A PRIVILEGED PERSPECTIVE

Written by Adam Kroot
6/11/20

Before I get into everything, I want to thank Steven for starting Naptown’s Notorious and giving people from Indy a platform to share their thoughts and experiences. I might be the least athletically accomplished athlete to write on this website, and you might not care about or agree with what I have to say. I just hope my unique perspective on the current climate of America will transcend sport and provoke some deep thought for whomever decides to read it. Thank you for the opportunity to help further the conversation. Enjoy…


WHITE PRIVILEGE


I was born into a white, well-off family in 1995. Did I choose this? Hell no. Pure, incontrovertible chance willed it. I am the DEFINITION of white privilege.


I have a loving mother and father, a roof to sleep under, food to eat, car to drive, and the fate of my future in the palm of my hands. I’ve attended private school my whole life. Preschool through 8th grade at Orchard, high school at Brebeuf Jesuit, and college at Williams, a prestigious, private, liberal arts school in Massachusetts. I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world since I can remember. Family ski outings, trips to places all around the world such as Hawaii and Israel, vacations with friends in the Bahamas, Paris, Barcelona, and so much more.


Love. Money. Top of the line education. Safety. These are all luxuries that I had from simply being born into the family I was at the time I was. Granted, prior generations in my family busted their asses to get to where we are now, and I will never apologize for it, but I firmly believe and was taught that I have a responsibility to use that privilege to help lift others. 


America is rigged for people born into situations like mine to succeed. Fortunately, I was exposed to “the other side of America” at a young age, where the odds are mightily stacked against you and everything is earned. Playing basketball growing up, I had teammates from a multitude of backgrounds: white, black, Hispanic, you name it. At the time, it never really occurred to me that we came from different environments. We just had fun playing the game that we love.


My dad was my coach since the 3rd grade. It was around this time that rec league hoops turned into travel ball, so rather than players having to drive 5 minutes to the local elementary school, our games were scattered around the state and eventually the country. We started picking up my teammates at their houses, and I immediately noticed the stark difference between where I lived versus many of them. Some had single parent households with other siblings, and their parents couldn’t drive them around or watch their games because they had to work multiple jobs and provide for the family. Some even lived with their grandparents because their parents were unfit to take care of them. These are a few of the many things I started to pick up on and question.


When teammates would stay at my house for the weekend during tournaments, it was unlike anything many of them had ever seen. From playing intense basketball games both in the garage and in the pool, watching classic movies such as “Rush Hour,” “The Longest Yard,” and “Semi Pro,” to 2K tournaments in the game room, we always had the best time. It not only made me keenly aware of and thankful for how fortunate I was, but it also made me realize how sick and twisted our world is. Here we were, young kids from a variety of races and socio-economic situations, having the absolute time of our lives on and off the court, yet the rest of the world was full of racism and hate. I could not wrap my mind around it.


Unfortunately, I had to educate myself on these issues predominantly through experiences with basketball, from stories of prominent athletes, actors or singers who made it out of tough situations, or by watching relevant movies and TV shows. I went to some of the best schools in the area growing up, but I didn’t take a single class dedicated to black history or the current status of our country’s African American citizens of any sort until my time at Williams. It was there that I learned the truth about police brutality, mass incarceration and other racial injustices that are inherent to our system. The fact that it took so that long to learn about these things in depth is a major issue in itself.

 
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SOUTH SUDAN


I give all the credit in the world for this unique perspective to my parents. They welcomed everyone into our home and always went out of their way to make everyone feel like part of our family. There was rarely a weekend during travel/AAU season that our house was not full of teenage boys, and my parents made an effort to provide for everyone.


We were so used to a full house that in late 2010, a trio of South Sudanese boys were brought over to America through a non-profit to play for our AAU organization, and having them stay with us was a no brainer. It started with Makur, Mangisto, and Akim; however, as the years went by, more came to America. To this day, Makur, Mangisto, Bol and Marial (Makur’s younger brother) each live with us whenever they are in Indy.


**While we didn’t have the means and space to have every single one live with us, we consider them all part of our family, and our door is always open. **


If you think America is in a bad place (and believe me I do), I encourage you to do some reading about the situation in Sudan. Hearing their perspectives and experiences has only bolstered my appreciation for everything I have, and it has motivated me and my family to continue to do everything we can to help those in need. I could not be more thankful for those guys…


If you think about it, almost everything you just read about my life can be somewhat attributed to the game of basketball. It’s the reason I was exposed to, developed an interest in, and learned more about black culture. It’s the reason I met my brothers from Sudan along with countless other teammates who I am still close with all these years later. It’s the reason I was able to get into a school like Williams (where was about a tenth as intellectually gifted as most of my peers) and developed lifelong friendships on and off the court.


