According to the policy, Jerry Jones hasn’t done anything wrong. That’s because anti-Blackness is never a crime.
A recent report from The Washington Post shows Jones in a photograph from 1957 in Arkansas among a crowd of white students, “standing on the frontlines of one of Little Rock’s darkest segregation clashes,” reads the secondary headline from the publication. At the time, white students (and some adults) were showing up at school entrances, usually to hurl racial slurs in an attempt to intimidate Black students and prevent them from entering public school schools after the Brown v. Board decision. This one was at North Little Rock.
These are the undeniable facts of American history that so many are trying so hard to expunge by standing against Critical Race Theory. Because in this country, racism isn’t real unless there’s a “smoking gun.” One of the most prestigious newspapers in America has found an old photograph of the owner of the world’s most valuable sports franchise being at a place where racists were known to congregate, and there’s nothing that Roger Goodell and the NFL can do about it.
Because a league with a racist history that is currently being sued for its racist hiring practices was smart enough to create a code of conduct policy — where the owners are “supposed to be held to a higher standard” — that didn’t list being hateful to Black people as an infraction. The possible violations include things like violent crimes, sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence. These are the things that the NFL should rightfully stand against. Racism is conveniently missing from the list. However, that convenience becomes a calculated move when you realize that the league’s conduct committee is made up of NFL owners. There’s no way that a group that’s never allowed a Black person into their exclusive club would ever bring punishment on one of their own for being involved in something hateful to Black people.
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Never forget that Jones serves as Dan Snyder’s “best friend” in the NFL, has never hired a Black head coach, and was vehemently against players kneeling to bring awareness to police brutality and racism. And when you add that up, amongst other things, it would be easy to list this as one of those “if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck,” situations. But, this is racism, which means the rules are different.
Despite how damaging the feelings and inferences may be, and no matter what your gut might be telling you, history has proven that white people — and some Black ones, too — will deny racism in every form, from microaggressions to pictures of NFL owners being in environments of hate, until a smoking gun has been found to officially deem it as “racist.”
It’s why so many in the sports world have been silent about Jones. They don’t think anything of the picture or the damage from what that moment caused then, and now. And the ones that have spoken out have decided to be on the wrong side of history, and are backing Jones even if it is a slap in the face to their race — gaslighting the ones who have always suffered from racism.
“He doesn’t deserve what just happened,” said ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith about Jones, as he couldn’t wait to carry Jones’ water. “At minimum that was 65 years ago,” Smith explained, as he willingly got on national television to “shuck and jive” for a man that doesn’t need additional allies, in a move that was an example of why it’s so hard to make America accept the trials and tribulations that African-Americans suffer on a daily base.
(Also, don’t overlook the fact that racism usually isn’t considered racism until the race of people who take part in it deems it so. The cries and allegations of the ones who suffer from it be damned.)
“It’s not who I am, and I’m sorry,” said Jones.
That apology wasn’t for the photograph. It was from a 2017 story in which Jones was sorry for what he said in the past. “Jennifer, congratulations on the wedding. Now, you know he’s with a black girl tonight, don’t you?” said Jones in a 2013 videotaped message to a white bride.
Jones’s explanation/excuse for being in the photograph went something like this:
“That was, gosh, 65 years ago, and [I was a] curious kid at the time,” he said. “I didn’t know at the time the monumental event really that was going on. I’m sure glad that we’re a long way from that.”
Jones wants us to believe that the Black children who were making history understood the magnitude of the moment, but yet, he didn’t, even though so many white students of his age group were against it. He thinks we’re stupid, and is insulting our intelligence and knowledge of history.
“My mother died before ever knowing that we were pummeled every day in school,” said Elizabeth Eckford, a member of the Little Rock 9, earlier this year. “When I would come home, I didn’t talk about what happened at school.” But, somehow, Jones didn’t know he was living through a “monumental event,” while Smith wants us to start tap dancing right alongside him.
Throughout history, White people have only been moved when racism is inescapable. Sometimes, it was the videos and pictures of police dogs and water hoses being used against Black people in the 1960s. Other times it took the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, and Medgar Evers. Or, maybe it was the Rodney King tape. For others, it was watching a cop kill George Floyd.
That’s how much it takes for the cries of Black people to be heard. Because when the smoking gun is attached, then racism — or the intent of it — can only be validated.
In the case of Jerry Jones, we have videos and pictures that serve as evidence of him being involved in the things a racist would do, throughout his life. The NFL won’t punish him for it because it doesn’t violate their guidelines. And America will shrug its shoulders at it because the gun isn’t smoking, despite how hot it burns when you touch it.