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Spurs coach Popovich mounts a simple, strong defense of Black History Month.

You can always count on Pop to say what he's thinking.

Spurs coach Popovich mounts a simple, strong defense of Black History Month.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has a bit of a reputation for speaking his mind.

Back in May 2017, Popovich denounced the self-centered "game show" atmosphere brought on by Donald Trump's presidency.

In September, he went on a bit of a press conference rant about Trump's "childishness" and "gratuitous fear-mongering," eventually launching into a pretty epic speech about why it's important for him to use his platform to speak out on important issues like racism, even if they don't affect him personally. (He's white.)


The Spurs' Dejounte Murray talks to head coach Gregg Popovich during a 2017 game. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that when Popovich was asked about the NBA's Black History Month celebrations, his answer would be worth a listen — even if it's a bit hard for white people to hear.

Asked by reporters why he felt it was important for the NBA to honor and promote Black History Month, he basically said that it's a no-brainer:

"I think it's pretty obvious. The league is made up of a lot of black guys. To honor [Black History Month] and understand it is pretty simplistic. How would you ignore that? But more importantly, we live in a racist country that hasn't figured it out yet. And it's always important to bring attention to it, even if it angers some people. The point is that you have to keep it in front of everybody's nose so that they understand it, that it still hasn't been taken care of, and we have a lot of work to do."

It's easy to pretend that racism is a thing of the past, but that's simply not true.

It's pretty easy to get defensive when Popovich and many others say things like, "We live in a racist country that hasn't figured it out yet." After all, nobody wants to be called racist, and nobody wants to think that they play a role in perpetuating discrimination.

Considering what some on social media are saying in response to Popovich's latest comments, that defensive instinct comes through loud and clear.

"If this country is Racist [sic] then why are we celebrating Black History Month?" asked one Twitter user. "Pop is an idiot...why doesn't he resign and give his job to a black coach if he feels he's part of the problem?" tweeted another. "What are we celebrating? Why do we single out a month for blacks? Can we have white history month?" asked a third.

"We live in a racist country that hasn't figured it out yet."

It's indisputable that racism against black individuals and other people of color is real. There is ample data confirming the inequality and negative treatment aimed at black Americans.

For example, an October 2017 survey found that on average, prosecutors offered white defendants more lenient plea deals than their black counterparts. Experiments in so-called blind auditions and job applications, as well as a look at how doctors treat people of color compared to white people, demonstrate the existence of unconscious bias.

Popovich and the Spurs attend the White House to celebrate their 2014 NBA championship. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

We are a racist country with a racist history. No, that doesn't necessarily make you a racist. It just means we have a lot of work left to do.

Just as Popovich said, if we really want to live in a more just world, we've got to keep this issue at the forefront of our minds.

Black History Month is a great opportunity to think about the many ways black Americans have shaped our country for the better in the face of crushing oppression. It's in acknowledging both the good and the bad that we can help build a a country that lives up to the lofty ideals lauded by many self-proclaimed "patriots."

Patriotism isn't about ignoring a country's faults, but about living each day to address them.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less