When someone denies the real pain of another, there’s always a selfish reason. Maybe, like right-wing radio hosts claiming the Sandy Hook schoolroom slaughter was a hoax, they can’t bear to consider the cost of their gun infatuation. Maybe, like Holocaust deniers, they are utterly unwilling to see the subjects of their hate in a sympathetic light.
Then there’s former Bears coach Mike Ditka, in the news again, rejecting the idea that black players who take a knee during the national anthem have anything to protest.
“I don’t see all the social injustice that some of these people see,” Ditka said Monday. “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”
Where to begin?
First, we can recognize his honesty. I’m certain he doesn’t see social injustice. Though a glimmer of the blindness of what he just said may have flashed through even his eyes, because, Ditka added, “Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people.”
Ya think? Too busy running from camera to camera, flapping your gums, coasting off your victory (well, really Buddy Ryan’s) 32 years ago. A third of a century. How come you couldn’t find time to curl up with a book of American history?
For Iron Mike, and those freshly arrived from Mars, a quick synopsis: Our country was built on slavery, which coined much of its wealth. That was followed by 100 years of Jim Crow serfdom and horror that ended . . . what time is it now? I’d feel uncomfortable suggesting it ended at all, but slid into a new, more opaque phase where the economic system itself takes the place of hooded night riders and snapping German shepherds.
Hypocrisy is the grease that racism slides along on. Look how Ditka’s buddy, our president, viewed two groups of protesters: Black athletes silently taking a knee during the national anthem? “Sons of bitches” who should leave the country.
Neo-Nazis marching through Charlottesville, Virginia with torches chanting “Blood and soil”? “Very fine people,” the president said.
Not that I expect Ditka to perceive any of this. Even before his bromance with Donald Trump, Da Coach was radiating bigotry like a tuning fork. In 2014, after the Ferguson shooting: “I don’t want to hear about this hands-up crap. That’s not what happened. I don’t know exactly what did happen, but I know that’s not what happened. This policeman’s life is ruined. ”
Though not as ruined as Michael Brown’s life was.
I wish I could hold up Ditka as a dinosaur, an anomaly. The tragedy is, he’s not. Many share Ditka’s view and stay mum. Ditka is insulated enough by fame and obliviousness to spout the nonsense that a big hunk of white guydom believes in their hearts or, rather, in the cavities at the center of their chests where their hearts would be if they weren’t so, you know, pig ignorant.
Let’s end with two thoughts. First, Mike Ditka isn’t manly — it isn’t macho to ignore the suffering of others, nor masculine to be hard-hearted and a fool. He doesn’t care about black people, but then, he doesn’t care about people. He certainly didn’t care about his players. “Mike was not one who gave a damn about the players or their injuries when he was coaching,” the late Dave Duerson said.
And second, he’s not a Chicagoan. Not because he was born in Pennsylvania — I was born in Ohio and live in Northbrook; we all have our woes. Rather, because he denies the essence of the city.
Chicago is a union town, and Ditka berated his players for not crossing a picket line.
Chicago is a melting pot of ethnicity: all colors and nationalities, and Ditka has proved himself to be an enemy of minorities at every turn, whether dismissing the Redskins controversy as “stupid,” denying the oppression of blacks or sucking up to his pal, the president, who wouldn’t dare show his face here out of fear of well-earned ridicule.
I’m surprised Ditka can. At some point, you’d think decent people would turn away from him.