Sporting News Senior Editor Andreas Hale joined Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods on New Day: Feel The Power podcast this week for an important conversation about race, injustice, and what is currently happening in America.
A full recap of the discussion can be read below, but I encourage everyone to listen to the podcast for themselves by clicking here.
Big E sees himself and his family in George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. "That could have been us." Kept putting himself in the position of Shad Gaspard and Hana Kimura. "I put myself in George Floyd's position when I saw him be murdered like that. To have a man put his knee on his neck like that. I don't know how you don't feel empathy for a man like that, who is accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. He doesn't deserve to die like that. We can't be okay with murdering us. It's not the first time and it's not the second time. I've seen and heard these stories from my parents and their parents and I cannot accept living in a country where this is acceptable. Where it takes two days to get an arrest for this man. There was video tape, clear as day. That bothers me and hurts me to my core, to my soul. Two days of anger and frustration. How long can we allow this to happen? Imagine a man having his body weight on your neck until you die. He was calling for his mom. I can't stop imagining myself in their shoes, in that position." Big E continued, wondering how long we can just "shrug our shoulders and move on."
"It could have been any of us," says Kofi Kingston. "Seeing the video of Ahmaud Arbery, he was just going for a run in his neighborhood. You're doing something to try and become healthier. Here comes a car full of people and they just murder you in the street. Every time I go out by myself or my family, in the back of my mind, there's always a thought of 'am I going to be next?'" Kofi says he will leave the house with a plan of action in the event that something might happen. "No one should have to live like that." Kofi then discussed the videos going around saying they make every real. "You can be the best person in the world, the top scholar, and the fact that you look a certain way will trigger somebody to pull up on you in a van with guns is unconscionable, but it's the reality. It's crazy to say that."
Kofi continued, discussing the response of White America as the videos have come out and protests have started. "Seeing this with your own eyes and knowing it's real and it's not a story you hear from someone else makes it very real and it's not just for us. I've gotten a lot of texts and messages from, specifically my White friends who want to know what they can do. This situation is hitting differently and we're hopefully on the cusp of something turning around. It feels good to have White America listening as opposed to talking about the semantics of [Colin] Kaepernick protesting and it being about the flag. He's saying, no, it's about police brutality." Kofi says more than in the past, people are being supportive.
Andreas Hale discussed Nickelodeon having eight minutes of silence to honor George Floyd and how some people were upset that "Nickelodeon was taking away kid's innocence." Hale says, "Our innocence wasn't taken away by Nickelodeon. We grew up wanting to love everybody, we didn't know we were different." Hale says his grandmother, an old Italian woman, wanted to keep him away to be the "good Black kid." Hale told the story of how in 3rd grade, a kid was singing a song that went, "In 1964, my dad went to war, pulled the trigger, and shot a N-word, that was the end of the war" before the kid pointed at Hale and went "You're the N-word!" Hale couldn't figure out what that meant and had to ask. "My dad shot you, you deserve to die, we don't like Black people." Hale thought something was wrong with him after that and that took away his innocence. "There is nothing wrong with us. We didn't wake up mad. Rodney King wasn't the first situation where Black people were upset about racism and police brutality. This has been happening for years, but our innocence was taken away early and we had to acknowledge we were different, not because of us, but because of how somebody else perceived us." Hale says that kids don't know until someone tells them and then they are confused. "George Floyd situation is years of pent up frustration for us, seeing nothing happening to the people that are treating us differently because of the color of our skin. We didn't ask for this. I didn't wake up saying, 'I'm Black and I'm mad.' I don't think any of us ever did that. Somebody else told us, 'You're different.'"
I love pro wrestling. I love black people. I don’t love having to have these conversations about why #BlackLivesMatter but honored that @WWEBigE @TrueKofi and @XavierWoodsPhD had me on their podcast for this very emotional and therapeutic conversation. https://t.co/iueds1STLi pic.twitter.com/sk8eQKmZp0— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) June 8, 2020
Hale went on to say people have misconstrued Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and what Kaepernick was kneeling for. "I want people to stop saying, 'I'm colorblind.' I want you to see our cultural differences, acknowledge them and respect them, but don't treat me any differently." Hale says the "All Lives Matter" house isn't on fire, and while he agrees that all houses are important, one house is on fire that it needs to be put out. Hale said he's fed up seeing Black people beat up, killed, and murdered on camera.
Woods says it feels weird to have people reach out who he hasn't spoken to in years like, "I'm feeling bad, how are you?" He loves the compassion and wants people to listen and learn, but he doesn't always know what to do and he wants to keep educating himself. "People keep saying, 'I had no idea.' I love the compassion, but I don't understand how you didn't know." Woods said a friend told him, "Better late than never, but never late is better." Woods said he doesn't know how to change the conversation happening in other homes to make it so they have to have survival conversations in their homes. "It's been life or death and I don't know how to fix that."
Kofi brings up numbers and statistics and how people will say "White people are also being killed." Kofi says, "The numbers don't matter. It doesn't make it better. None of it should be happening. It doesn't soften the blow. What is the purpose of you telling me these statistics?" Kofi said all of it is wrong, but don't bring it to him as an argument. "It's all bad. Let's do what we can to fix it."
