This isn't written to spark an angry debate or get clicks, this is to keep the conversation geauxing, this is to try and take stock of all that's occurred.
by LONN JACKSON PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
There's no easy answer during these times...there's never going to be a quick fix...there's only human beings talking and most importantly: listening.
While Florida State's coach pretended he spoke with every black individual student-athlete on the team or Dabo Swinney continues to defend slave owners, protected Danny Pearson's use of racial slurs on the practice field, censoring his own players' speech or right to protest, alienating Clemson's NFL royalty, and endorsing slogans like "football matters" over black lives matter, the entire college football world is waiting on baited breath for who will screw up next.
Coming off a National Championship, an undefeated 2019, an Awards-season sweep and a historic NFL Draft, we thought LSU were untouchable, even by the long arms of this racial divide....yet the school became mired in 10+ days of wild uncertainty no one saw coming:
Illustrating profound racism, immaturity and ignorance, a "future medical student" from West Monroe, Louisiana named Drew Dollar yelled the N word into a phone and pressed send, the entire world now inundated with a shrieking racist who used Twitter to project his racism. This outburst was followed by a then-current Tiger named Gavin Reynolds using the N word constantly in his tweets as if the word belonged to him and him alone.
Once the video went viral, LSU alums, students and fans demanded swift action...instead, the school's leadership repeatedly posted the same paragraph-long defense of Drew Dollar's racist outburst:
These were murky waters, however the statement from LSU only required authority and condemnation, refusing to admit Drew Dollar as a student for 2020 and ousting Gavin Reynolds from campus immediately, especially concerning the safety of LSU's large African-American community.
Instead, they defended Dollar's constitutional right to speak his hate speech...
While many black men and women are finding their own constitutional rights trampled underfoot by authority figures left, right and center, here was a devout racist putting his future on the line in such a hateful, cavalier manner and yet LSU couldn't just say "these young men will have nothing to do with our university"???
Why are powerful entities only afraid when white students have their rights "affected"?
Are they really that scared of a court case against a few public, millennial racists?
Soon, the Tigers students issued a document asking for changes to the honor code at LSU, specifically abolishing the protection of harassing racist language, aka Hate Speech.
"Changing or editing or revising the code of conduct is positive," said Devin Woodson, a 20-year-old junior and co-chair of the LSU Black Male Leadership Initiative. "But to end racist speech anywhere in America, especially at a university level, it has to be more than just the wording. We have to make sure we're holding everyone accountable."
Maybe I'm just a naive white kid...but I figured our Tigers would never be embroiled in a heated racial event, straight at the heart of the matter that's burning our country right now...but then again, we've come to find that no person or institution is immune from the impact of racism and there is no place on earth where hate is strictly forbidden or rarely experienced: it's always happening, we just never speak about it....it's the insidious, unspoken second pandemic of our country:
Hate is what's in a person's heart...we can't create a sign saying "NO RACISM BEYOND THIS POINT" to change people...the answer lies in communication, empathy and compassion combined with strong-willed actions, punishments and laws to protect minorities from racist speech or acts, including the hush-hush of back-room discrimination and the hellish violence from authorities designed to serve and protect.
The notion of "staying silent works best" has changed...
We are all talking and we are all better for it...maybe even Drew Dollar and Gavin Reynolds have learned from this experience...I know Dabo Swinney will make it known to every black recruit that he's "changed".
Following the weekend's intensity, LSU scrambled to clarify their statement, organizing a Monday Zoom meeting as a forum to discuss the situation, the thorough weakness of LSU's response, air grievances and just let the voices of many unheard LSU brothers & sisters speak. Blackout LSU organizer and LSU Student Government member Gideon Adeyemo explained his take on the Drew Dollar incident to Brooks Kubena:
“It was kind of jarring to see a student or an individual that was coming to our university feels very, very confident and comfortable with posting that online,” Adeyemo said.
“That’s what really shook us to our core: the possibility of someone with no sentiment was going to be on our campus and possibly engage in activities that could intimidate our population.”
“We were ensured that having a comfortable environment on campus is LSU's #1 priority,” Adeyemo continued. “In hearing that, we pushed them for further action, not just for the situation but in all forms of situations across campus that can be seen as victimizing. very prejudicial or discriminatory against people of color and all minority individuals as well.”
Following days of criticism, including a fiery weekend where it seemed the very fiber of LSU's community was being ripped apart on social media, the brass at the top of Louisiana State University finally figured it out:
"We are sorry our earlier tweet did not effectively communicate our core message and consequently alienated our students and friends," @LSU tweeted. "Today, we met with Black student leaders to pledge again that LSU will investigate and take action against all acts of racism, hostility, harassment and intimidation by students under our code of conduct. We will hold violators accountable."
They went on to say "action is more necessary than apologies", which I completely agree with and look forward to seeing our Tigers family shut down hate and protect all minorities and all people from continuing abuse in the foreseeable future.
Interim President Tom Galligan then tweeted "Together with board and campus leaders, I had a meaningful and emotional meeting with Black student leaders this afternoon to share ideas and plan for concrete steps to make real change at LSU. I am moved by the students’ passion, leadership and vision."
Now, LSU have posted "Black Lives Matter" consistently on social media and have posted times and dates for public forums against racism, all of which has been applauded by the Tigers community.
