New England coach Jerod Mayo did something, well, brave during his first press conference as Patriots head coach. He talked about race.
The most interesting part of his meeting with the media on Wednesday was when the conversation veered into race, specifically, when Mayo was asked about being the first Black head coach in Patriots history. Owner Robert Kraft was asked about that.
A reporter had asked
Robert, Jerod said that being the first Black coach was important to him. Curious, what does it mean to you? And Jerod, have you reached out to any folks like Tony, Tom, just to get their sense of what it means to them?
"I'm really colorblind, in terms of, I know what I feel like on Sunday when we lose," Kraft said. He added that he hired Mayo because the coach was the best person for the job and it's simply coincidental that Mayo is Black. "He happens to be a man of color," Kraft said, "but I chose him because I believe he's best to do the job."
That is the standard answer good people give to the complicated issue of race. I don't see color. I see performance. That is an intensely naive view but it's a view many people possess.
No. "He happens to be a man of color" is not "the standard answer good people give to the complicated issue of race. It's a simplistic answer given by people justifiably so anxious about their view of race that they refer to a black man as "a man of color."
Give me a break. This is not Major League Baseball, now almost dominated by men, especially Latinos, from outside of the USA. This is the National Football League, where Eric Bieniemy is still looking for a head coaching job and issues of fairness for black men still persist.
It should not be professionally dangerous, and is not divisive, to say "he happens to be black" rather than "h happens to be a man of color." However, extremely successful, conservative Republicans such as Kraft are so careful with their words that they are duplicitous. Freeman continues
Mayo wasn't having any of it. And here comes the brave part. Mayo politely, but firmly, contradicted the man who just hired him, and someone who is one of the most powerful people in all of sports. It was a remarkable moment.
"I do see color," Mayo said. "Because I believe if you don't see color, you can't see racism."
Similarly, in 1998 a former member of the Philadelphia City Council told teachers across the Delaware River in Camden, NJ "if you're color-blind and you don't see color and you don't see race, you'll miss the problems that may arise and your teaching won't be as effective as it can be."
Certainly, there is a danger, evident in our politics and society nearly every day, of exaggerating the importance of race. The remedy, though, lies not in ignoring race, nor the importance it plays in one's life, whether the individual is white, black, or of a different race.
The counter is to be honest and accurate. Mayo stated "Being the first Black coach here in New England means a lot to me," and no doubt it does. By contrast, if one insists that he or she is "colorblind"- as Kraft does- or "doesn't see race" that individual is being dishonest.
Alternatively, in need of a decent optometrist.
“I do see color, because I believe if you don’t see color you can’t see racism.”— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 17, 2024
Jerod Mayo on being named the first black head coach in Patriots history. pic.twitter.com/toTTJ6CrB3