Saturday, 23 September 2017

How Fantasy Football Taught Me How to Talk to Racists

How Fantasy Football Taught Me How to Talk to Racists

For the second week of “The Search for Common Ground” presented by thepublicblogger.com, contestants were asked to answer this question: From actual experience, has their been a time that you have heard false information and addressed a person’s unwarranted fears about a demographic different than you? In honor of Thanksgiving, I decided to write about my dealings in Fantasy Football with a racist:

Dealing With a Racist League Member

I write to you from somewhere on a dark highway in New Mexico. I am currently on a move back to Indiana from Phoenix, so this answer comes via mobile.

One of the best forums I had this year for political discussion was found in a very unlikely place: fantasy football. My dynasty league has existed with the same group of guys for 5 years or so. We have an intensely active Facebook group where the entire league communicates on a daily basis. It’s fun, and has never caused too many problems… until this year.

Many members of the league came out strongly in favor of Trump. One member of the league must have felt legitimized, because before long, he started casually using the n-word in posts and comments. He used it aggressively and occasionally with an -er suffix. He would post things about Mexicans ruining the country and maintained that trumps words couldn’t possibly affect anyone.

How The Word “Racist” Fails to Educate

Me and another league member continuously called him out on the racism and misleading articles , but the rest of the league didn’t seem to mind him. We called him racist, and he called us stupid. It got so bad that after a one-hundred-comment thread, I sent him a 1-page essay on a prompt that he asked me to answer: why does racism make me dumb?

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The question blew my mind. He had taken a perspective that I had never imagined. He looked at racism as simply a label put on “smart people with common sense”.

My essay answer to the unbelievable prompt included historical facts related to policing, the school to prison pipeline, legal housing discrimination throughout the 60’s, No Child Left Behind, and more.

I was respectful and thought I had maybe taught him something… I was wrong.

Finding New Strategies

He not only responded, he rebutted.

He went full on white nationalist on me and it scared me.

I tried to attack racism head on. It didn’t work. But I did learn something. For some whites in the Midwest, the word “racist” isn’t powerful in the way it is meant to be. Not only that, they shut off all ability to learn once the word is used.

My new strategy is to be much more passive. Instead of calling him racist, I suggest new perspectives, humanize people in YouTube videos that are posted, talk about the plague of mental health problems, or suggest ways cops could have dealt with a situation differently.

The relationship has improved, which is good. I think I’ve made a little progress with him too. Either way, next Sunday I’ll most likely be watching football with him and the rest of the league .

I’ll be with a man whose views I despise. And we’ll have a beer together. And we’ll watch football. And it will be okay.

-RB

Ryan Black is a documentary filmmaker, political consultant, and digital media professional who writes about Progressive Politics.

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