Although it's maddening it took so long for a change of heart, time will ultimately prove whether changes coming from institutions like the NFL or LSU are genuine or meant to placate the Black Community.
"Drew Dollar isn't some great revelation, black people in America have always known these type of people exist," Adrian Perkins (@aperkins2113) a loyal friend, Marrero-native & die hard Tigers fan said: "the late response from a school (which makes so much money off of black athletes) sends a horrible message. We play like we care about your struggle and plight when you're performing on the field for us, but when we really needed you to step up for our black student community and do what's right, you act like your hands are tied and have no recourse. The message it sends? We don't care..."
In the end, Gavin Reynolds told Brooks Kubena he plans on "going to another school this fall", whether LSU forced him out or not is up to speculation...as for Drew Dollar? He only posted some bizarre apology video whilst embedded in blankets, rambling into the ether, we quote Dollar directly below:
"Um. Fuck I can't do nothing about it. I can't do nothing about it. I mean, if you actually, like, knew me, knew me, you'd know that's not actually what I, like, think. It's literally just like a meme, which is obviously bad. I know that. But, yeah, you're right. I can't deny it. Just please have some mercy, yeah, please."
There's a reason Drew Dollar doesn't understand the consequences of his actions: because there are no precise punishments for what he's done and there hasn't been swift action from the top, which then re-enforces his racism as justifiable...a disgraceful means to a horrible end.
Despite the hell his actions rained down upon our beloved school, there's a chance future racist outbursts or bouts of hate speech won't go unpunished or unnoticed by the Baton Rouge community...thanks to his one word racist diatribe.
However hesitant the school were in addressing racism in America and Louisiana, when it came to discussing these life-affirming matters with the players, Coach Ed Orgeron didn't flinch, he didn't blink...he just listened and made sure his entire team registered to vote.
Instead of making sure everyone heard about how these LSU players and their coach discussed the George Floyd murder, the protests, the authoritarian police response, as well as the struggles white leaders have in "just being real" around their black peers, the football team kept the talks in-house until Orgeron was prodded by Off The Bench's Jordy Culotta into detailing what actions he took. Still, Orgeron stayed vague on the particulars, appropriately keeping those conversations private.
No one was perfect...no one can be, no one will be...
But what we can do?
Stop the maximized volume, put down the batons, the shields, the signs, the racial epithets, the stupid social media posts and just communicate...listen...exorcise our demons as a country together....all sides, all races, all orientations, all religions, all colleges, all fans:
We only have one choice:
Coexist or cease to exist.
Through the last week, LSU's journey as a community echoes our nation's turbulent ride, but hopefully our nation will follow Louisiana State University's 180 degree example for change:
They've immediately moved to change the name of the Tigers library, removing Troy H. Middleton's segregation-obsessed past from the school forever.
This last Friday night, LSU's faculty and students joined forces with Southern University and participated in the "Enough is Enough: Rally For Unity" event, with crowds nearing a thousand joining the rally.
I wondered whether I should even post this story...I've been writing it back and forth for 9 days now, wondering whether my voice for change, clarity and calm was needed or wanted amongst the gallery of the unheard who deserve to be heard and the flagrant, flippant social media trolls.
But now I feel it is my duty as an American and as a die-hard LSU fan to ask more of my school, ask more of my country, ask more of each other, demand more of myself...
We can all heal, but it begins first by acknowledging the truth at the heart of the matter here...and that truth cannot be explained more sincerely or succinctly than: Black Lives Matter.
The slogan doesn't mean your life doesn't matter if you aren't black..it means black lives must matter as much as anyone else's...in fact, that's a great example right there:
Let's get past the falsifications of each other, the cheap stereotypes and the ridiculous anger: Let's realize there's a gray area, here too.
We love LSU with all of our hearts, we love the principles the school has always stood for, even in times of past racial division, the school always seemed to promote diversity and the inclusion of different people, thoughts, lifestyles and economic upbringings:
This is the school of Shaquille O'Neal, Pistol Pete Maravich, the priceless magic of Tyrann Mathieu, the artistry of Joe Burrow, the headstrong enigma that is James Carville, Virgil Suarez the award-winning poet from Cuba who studied under genius Vance Bourjaily, CNN anchor Don Lemon, Mose Allison the jazzman who's song "Young Man's Blues" became a huge rallying cry for the 60s counter-culture through The Who's cover version, NBA Champion Glen "Big Baby" Davis, Ernest N. "Dutch" Morial (the first African-American to graduate from LSU Law School, 1954), the first black LSU football players Lora O'Hinton and Mikell Williams, Eduardo Aguirre Jr the former U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services Director for Homeland Security, "Fear The Beard" 2x World Series Champion pitcher Brian Wilson....
We are ALL LSU...
LSU will be safer because of this incident...despite the pain and turmoil of this incident, we as Tigers will be forever changed and eternally better.
The Times They Are-A-Changin....
Let's continue that conversation.
by LONN JACKSON PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
COPYRIGHT 2020 UNINTERRUPTED WRITINGS INC
Shoutouts to the hard work and perseverance of GIDEON ADEYEMO, JORDY CULOTTA & T-BOB HEBERT