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Should it be 'All Lives Matter' or 'Black Lives Matter'?

Guest Opinion
Cary Radisewitz, Luverne

Before moving to Luverne, I was head football coach at a small university from 1985 to 1992. During my time there, my players faced several racist incidents from the community.
The first happened when I arrived. A community member asked me about the "cans" I was bringing to the town. Confused, I asked for clarification. He told me, "You know, cans ... Mexicans, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans." It was dehumanizing. I told him my players were good kids, and he should get to know them.
As our team started having success, an alum told me that he really liked my Black players, but overall because of something that happened in the army, he hated the Black race. I replied, "Because of something that happened to you in the army years ago, you hate the whole Black race?" He nodded his head yes.
A neighboring community had an annual celebration some of our team attended. At the event, a drunk, off-duty police officer attacked a young, Black player. The police were called. With a wink from the off-duty officer, my player was arrested and placed in the police car. Others who saw the fight feared they might never see him again, so when the arresting officer went to retrieve something, they freed the player from the car and ran for their lives. I was notified by authorities that there was a warrant out for the young man who was attacked. He was wanted for misdemeanor fighting and felony escape. He ended up being placed in jail and had to plead guilty to a reduced sentence. He paid a fine, was put on probation and now had a criminal record — all because he was a Black man targeted by a drunk, off-duty police officer.
Despite that incident, we were blessed to have admirable mentors in the criminal-justice system.
Our sheriff cared for others regardless of race. Our police chief taught classes at the college and knew many of the players. Our local judge was tough as nails but treated everyone equally. With time, the sheriff hired players to help run security at large events. The police chief got minority students interested in pursuing criminal-justice degrees. The judge contacted me and Karen when he saw two of my players being accused of crimes they didn't commit. He asked if they could be put in house-arrest at our home to avoid the trauma of being jailed.
These two became part of our family and were amazing big brothers to our daughters. They were appreciated for helping the community — for their security work and visiting and counseling at-risk youth in the detention center.
Because of these young Black men and our criminal-justice instructors' efforts, we have graduates who are now local law enforcement, state penitentiary guards and U.S. marshalls. Others are teachers, coaches, counselors, businessmen, preachers and salesmen. One is a world-class blues guitar player.
More importantly, these men are amazing husbands, fathers, mentors and volunteers. Karen and I couldn't be more blessed to have them in our lives.
When someone responds to the phrase "Black Lives Matter" with "All Lives Matter," they're misguided. All lives do matter, but that's not enough.
Saying "Black Lives Matter" pushes us to understand. Individuals shouldn't be held back because of their skin color. They shouldn't be dehumanized by being referred to as a "can." They shouldn’t have to fear being attacked, arrested or gaining a criminal record despite their innocence.
None of these events happened to our white players, but they constantly plagued our team's Black members, an example of white privilege. White privilege doesn't mean life hasn't been hard. I grew up in a family of eight led by a single mother, sometimes in houses without running water. How can anyone say I am privileged? Isn't the word "privilege" meant to describe the wealthy?
Having white privilege doesn't mean you haven't struggled or worked for everything you achieved. It means your skin color does not diminish or eliminate your rights or opportunities.
People of color go through the same life challenges AND carry the burden of being treated differently because of their skin color. We need to understand the same racist issues are happening today that occurred when I coached.
Many people, when they hear "Black Lives Matter," think of a political faction and start talking about riots and looters, instead of that racism is occurring as we continue to turn our heads.
Maybe in Rock County we can put "All Lives Matter" and "Black Lives Matter" behind us and recognize that the same racism that my Black players felt 35 years ago is still occurring today. Jesus taught us to walk with those in pain. Maybe we can focus our efforts not on the politics, but on how to reach out to those that are being held down by racism, because they are the ones in pain.

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