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Kyle Korver’s essay on privilege is a wake-up call to white America

Monday, Utah Jazz forward Kyle Korver penned a poignant essay titled “Privileged” via The Players Tribune that managed to make a splash in an already crowded sports calendar.

In the piece, the 38-year-old NBA veteran admits to not acknowledging his privilege and recalls events where his ignorance let himself and his teammates down.

In one story Korver tells in the essay is an instance where while playing for the Atlanta Hawks in 2015. He discredited the story of his teammate and friend, Thabo Sefolosha, who injured his leg when arrested by police in New York on a road trip.

Korver said his first reaction was, “What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back?” He failed to show concern for the injury or dismay over the arrest.

“I sort of blamed Thabo,” he said.

Similarly, Kyle opened up about the incident in March involving a Salt Lake City fan and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Korver told a reporter at the time: “You know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.” But soon after he heard the full story. Westbrook heard the fan make “racial” remarks, the OKC player recalled. Reinforcing Westbrook’s sentiments, his teammates shared stories of similar experiences.

“Guys were just sick and tired of it all,” he wrote.

In both incidents, Kyle was blinded by his privilege. Because he lives in a world where police wouldn’t harm him unless warranted. Maybe the line was never crossed when he was heckled, or he couldn’t imagine it happening for his teammates or colleagues.

Simply by being white, Korver was granted an experience. He has had a way of life that his NBA counterparts would never encounter. It just took the recent events in Utah to help bring it all into perspective for him.

“What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it…,” he wrote.

“Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin,” he continued.

The outpouring was infectious. Every big name in basketball reached out and thanked Korver for his words and how important it was for him to speak out. Even outside the sports sphere, there was an abundance of praise and applause.

Korver’s testimony was powerful is that it was coming from someone like him — a white privileged man. It’s one thing for an individual to see the privilege they hold, having the guts to confront it is another. Which is why his testimony should be a challenge to white people everywhere.

In both incidents involving Thabo and Russ, Korver didn’t afford them the benefit of a doubt. In a human split reaction, he went against what he knew of his teammate and friend in Sefolosha. Additionally, with Westbrook, he sided with the individuals who looked just like him.

As apparent as racial bias and systemic oppression is in America, it’s still spoken of as a myth or ghost story. This year, 2019 is an equal and opportunistic place for all false narratives pushed by biased agendas, despite all stats and evidence suggesting otherwise.

That’s why it’s imperative to have people like Greg Popovich, Steve Kerr, and Kyle Korver who have large platforms with reach. “I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable…” Korver wrote.

“And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior,” he continued.

For white people, it’s not enough to “be woke” or “down with the cause” as much as it is to be a part of the solution. That involves learning what the problem is and seeing how you, as a white person, contribute to it.

Kyle Korver was able to do that. I hope other white people follow.


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