Spurs coach Gregg Popovich takes on Trump and racism in a powerful speech.
It's time we had some difficult conversations as a country.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has a bone to pick with President Donald Trump's attitude toward politics and sports.
An outspoken critic of Trump, the five-time NBA champion coach laid into the president during a press conference on Monday, critiquing his "childishness" and "gratuitous fear-mongering." This came after a weekend in which Trump uninvited the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the White House and raged against NFL players protesting police violence.
"Our country is an embarrassment to the world," Popovich added, referencing Trump's antics during his first months in office.
Popovich didn't stop there.
He brought the conversation back around to the real topic at hand: race and racism in America.
"Obviously, race is the elephant in the room, and we all understand that," he said, shrugging off the idea that if we simply stop talking about racism that it'll somehow just go away.
"There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change, whether it's the LGBT community or women's suffrage, race, it doesn't matter," he said. "People have to be made to feel uncomfortable and especially white people because we're comfortable."
"We still have no clue of what being born white means," he said.
Using a (what else?) sports metaphor, Popovich explained that being born white is like having a head start during a 100-meter dash. While there's no guarantee the head start means you'll win the race and while your hard work you put into training for the run shouldn't be discounted, it's still a head start. There shouldn't be any harm in acknowledging the advantage you were given.
"[White people] have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there," he explained. "And they have been built up and cemented for hundreds of years. But many people can't look at it, it's too difficult. It can't be something that is on their plate on a daily basis. People want to hold their position, people want the status quo, people don't want to give that up. Until it's given up, it's not going to be fixed."
Popovich's metaphor is a spot-on example of what exactly the oft misunderstood phrase "white privilege" means.
Replying to Sports Illustrated's tweet about Popovich's comments, one person remarked, "Hey Pop, where do I cash my 'congrats on being white' check? Don't think that came with my birth certificate, I must've gotten ripped off." The tweet was a classic example of what happens when white people are asked to consider their position and what their whiteness means in the world.
Poet Remi Kanazi responded brilliantly: "You cash it whenever you're pulled over by a cop, in a store not being followed, at an interview for a job, or trying to get an apartment."
No person should have to worry about being shot by the police, treated with suspicion, or discriminated against in the workplace because of the color of their skin. Right now, in America, white people don't have to worry about that. Non-white people do. The goal in the fight for racial justice isn't to bring privileged groups down, but to lift oppressed groups up. It's about finding the same starting line in the metaphorical 100-meter dash.