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Mike Ditka: There's been 'no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of'
Just think, this may have been the one guy who could have prevented Barack Obama from becoming a U.S. senator in 2004. How might history have been different?
Two answers to that question: 1. Hillary probably would have been president, so it's not always so good to get what you wish for. 2. History couldn't possibly have been as different as actual history is from what the coach seems to think it was.
This has to be a matter of him not quite really meaning what he's saying, doesn't it? Because as big a critic as this column has been of the anthem-kneelers and the bogus cause for which they kneel, come on:
Former Bears star and coach Mike Ditka, an adamant critic of National Football League players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination, said Monday in a national radio interview that this country has been free of oppression for at least a century.
“All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression,” Ditka told Jim Gray on Westwood One’s pregame show ahead of the Bears’ “Monday Night Football” loss to the Vikings. “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of. Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.”
Let's see: Jim Crow, segregation, Bull Connors, the baseball color line pre-Jackie Robinson, George Wallace barring the door, Megdar Evers, white/colored lunch counters and drinking fountains, housing discrmination . . . I could go on, but do I really need to?
I have made no bones about my belief when it comes to racism circa 2017: It remains alive on the fringes of society. It's evil. Those who practice it deserve to be shunned and marginalized. What is not a constructive approach is what much of the left is doing these days, which is to expand the definition of racism to include every unintentional choice of words, every non-PC utterance and every unintentional result of "privilege" that has no malevolent intent behind it. If the left wants to attack real racism, the right will join the effort without reservation. If the left instead wants to point fingers at people who are not racist, claiming to hear "racist dog whistles" that the accused neither intend nor can even conceive of, well then we're just going to have a fight. It's too bad because it's one of the few things we should have no trouble agreeing on, but we can never seem to work together on it because one side insists on falsely accusing the other of being complicit in it.
But here's what's also not helpful: Historically ignorant statements that pretend racism has not been a problem for the past 100 years.
Now, if Ditka wants to assert that black people have made great progress in rising above racism over the past 100 years, that's another matter entirely, and it's completely true. If you compare where things stood in 1917 compared to where they stand today, there's no question things are much, much better, and that's to celebrate.
But that's not what Ditka said. He actually asserted that there has been no oppression - at least not that he's paid attention to - over the course of 100 years. I guess the out he gave himself will come in handy, but how can he really believe that when he's been a player and a head coach in a league that's filled with minority players who have faced discrimination in real life? Ditka's playing career was not long after the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. Surely he couldn't have been completely unaware of the issues that gripped the country at that time. As a player, Ditka had moved on from the Bears to the Philadelphia Eagles by the time of the 1968 Chicago riots, but they couldn't have slipped his attention entirely.
I'm inclined to chalk this up to Grumpy Old Man Syndrome, the type that leads you to make declarations you can't really back up with facts or logic, but reflect perfectly well how aggravated you are with what's going on right at the moment.
I yield to no one in my disgust over the anthem protests and the slander of police that they represent. But no oppression in the past 100 years? Don't be an idiot.
Maybe he's just grouchy because the Bears lost to the Vikings last night. I slept like a baby.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!