Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant is considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL today.
But his most memorable play of the year may not have come in the end zone at the Cowboy’s AT&T Stadium, but rather on social media.
Writing on his Instagram page Bryant comments that he has found that African-Americans are largely responsible for the problems within the black community:
First and foremost I would like to say I do a great job minding my own business but it’s pressing on my heart to share my thoughts about white Americans & black Americans (racism). I saw a person quote Charles Barkley when he said, “We as black people we’re never going to be successful not because you white people but because of other black people.” I hate to admit it but I understand that quote.
Bryant expands upon this message by remarking that while racism, such as what leads to racial profiling, does exist, too often African Americans embrace a message that scapegoats racism rather than a message that focuses on individual accountability:
I’ve been racially profiled on numerous occasions but not once has it influenced an ill feeling inside me about anyone outside of that issue. REAL SLAVERY is different from what’s going on in our world now.. we all (every ethnicity) have the opportunity to lead by EXAMPLE. Instead of making videos about the history of racism that get applause or people with influence merely doing things to post for social media we should focus on individual accountability to be better as a whole.
Bryant’s message is unique today, especially among prominent African American athletes and celebrities who often lament American injustices onstage, in the media, or on one knee on the sidelines while the national anthem is playing.
While few would argue that no racial injustice exists in America, the attention paid to it seems oddly disproportionate to some, at least in relation to the degree that it is a problem for African Americans.
Conversely, some would argue that the scarcity of attention paid to much greater problems in the black community is inversely disproportionate.
For example, while much attention was paid to the 2014 death of Black New Yorker Eric Garner from what some call a police chokehold, much less attention was paid to the problem that nearly 90% of murder victims in New York City in 2014 were black or Hispanic, while the number of murderers in New York City that year was also nearly 90%.
We saw many athletes like LeBron James wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in honor of Garner, but saw no such t-shirt for New York’s many black murder victims.
Bryant then asks a question that may resonate among several African Americans who worry that certain aspects of black culture – Allen West here calls it “gangster culture” – is a contributor to the problems of black Americans:
Real question what is wrong with being sophisticated and black? Why do we associate those who chose the straight and narrow as not being “black enough.” … We focus hard on fighting the realities that exist instead of creating our own reality. The ones who came before us (Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X…) paved a new path for us to follow. The struggles and hurt they endured created new life for us today. It is not our job to carry the burden but it is our job to lead by example.
Bryant’s words are not without their critics however.
Former tight end and current co-host of ESPN’s Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe, responded by questioning Bryant’s racial education:
“I think Dez’s heart was in a good place, but because he hasn’t read up enough on the race relationship and the history of racism in America, it came out totally wrong… Dez, when you say personal accountability—okay, so I’m supposed to hold me accountable for slavery? What about Reconstruction? What about the Jim Crow South? What about segregation? What about the violation of my civil rights and my voting rights? So who do I hold accountable for that?… Dez, I can’t get ahead if someone is constantly keeping me behind.”
But one wonders what negative impact Reconstruction has upon the average African American in 2017 – at least in comparison to the problems of crime, poor public schools, and unemployment rate 65% higher than the national average?
One may also be tempted to ask Sharpe, have not other, much more economically successful groups such as Jews and Asians suffered a similar history of discrimination?
It seems that perhaps Shannon Sharpe has helped make Dez Bryant’s point for him.