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Where Is The Love

“What’s wrong with the world, momma? People acting like they ain’t got no mommas.” Remember this lyric? Black Eyed Peas “Where Is The Love?” I’m not a big fan of the song or the group or the genre but it’s been on auto-loop in my head since last Sunday.

That morning, exactly one week after Motherโ€™s Day, I took up my customary seat in the day room, instant black coffee sloshing in my cup, ready for some George Stephanopoulos. Like many Americans turning on their TVs that day, I was expecting the latest on Ukraine, the obligatory Congressional interviews, Covid updates, inflation outlooks, primary election predictions, maybe a little partisan back and forth between Chris Christie and Donna Brazile…

What I got instead was Tops Supermarket. Buffalo, New York. Where the day before, an 18-year-old white kid strapped up with Teflon and tactical gear and drove 200 miles to live-stream his massacre of a black community.

When the final shell casing hit the pavement and he dropped his assault weapon in surrender to the police, the official body count was ten. Ten moms and dads, ten sons and daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents… Ten Americans, grocery shopping on what they thought was just another day. One story in particular hit me hard. A father went in to pick up a birthday cake for his three-year-old son. He never made it out. His kid is probably still asking “what happened to daddy?”

Brutal.

Moments like thisโ€”where we can all agree on the atrocious nature of a thingโ€”are few and far between in these hyperpartisan times. But this is not a political issue. This is an American tragedy that is occurring with more and more frequency. Charlottesville, Charleston, the Pittsburgh Synagogue, the Walmart in El Paso…

One year ago, in his rebuttal to Biden’s address to Congress, Tim Scottโ€”the lone black republican senator from South Carolinaโ€”famously announced “America is not a racist nation.” If you’re like me (white and middle aged) this was music to your ears. Not rap music either. I’m talking Jackson Browne, Steely Dan, Michael Bublรฉ… Finally, a person of color gave America express consent to move on from its ugly past and validated our progress as a nation. Thank God. Unfortunately, my brothers and sisters on the left didn’t see it that way. ”Uncle Tim,” they called him, dismissing his speech as right-wing propaganda and dismissing him as someone handpicked by the GOP to make white folks feel comfortable. Damn. He did actually make me feel comfortable. Or at least hopeful.

All this emphasis on race. Democrats seem hellbent on wringing every drop of distrust from past and present injustices and converting this into political capitol. Critical Race Theory immediately comes to mind. Across the aisle, more and more Republicans are coming to embrace divisive philosophies as well. Case in point: Replacement theory, the ideology espoused by the Buffalo shooter in his manifesto. Anyone who watches Fox News has probably heard host, Tucker Carlson, promote this same doctrine. According to the Washington Post he’s mentioned it more than 400 times on his top-rated show.

Here’s an alternate theory: We’re not all that different. And this relentless focus on race and identity politics has much farther-reaching consequences than the next election cycle or the culture wars being fought on social media. America’s children are being indoctrinated. Loners and misfits are being lured into shadowy corners of the web, places where their confirmed kills on Call of Duty are lauded and the promise of brotherhood is offered. Places where grown men whisper dark ideologies into the hearts of teens. Although the rhetoric smacks of far-right nativism, there is nothing patriotic about these groups. I have my doubts that they’re even based in the U.S. Our elections aren’t the only things our enemies are meddling in these days.

A few years ago I heard an interesting story about Tommy Davidsonโ€”one of the original cast members of the hit 90s show In Living Color and a hilarious standup comic in his own right. Apparently, he was stuffed in a garbage can by his biological mother when he was a baby, and a white woman who happened to be passing by heard him crying. She ended up taking him home, adopting him, and raising him with her own children in Colorado. For much of his young life he was oblivious to fact that he was any different than his siblings. His dark skin was a non-issue. Like the horses on the ranch where they lived, he just assumed some people came out black, some came out white, some had spots. No big deal.

Kids aren’t born with hate in their hearts. Hatred is a learned behavior. Racial prejudice is a learned behavior. The question is, who are they learning it from?

There is no them. Only us.

Aqua and Orange

You will never meet a more diehard Miami Dolphins fan than me. I bleed aqua and orange. Some of y’all have had the misfortune of sitting next to me on the dayroom bench while I roar at the television like a belligerent drunk. I’m ashamed to say that I once even went Oscar Night Will Smith on a vocal Carolina fan after Cam Newton engineered a game winning drive against us in 2013. Not one of my finest moments. But what can I say? I’m passionate. I love my squad.

So a few months ago when Head Coach Brian Flores was fired and he alleged that his ouster was somehow racially motivated, my kneejerk reaction was “bullshit!” Maybe you saw the post. I have since learned that it was the entire league he was accusing of systemic racism. Not the Dolphins specifically. Although he did accuse owner Stephen Ross of offering him money to tank for higher draft picks on the way out the door.

Is the NFL racist? I’m not naive enough to believe that there are not small pockets of bigotry remaining. If not of salivating hate, then of some unconscious tribalism. But even that is dying out. Twenty years ago, the league took steps to eradicate this with what is known as the Rooney Rule, named after the late Steelers owner, Dan Rooney. The rule states that teams must interview a minimum of two minority candidates when searching for a head coach.

After Flores got canned by the Dolphins, he interviewed for the opening with his hometown New York Giants but did not get the job. It later came out that the Giants had already decided on Brian Daboll, a white offensive coordinator from Buffalo, before the interview took place. Flores cried foul and claimed racism, even called his plight “The Audacity of Hope” in a press release before filing a lawsuit against the league. I’m as big of fan of the 44th president as there is, but the brutal truth is that the Giants DID already have their sights set on Daboll. Not because he was white, but because Buffalo’s offense was creative and thrilling and spectacular last year. They wanted some of that magic in the Meadowlands.

So maybe Coach Flores is right to call the Rooney Rule a sham. Not because the NFL is racist, but simply because the rule has outlived its usefulness. In 2017 eight of the league’s 32 head coaches were black dudes. Last year there were more black coordinators roaming the sidelines than ever before. All of these men are potential head coaches. Based on merit and scheme and success. Not on the color of their skin. The league is not racist. And calling it that weakens legit movements deserving attention elsewhere. For the most part, I think owners want a competitive product, an energized fanbase, asses in seats, championship rings…

The Miami Dolphins took massive strides in that direction this off season by parting ways with defensive-minded Flores and hiring offensive strategist Mike McDaniel, then franchising emerging TE Mike Gesicki, re-signing pass rush specialist Emmanuel Ogbah, and luring Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead and RB Raheem Mostert to Miami in free agency. But the coup de grace, the stroke of brilliance, the all-in chip heave was acquiring Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs. Can you say Lamborghini offense? Nobody in the league saw that one coming.

Our GM, Chris Grierโ€”a black guy who shot up the organizational ladder after beginning as a college scoutโ€”clearly had a vision for the direction of the team after yet another mediocre campaign. If we make a deep playoff run this year, it’ll be because of his masterful off-season moves. Including the one that sent Brian Flores packing. Not because of the color of his skin. But because he didn’t fit that vision.

Already looking forward to training camp. Go Dolphins.