Mike Ditka And The Willful Ignorance Of White America

The former Bears coach's claim that there's been "no oppression" in the last century is glaringly numbskulled.

It feels like Whites and Blacks are living in parallel universes in this country. As an African American woman, things that seem so obvious to me aren’t even on the radar of many White people. I understand clearly why Colin Kaepernick started kneeling at the start of NFL games. I applauded him taking a stand against police brutality and lack of accountability in police departments. I read the Department of Justice reports on policing in Black communities and sentencing disparities and the many departments who had failed the Black communities they were supposed to serve. I was appalled that officers were not convicted in the cases of Philando Castile, Terrence Crutcher, and too many other men and women. Even with video evidence like that in the Castile case, and with an officer actually planting evidence like in the Anthony Lamar Smith case, many White people still defended the police officers. It’s been infuriating and I truly could not understand the disconnect.

But Mike Dikta has cleared it up for me. Dikta, the former coach of the Chicago Bears, weighed in on the NFL protests by saying “All of a sudden, it’s become a big deal now, about oppression. 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.” Dikta and many other White people truly believe that Blacks are not and have not been oppressed in this country.  

Ditka, who has spent his life around African American men, has no excuse for this type of thinking. How could Dikta forget about the lynchings, the church bombings and Jim Crow? The Brown vs. Board of Education was in 1954. The Civil Rights Act was in 1964, only 50 years ago. There are millions of African Americans listening to Dikta’s tone deaf statement that lived through those times. There is nothing “sudden” about this oppression. But it makes sense that people like Dikta have selected memory loss. How else can they blame Black people for not sitting down and just playing ball if they have to acknowledge the historic oppression of Black people in this country?  

We have been screaming at the top of our lungs about police brutality in Black communities for years. If not for camera phones, Whites would continue to take the word of police officers without hesitation. And even with videos, some like Dikta remain ignorant.

So Trump, Jerry Jones, and fellow Whites in power have done what they’ve always done ― hijack and distort the narrative. This time, they’ve done so to make the protests about the flag and the military. They have riled people up instead of trying to truly understand the issues these NFL players were calling attention to. Now, people are more upset about players kneeling than they are about the killings of unarmed Black men and women and the corrupt “justice” system acquitting police officers despite all the evidence.   

I assume that many people, who spent the majority of their lives with little contact with African Americans (except what they see on nightly news), might have views like Dikta.  And that simply demonstrates how far we have to go and how hard it will be to change hearts and minds. But White people can’t continue to pretend that there is no racial oppression, because Black people are not going to stop putting this issue in the forefront.