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Before you scream stick to sports, if this is my last piece for Buffalo Wins – or writing on any medium in general – I’m going out with the hope you understand me a bit when you interact with me on twitter, in person or at some point in general on the blue globe of ours.
I thought of doing this over twitter as a thread, but 140 character bursts wouldn’t really hit home. And unless Buffalo Wins collapses on itself I figure it’ll be up for me to point to in the future when I want to talk about this to someone else.
In 2005, I was an intern in Moscow for the State Department. It was one of my finest experiences and something I’ll cherish, for good and bad the rest of my life. But in particular, July 7th 2005 was a seminal moment in my life. I was on a train, the blue line if you know Moscow transit, hanging out with some of my fellow interns and getting off a group approached. This group of russian men? boys? were skinheads. At first, they decided to go with the hits – saying the equivalent of the N word in russian, making hooting noises, the typical ignorant deal. Then, they decided to yell Росси́я для ру́сских (Russia for Russians) and came in to attack. One got a shot to my ear (“who hits someone in the ear!”), I got a shove and a shot in on another, but before anything else could happen – the strangest thing occurred. Other guys, also dressed like skinheads beat the brakes off of the guys that attacked me. You see, Russia not only has a bad nationalist/neo-Nazi issue, but they also have guys who dress like said folks and look to wreck them should they mess with minorities. Crazy, to say the least. But also, in a weird way – inspiring that folks would risk their safety and well-being to defend against the hate in their own country.
That incident over, I got to my apartment and looked to connect with my folks, to check in on my grandmother and find out what’s going on in the United States. It was then my mom, in tears, told me my grandmother Bea had died. You have to understand, this woman was integral to who I am. She watched my brothers and I when my folks had to work. She encouraged my curiosity and she was the woman I had to seek out permission before leaving for halfway around the world – despite being 24 at the time. I couldn’t leave knowing she didn’t want me there – was a non-starter. So losing her, after having that assault and that feeling of focused hatred was just a black hole I never thought anything could ever combine to make again.
Until Tuesday. If you’ve made it this far and your only response is “spare me liberal tears” I don’t know if you get it, or will. A lot of folks are scared and they want their President-elect to do something other than hire hate mongers to give him advice, or ignore the hate crimes happening in his name. I want those that voted for the President-elect to understand I’m not a sore loser, or willfully ignorant of the plight of middle America – I’m a black man with a family that doesn’t want to worry about his family when he’s not around – because they’re gay. Or they’re Muslim. Or they’re handicapped. Or they’re a woman alone. Or they’re with a woman that isn’t black. Or they’re white and they’re with me!
For me, looking to find out the slur that tops all others in any language I visit is part of being black. I never expect someone not in that position to understand but it is draining to be the “other” in the group. Speaking truth to power as a Bills fan of color is at times great, but can take a toll – taking it to the Presidential level? Yikes! And to have my team’s head coach “All In” with him? Or Incognito? I haven’t the words.
But it’s not about him, it’s about me right now. And my goal is to help. To nurture and be a safe space for friends, family and stranger alike. Because we are all in this together. I believe in God – but I also believe faith without works is dead. So I’m gonna work. To make sure my village is happy, then expand out as far as I can from there.
I want to thank folks like Defenseman and Dubs and Liz and Joe and Evan and Del and Chris and Sarah and Liz and Steph and Rob and Shahid and Travis and Josh and Steve and Nick and Fess and Chris and Gill and Justin and Evan and Mike and Mike and so many that have been advocates – or just good folks to talk to – and make me feel better about what tomorrow holds. And if I missed you it’s because I didn’t want you outed or potentially put on blast – but I love you nonetheless.
I also want to thank the folks like Michael, who I love and who can challenge me without making it seem like I’m less than. That means a lot too – the world in fact.
So I’m going to try and find joy in covering the Bills. In talking about whatever comes in the final games of the season, for them and us. In my favorite time of the year, the draft I’m going to bring you quality scouting reports either here or with Rob Quinn or podcast with some of the Buffalo folks I’ve learned to love collaborating with. I’m going to try to have fun with it. I’ll also argue til my fingers can’t type that yes – Tyrod is worth the money, it’s not a bad investment to get another tackle or receiver high in the draft and if you are going to dump Taylor, go big and get the best QB you can trade for. And that Rex can still say really dumb things but be one of my favorite examples schematically of coaching genius.
But at some point, if I do have to step back, you know why and you understand.
I love the Buffalo Bills and I hope they can get it together. Those 3 hours are going to be part escape, part community and part therapy. I look forward to sharing it with you all.
Joy is resistance.