she called a white supremacist. Meanwhile, Hank Williams Jr. was recently invited back to ESPN after seemingly likening President Obama to Hitler and outright calling him "the enemy."

2.  Terror and fear in Charlottesville

White supremacists terrorized the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, the weekend of Aug. 11-13. They brought lit tiki torches and weapons and marched menacingly — supposedly to protect the city's Confederate monument. Counter-demonstrators came out to protest the presence of hate groups and intimidation in their community. A black man brutally attacked at the rally was recently arrested because he allegedly injured one of his attackers during the brawl (presumably in self-defense). When asked about the violence and tumult in Charlottesville, President Trump said there was "blame on both sides."

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

3. Destruction is met with heartlessness in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Most people on the island are still without water or electricity. The president criticized the mayor of San Juan for her "poor leadership," then he took his time getting supplies and resources to residents and threw paper towels into the crowd. His administration also briefly hid data about the recovery effort.

Residents wait in the rain to register with FEMA in Jayuya, Puerto Rico. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

4. The relentless stream of anti-Muslim rhetoric and vandalism

In the last month, there have been acts of anti-Muslim vandalism in Farmville, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; Bellingham, Washington; Raleigh, North Carolina; and more. 2017 is on track to be one the worst years ever for anti-Muslim hate crimes.

5. The co-opting of the NFL protest against inequality

Kneeling during the national anthem began as a silent way to protest police violence and inequality against against black and brown people. Athletes and fans choosing to kneel have been met with racial slurs, death threats, and threats to their employment. A black fan seated during the anthem at a pre-season Lakers game was reportedly attacked by two white women. At the same time, Terrelle Pryor, a black NFL player, says he was called the n-word so much during a game, he had to have an NFL employee step in to assist. (In case you're curious, he didn't kneel during the anthem, but maybe he should have).

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.

6. Dove's careless advertisement that centered white beauty ahead of everything else

This ad from Dove, which appeared on Instagram, shows a black woman removing her shirt and skin to reveal a white woman underneath. Think of all the people who had to OK this before it got to Instagram. Now ask yourself why so many people thought it was OK to dismiss black women in that way, to ignore how the ad could be seen as portraying black women as dirty, unworthy, or not beautiful?

7. America's dangerous obsession with memorializing the Confederacy

New monuments to the Confederacy have been planned and built, even in Union states. This is not a celebration of history. It's intimidation and propaganda. Or to put it another way: oppression.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrate against a Confederate monument in Fort Sanders. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

8. The legitimization of Roy Moore

Roy Moore is the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama. Real talk: He's an anti-Muslim, homophobic asshole who seems to enjoy terrorizing marginalized people. And he's favored to win.

9. The acquittal of Jason Stockley

In 2011, St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley shot Anthony Lamar Smith five times. While in pursuit of Smith's vehicle, Stockley said, "we’re killing this motherfucker, don’t you know." Stockley didn't apply wound-care even though another officer on the scene testified that Smith appeared alive. Stockley may have planted a gun in Smith's car.  What does this have to do with the last 100 days? Well, Stockley was found not guilty of murder on Sept. 15, 2017. For weeks, people have taken to the streets of St. Louis to protest the verdict and demand justice for Smith.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

OK, Ditka, step aside for a second. Time to talk to the people ready to do something about willfully ignorant people like you.

Just like oppression itself, willfully ignorant people are common and dangerous. They don't understand that "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" is not a solution. It's a myth. This is especially true if you don't have boots (figurative or literal) to start with.

Like Ditka said...

"I mean, I don’t see all this, the social injustice that some of these people see. I don’t. I know my dad worked in a steel mill and he brought home a paycheck and we ate dinner every night together. We didn’t have anything, but we didn’t need anything because we had a family. That was a good time in America. I would like to see us get back to that.”

Ditka was 10 years old in 1949. WWII had just ended four years earlier and Brown v. Board of Education wouldn't rule to integrate schools for another five years. So it's safe to say that wasn't a great time for everyone in America — just people who looked a lot like Ditka.

That's why people like him are so dangerous. They simply don't see the hatred, bigotry, and systemic oppression that our country was built on. And if they can't see it, they will do absolutely nothing to stop it, and they could use their privilege and power to make matters worse.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

What can you do about it? Speak up.

We all know a Ditka: Someone who just doesn't get it and just doesn't want to. Don't let them off the hook. Don't stay silent. Have those tough conversations. Call them out on their BS. Hit them with facts, figures, and the truth. Speak out against acts of oppression, and support candidates and companies that do the same.

Because whether it comes from a windbag of a football coach (sorry, Bears fans) or your dear old aunt, willful ignorance is willful ignorance. And if we want to dismantle systemic oppression, dropping knowledge is a damn good place to start.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Freya from Maya Higa's YouTube video.

Ever wonder what an ideal date for a lemur would be? Or a lizard’s favorite Disney princess?

Thanks to one YouTube poster with a passion for animals and an endearing sense of humor, all questions shall be answered. Well, maybe not all questions. But at the very least, you’ll have eight minutes of insanely cute footage.

In a series titled “Tiny Mic Interviews,” Maya Higa approaches little beasties with a microphone so small she has to hold it with just her thumb and forefinger. And yes, 99% of the animals try to eat it.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Cellist Cremaine Booker's performance of Faure's "Pavane" is as impressive as it is beautiful.

Music might be the closest thing the world has to real magic. Music has the ability to transform any atmosphere in seconds, simply with the sounds of a few notes. It can be simple—one instrument playing single notes like raindrops—or a complex symphony of melodies and harmonies, swirling and crashing like waves from dozens of instruments. Certain rhythms can make us spontaneously dance and certain chord progressions can make us cry.

Music is an art, a science, a language and a decidedly human endeavor. People have made music throughout history, in every culture on every continent. Over time, people have perfected the crafting of instruments and passed along the knowledge of how to play them, so every time we see someone playing music, we're seeing the history of humanity culminated in their craft. It's truly an amazing thing.

The pandemic threw a wrench into seeing live musicians for a good chunk of time, and even now, live performances are limited. Thankfully, we have technology that makes it easier for musicians to collaborate and perform with one another virtually—and also makes it easier for people to create "group" performances all by themselves.

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A round-up of delights from around the internet this week.

Hey all!

Welcome to Upworthy's weekly roundup of delights from around the internet. This week's list features a little of everything—gorgeous music, cute kids, adorable animals, hope for the planet and a brand new video message from the late and great Betty White.

That's right, Betty White left us a message of gratitude shortly before her passing. It's brief, but how lovely to see and hear her speak to her millions of fans one last time. Few celebrities are as universally beloved as Betty White was, and though we knew she couldn't live forever, it would have been fun to see her celebrate her 100th birthday. Now, at least, we get to experience her joy and warmth with a few last words.

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