Over the past week, we’ve seen empty statements speaking out about racism that often miss the point of how we ended up in the situation that we are currently in. San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was direct, passionate, and emotional when speaking about racism on Thursday afternoon. Shanahan’s words weren’t forced. You could feel how affected he was by the tragedies happening in the United States. He made it clear that these topics are nothing new, and how his black friends have been pointing out what’s wrong with police brutality and double standards since he was 14-years-old. Shanahan didn’t hide from any of the topics. He didn’t give one-word answers or hollow statements.
Here is Kyle’s statement when asked about racism and police brutality:
People are hurting, and people, black people, mainly, are scared. The disturbing thing is they have been scared for a long time. This is it. This is a cry for help that they’ve been giving for a long time. And people don’t totally listen. And, I think everyone’s at fault for that. But I’m not saying black people are because they are the ones that have been screaming and I think everyone’s at fault for not totally listening. I think one thing that bothers me the most, just throughout this all and throughout my own life experiences, racism is a big deal in our country right now. That’s a fact. That’s not debatable. It’s always been a big deal, and it is today just like it was 100 years ago.
And I think something, just as a white person, that bothers me, I don’t think all white people realize that. There’s different parts of this country, but a lot of white people, if they don’t see it, they don’t think it’s happening. They associate racism with slavery and stuff from a long time ago. And that’s the problem. Racism’s all over the country. And it’s what black people deal with every day. And white people are very sheltered to that and very ignorant. And I think that’s the message that’s been missed.
I can’t tell you — growing up and being in situations that bother me the most that resonates throughout all this, hearing all our players — I’ve been in sports my whole life. I’ve had white friends, black friends, asian friends, all types of friends my whole life, and fortunate to be in situations where I was in communities and teams where it wasn’t a big deal. The same stuff I see in my kids. And I’ll keep my kids in those situations, so it’s never a big deal for them. And it wasn’t for me. But there’s stuff as I got older with my black friends and stuff that I promise is consistent with all black friends wherever I had them.
I moved everywhere in my life; I never lived anywhere longer than four years. I’ve been all over this country, and I’ve had all types of friends. One thing I can tell you is consistent, some of my black friends, some of the toughest guys I’ve been around, just awesome dudes who I’ve never seen get scared of anything. And I can’t tell you how many times I’m with one of my black friends, and we’re around a cop, and I can feel something different around those guys. They are scared. And it’s something that has always bothered me.
I’ve been in some situations worse than others. But regardless, I don’t know how they feel, but I can tell they feel different than me. That’s something that is a fact. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a black guy in California, a black guy in Atlanta, it doesn’t matter. That’s something they all feel. I don’t know Champ Bailey very well; I know my dad does. I know John Lynch does. When he gave his Hall of Fame speech last year about this stuff, and I could see the passion in Champ’s voice and the fear that he had for his kids and how real it was, that’s the same stuff I’ve seen my friends since I was 17 when we got caught sneaking out. The difference between the black friend who was scared and me who actually wasn’t, I thought I had rights. That’s a white privilege that not everyone realizes. And people need to know, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
And white people have to acknowledge that this is a fact, this isn’t debatable. And there’s nothing more apparent than what happens, numbers-wise, with black people and what’s going on with the police force. And the numbers say it. Also, the life experiences of all black people say it. And that’s something that isn’t debatable. We can’t confuse that with anything else or any individual. That’s a fact. It’s gone on way too long. I think now; I think white people are listening more than I’ve ever heard before, which is good. And that’s a starting point. Because it’s happened too long, it’s very clear, and I don’t want to debate it anymore. No one does. Open your eyes.