Tim Arnpriester
Tim Arnpriester

October 5, 2017

Phoenix

I wanted to take a moment to discuss the NFL players protesting social injustice and the underlying racial issues in this country.

More specifically, I want to discuss closeted racism. That was something I dealt with on a weekly basis. Racism isn’t always as blatant as someone calling you a “nigger.” But for a lot of minorities, what they deal with is worse.

Growing up in Carroll, I heard comments from classmates/teammates like “nigger box” (a term for a boom-box), or “nigger-knocking” (ding-dong ditch ’em), and of course “I’m not riding nigger” (calling shotgun).

I intentionally don’t edit the word “nigger,” because I hope it makes you feel uncomfortable reading it. It should.

But how could I be mad at a seventh-grader for using it?

They didn’t know any better.

These were comments they heard in their homes.

And for many, they hadn’t had experience with other cultures until I came along.

This was clearly an ideology and a way of thinking that was passed down from generation to generation. You heard it from your parents and siblings, so it just flowed off your tongue.

But I was the exception. It’s “Arnie.” The athlete. The preacher’s kid.

We all know Carroll isn’t exactly a cultural melting pot. And I endured, but left as quickly as I could. For me, leaving Carroll was an escape. I gravitated to the bigger cities. More culture. More acceptance.

For me, the most offensive comments I heard in Carroll were oftentimes the ones disguised as compliments.

“But, Tim, you don’t sound black,” someone would say.

Huh? What does that even mean?

“You probably think O.J. is innocent!” someone else would opine.

Why, because I’m black?

I don’t need sympathy. I had a great support system growing up. But many don’t.

I’m guessing most of you haven’t dealt with being followed around a store while shopping. Or getting pulled over because you “fit a profile.” Or having parents tell their daughter she couldn’t date you because of the color of your skin. These same issues are alive 30 years later.

And what’s truly frustrating is that we as humans are compassionate by nature.

Cancer Awareness Month? Sure, I’ll wear pink and walk the 5K.

Paris bombing? Let me update my Facebook profile.

Manchester bombing? #prayformanchester

London? Our thoughts are with you!

Hurricane Harvey? Sure, I’ll donate.

But when racism is exposed, we step back and pretend like it doesn’t affect us. We have more compassion for a stranger in another country than the men or women who work next to us. Why?

The kneeling debate has never been about disrespect of the flag or anthem. It’s simply to bring awareness to something that happens every day in this country.

Many of these players grew up dealing with racism on a daily basis, and much worse than I ever did. But I constantly hear them referred to as ungrateful millionaires. Is there a dollar amount that should help ease the sting of racism? How many zeros on your paycheck make the word “nigger” go away?

We’re quick to pause and reflect on the sacrifices our of servicemen and servicewomen, and rightfully so. But what about the minorities that died defending this country while still having to deal with racism? There must have been enormous internal turmoil.

Personally, I don’t care what your religious or political affiliations are. Compassion transcends. And when we start showing more compassion, the healing can finally begin.

We’re compassionate to the neighbor who is raising a special-needs child. We’re compassionate with the co-worker whose husband is dealing with drug and alcohol abuse. We’re compassionate to the former classmate who is battling cancer. But racial injustice? We can’t relate. So we ignore.

We don’t need to understand autism to pray for patience and guidance.

We don’t need to be personally affected by cancer to pray that you’re healed.

We don’t need to be impacted by the hurricane to send our thoughts and prayers to those who have been displaced.

And we don’t need to have been the victim of systematic racism to support those who have.

Before we vilify these athletes, let’s make an effort to understand what social injustice truly means. You have every right to turn off the game or cancel your NFL Sunday Ticket. That’s your right to protest. But that has done nothing to address the injustices that still occur daily in this country.

I grew up playing at the same Rec Center as you. I cruised the same strip on Friday night, and I stopped for ice cream at the same Anderson’s Dairy. But Carroll, Iowa, looked much different through this set of eyeballs.

I’m in my 40s now. The chip on my shoulder is long gone. And the resentment has been replaced with compassion and forgiveness.

My experience is not unique, which is why I wanted to share. It’s all too familiar. And I hope it continues the dialogue to help promote change.

God Bless!