Sport is a powerful thing.

 
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MY PERSPECTIVE on the CURRENT CLIMATE of AMERICA


I wrote a short piece on social media the other day attempting to vocalize my thoughts on the current situation. I admitted that I was not sure how to show my solidarity to the black community. What I do know is that I am sick and tired of seeing them treated like second class citizens and being given false promises of justice and equality.  Furthermore, I mentioned that our country desperately needs a leader who aims to unite its people and move the country forward. I stand by that 100%. I also mentioned that I typically steer clear of posting politically charged content such as this online; however, as I’ve continued to reflect on the current situation and how I can do my part to help, I’ve realized that any and all perspectives and conversations regarding this specific topic can only help push us in the right direction..


I believe my perspective is partly unique because I’ve seen each side of the spectrum firsthand. As I’ve mentioned, I am white privilege by definition. I have some family and friends that have had almost zero interaction with black people at any level, and I have been to places where seeing a black person is highly atypical. I’ve heard conversations where racism is unquestionably apparent, and I’ve seen how uncomfortable many white people are even discussing the issue of race in general.


Alternatively, I’ve been on teams where I am the only white person. I’ve had conversations with my Sudanese brothers about how being black in America means that there is a built-in target on their backs, and that they must always be cognizant of their actions when they are off on their own. I’ve worried that they could be put in a situation involving the police or be racially profiled because of their appearance, and we’ve seen the tragic results that these circumstances have the potential of generating. I experience palpable guilt when having these conversations because I do not have the slightest clue what it’s like and never will, but I know they’ll live with it every day simply because of the color of their skin. It makes me sick even typing this now.


I’m no politician. I don’t have the solution to the systemic issues of race that have terrorized black people since our country’s inception. Moreover, just because I might have more exposure to the black community than many of my white peers doesn’t make me exempt from any wrongdoing. I’ve utilized black culture as a white person, I’ve stereotyped, and oftentimes I’ve remained ignorant and silent towards issues that I have known about for years. I am not perfect. What I do know, however, is that I am fed up, and I truly hope this is the tipping point for America. 


It is our generation’s responsibility to reconfigure our way of thinking so that these issues are at the FOREFRONT of society. In the past, we’ve been aware of the issues facing our black brothers and sisters but chose to mostly ignore them because they don’t directly affect us. Something happens, there is outrage for a couple days or weeks, then we carry on as if nothing happened. Not anymore…


Again, I’m no politician, but the way we THINK, TALK and ACT on these issues and teach our children to think, talk and act on them will eventually permeate into the leaders we elect and the policies that are put into place.


HOPE


I have tremendous hope for this country because of everything you are seeing now. If I’ve learned anything from my Sudanese brothers, it is to be thankful for simple freedoms such as freedom of expression. In Sudan, if someone speaks out against a party in power, they and their family will most likely be killed on the spot. There is little to no hope for progress. It is an endless cycle of power, corruption, violence and death. This is why Trump threatening to send the military on his own protesting citizens and endangering the very democracy our country is built on is so unnerving and frankly embarrassing. We are so much better than that.


I know this is not the first time we’ve seen protests about racism and inequality, and that we are still seeing many of the same injustices that Dr. Martin Luther King fought against during the Civil Rights movement. However, the protests and calls to action that you are seeing now are what gives our country the chance to become everything it claims to be.


As Killer Mike famously exclaimed, “Plot, Plan, Strategize, Organize and Mobilize.” Continue to share and read articles of unique perspectives on this issue. Continue to donate to organizations you believe can influence change. Continue to protest. Reconfigure policing tactics. Strengthen inner city schools. Hire black workers. Combat and destroy voter suppression in black communities. Elect black government officials. Get a LEADER in the White House. One who unites and aims for progress rather than one who divides and lusts for power. Slowly, you will notice things begin to change. Do not let this issue die down.


Most importantly, continue to educate the white majority who may not have much exposure to the black community. Ensure that they are aware of these issues and open to discussing and resolving them, so they can then teach their own children to do the same. Have the uncomfortable conversations that have been avoided for far too long.


Root out racism and hate through exposure, education and conversation. Listen to the black men and women who have been through so much. Hear the pain in their voice and see the exhaustion in their eyes. Put yourself in their shoes.


We need to use our privilege not just for the benefit of ourselves and our families, but for the benefit of HUMANITY.


Do all these things, and we will begin to see signs of progress. There is no reason we can’t be the generation that finally breaks through and truly carries out the vision of legitimate equality that Dr. King had all those years ago.


Let’s make it happen.


“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” Dr. King

 
 
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