UCLA’s Track & Field Director Avery Anderson took time to pen thoughts and promote change during the national protests against the murder of George Floyd last week. Anderson’s clear message was portrayed on social media but a longer, more in-depth and thoughtful message was shared on UCLA’s athletic website.
The full message reads as such:
Dear Bruins, For all of us the better part of the past week has brought the struggle we’ve experienced over the past months to a terrible crescendo. In all of our lives we are always faced with societal issues where the daily focus constantly changes. Back to the forefront again is the basic human rights issue of black people being killed in America. This time, this pain and anger hits us all at a moment when the norm of life is frustration during a global pandemic.
Our team, this cross country/track and field family, is so diverse that the thoughts, emotions, and responses are so vast that it cannot be summed up in an email, a phone call, or an online message of any sort. No one can be told how to feel or think, nor should they have to be. So I don’t want to simply offer words, but rather share something that might be helpful to anyone who might be able to use it. We each grieve in our own way and heal at our own pace. I simply want to share a road map as someone once did with me when I was in your shoes. I’ve found it to be something of use that has helped me in life.
As a freshman at UCLA, I watched civil uprising unfold over 5 days in Los Angeles and around the country. When the four officers seen brutally beating Rodney King on video were acquitted in court, the city of Los Angeles exploded with outrage. This included the students of UCLA into Westwood. I was 19 at the time and had already grown angry over the treatment of young black males by a few bad police. Mind you, my dad was a policeman. My closest uncle was a policeman. So being raised, fed, and clothed by a police officer I’ve always had the highest respect for the badge.
A few bad apples though...Rodney King was brutally beaten for 15 minutes by 4 police officers while more than a dozen other police stood around and watched. 28 years later we are watching the George Floyd video and it brings back pain and anger that has continued to exist over the treatment of Black America by the police.
We just ran for Ahmaud 3 weeks ago and so quickly we find ourselves back here again. Another video of a black man being killed. I’ve heard many people say they don’t know what to say or they’re at a loss for words. That’s totally understandable. I’m not at a loss for words and I have a lot to say because unfortunately I’ve been here far too many times. Trust me, I’m all about peeling back the band-aid that has been placed on this issue to expose the wounds and address how to heal. However, this message is not about me expressing my opinions, but rather sharing some insight.
The George Floyd video is going to change things. The direction and result of that change is what people can wrap their minds around and try to steer. The Rodney King incident changed me. Not overnight or all of a sudden, but in a lot of ways in the short and long-term. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by some great mentors who themselves watched LA burn 27 years earlier than Rodney King when the Watts Riots took place.
At 19, pissed off at the police, I could’ve gone in the direction my rage and anger would’ve taken me. I wanted to fight but I didn’t know who and I didn’t know how. I’ve learned that for me personally the hardest part in these moments is not knowing what to do with the pain and anger. I know many of you are in that exact place right now. I was fortunate enough to proceed down a path where I came to know that to channel the anger and rage I feel and turn that into positive action is the way to win. It’s fine if you’re pissed off. It’s fine if you’re sad. It’s fine if you don’t know how you feel. Now what? What direction do you go in? What action do you take?
Personally, I want change because I love my fellow humans. It’s because I love my fellow humans that I take action on racial inequality, gender equality, gun violence, homelessness and so on. Because I love you I don’t want to see anyone senselessly killed by the police for no good reason. So the starting point on my road map to make change starts with Love. As easy as it may be to feel during intense times like these, hate does nothing good. After Rodney King I learned the quote by Maya Angelou “Hate- it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it hasn’t solved one.” Even at times when I can’t summon the strength to love my enemies it helps me move forward to know that I have love for the world, acquaintances or not. As rough as this past week was, like other rough patches in life I’ve found it easier to unshackle myself from hate and walk forward with love. As much as the death of George Floyd still stings, I’m going to convert that anguish and positively go out and make the change happen that I want to see. I stand here for and with you. Sincerely, Coach Anderson