This is part of a series titled, Hope Speaks for Social Justice, written by former Hope student-athletes of color. Their words seek to educate and activate the Hope community in the nation’s quest to end racial injustice.
In physics, it is the motion of a moving body quantified by its mass and velocity.
In sports, it is a game-changing play that gets the crowd, going in one team’s favor.
On my visit to Hope College as a recruit, when I saw the support of 2500+ people packed in DeVos Fieldhouse and heard them cheer on the men’s basketball team, it was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to play for Hope. To have that momentum behind us at each home game.
The funny thing about momentum is that it can be gone in a second. One mishap or diversion and the crowd is no longer screaming with joy, but groaning.
At the time of this writing, it has been:
151 days since Ahmaud Arbery was murdered.
132 days since Breonna Taylor was murdered.
59 days since George Floyd was murdered.
41 days since Rayshard Brooks was murdered.
Social media was full of people running 2.23 miles to #runwithmaud, or posting black squares on their timelines for #blackouttuesday. People protested in Grand Rapids for a few weekends and are still protesting around the country to show that Black Lives Matter.
But where has that momentum gone? Do Black Lives not Matter anymore four months from the event that started this? Do we need to have another video of one of us killed for it to be popular again to support us?
When I arrived at work after those first few weeks of protesting, all I heard about was the rioting that was taking place. There was no talk of the centuries of systematic racism that has been perpetrated against BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). There was no talk of the violations of freedoms and justices causing us to be unheard. The momentum switched to the result, not the cause of the issue.
In 1967 Martin Luther King Jr. said,
“a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”
Why is it that people are more bothered by the burning of buildings and not the lives being taken? Why is this being made a political issue rather than the human rights issue it truly is? Is it that white people are more concerned about the status quo rather than justice and equality?
We are still fighting the same fight in 2020 to have equity at the table. I didn’t have one Black professor en route to get my engineering degree. I had no coaches of color. I have only been asked to help recruit Black players. If we are serious about keeping the momentum towards positive change, that doesn’t mean we hire Black coaches/professors because it is the popular thing to do. It means hiring those diverse candidates because there are plenty who are qualified and will be able to bring a different perspective, experiences and knowledge to the table.
What can everyone do to keep this momentum going?
Hear BIPOC experiences and acknowledge them.
Own up to the fact that white privilege is real and use it to bring up BIPOC.
Push for systematic changes more than painting a street and taking down statues.
Educate yourself and others on the systematic racism of our country and speak up when you see it.
Do whatever you can to keep the momentum going so that Black Lives DO Matter.
Author Brock Benson (40) is a 2016 Hope College graduate who received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, with a minor in mathematics, while playing basketball for the Flying Dutchmen. Benson worked for Gentex Corp in Zeeland, Michigan, for the past four years in its microelectronics and prototype areas. Brock and his wife Klare (Northuis) Benson ‘16 recently relocated to the Sacramento, California, area.