"I don't understand why people feel like you can't be upset at more than one thing at a time," says Woods. "If you're worried about All Lives, just agree that Black Lives Matter. This is the issue. If you're saying, 'this happening over here,' then okay, be mad about it. Say something, stand up with us. Don't try to say that your hurt is showing because we're hurt. The pain can come together. That's unity."
Big E says he is asking for empathy and that it hurt him to see a white man shoved to the ground in Buffalo. "How do you not have the empathy to understand the kind of pain people are going through? That could be you. You might be young now but you could be old and frail and you would hope that someone would have enough care in the world, someone who has vowed to protect and serve you, to not treat you as if your life has no meaning." Big E, says he's not asking everyone to be an activist or run for government, but just have empathy. "Imagine if it was a dog. Imagine the people that would be outraged about a cop kneeling on a dog's neck for nearly nine minutes and killing that dog." A frustrated Big E said these images are worse than a dog. "Just start with empathy. Imagine it's someone you love and imagine them dying in that way." Big E said a lot of White friends have reached out to him and said they didn't know about things like the 1921 Black Wall Street Massacre. Big E wants everyone to learn about that, the 1985 bombing of a Philadelphia neighborhood. "Start to learn and empathize."
.@XavierWoodsPhD, @WWEBigE and @TrueKofi invite their friend, journalist and activist @AndreasHale, to the #NewDayPod for a frank discussion about racism and the experience of being black in America.— WWE (@WWE) June 8, 2020
LISTEN NOW: https://t.co/7PKmCe7FIZ pic.twitter.com/fvWlmebfoI
Hale talked about growing up a wrestling fan and thinking the Nation of Domination was good because Farooq would put a fist in the sky, but his grandma would boo him. He was confused that Black pride was being boo'd. "There is an inherent fear of African Americans because our stories aren't told properly." Hale discussed KofiMania and was excited because it was someone who looked like him and acted like him because he likes to have fun as well. "I see that in you guys. What you represent is the dimensions of Black is Beautiful." Hale says when Kofi won, he saw Black people happy and how much it matter. He also discussed the videos of Black people celebrating. "We deserve not to be portrayed as the bad guy." Hale said education is key, not only history but the legal system. Hale said he was surprised at how many White people don't know about Black history because it's not taught in school. "The Black Panthers are a footnote."
Woods is also confused as to why Black history isn't taught in school. Hopes that history explains what is happening now, the way it has occurred.
Big E wants to continue to have uncomfortable and honest conversations. "What we often learn about Black History is slavery and the civil rights moments. Things happened in-between." Big E discusses how the Black Panthers brought free breakfast programs and how the FBI tried to destroy that. "We're not taught these things." Big E said most comments come from ignorance before talking about Let It Fall, a Netflix documentary about Los Angeles from 1982–1992. "There are so many instances of Black people being murdered by the police unjustly and the cops are either fired and if they get to trial, they're usually acquitted."
Hale said the prosecution failed in the George Zimmerman trial as they overcharged Zimmerman. He said cops have grey area, which makes it difficult to get charges against cops to stick. Hale says we need to understand the legal system. Hale says Black people need to become judges and attorneys and teachers. "Who wants to be a cop in 2020? I'd feel more comfortable if I had someone who looked like me police my neighborhood, but we don't have that. There is no interest in being a cop." Hale discussed how much White people hated Muhammad Ali for speaking out, but how he was embraced later in life. "We're never loved until it's too late."
Big E brought up the thread started by Hale asking for the experiences of Black people and when they first dealt with racism. Big E read the thread and was surprised at how many people's first experience was with teachers. Big E said it needs to be addressed on so many fronts. "It truly bothers me to know that so many Black parents were dropping their kids off at school and they had an encounter with a teacher who was racist or condoned racism." Big E said he tested to be in a Gifted program when he was in school, but the teachers wouldn't let him in until his mom went to the school and fought for him being in the program. Big E called it "thinly-veiled racism" because there was no proof that the color of his skin kept him from the program and he couldn't point out the likely cause.
I want to see something: Black people, when was the exact moment you realized that your skin color was the reason you were treated different and your innocence was ripped away? How confused and hurt were you?— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) June 2, 2020
Woods discussed not being able to call out the racism by saying, "We pass all the tests and have all the qualifications, but don't get to move forward. So, in our minds, there's only one reason." Woods says it's "beyond painful" to experience it as a child because it's confusing. "It's a constant fight and you don't have a choice. You simply want to exist. When you share a country with a group of people who don't want you to exist purely because you do, it hurts a lot." Woods recalls the first time someone threw a racial slur at him and his mom wanting him to tell her when something like that happened. Woods says he jumped on the kid who called him the N-word and he told his mom. "She immediately dropped everything she was doing." Woods begins to tear up as he recalls the story and says they went to the kid's house and his mom explained everything. Woods says it was a memorable day because he learned that people can hurt you with things you may not understand, but even if someone hurts you, compassion might be the answer. The kid's parents agreed that for the next week, Woods and the kid would walk together and be together. "On day four, he started playing Mortal Kombat and asked if I wanted to play. After that, we became best friends." Woods didn't understand why his mom did this at first, but then understood that she had been there before and maybe if she tried this, it would be easier. "I don't understand how people have the strength to make these decisions for their kids and when to teach them and protect them."
Big E, the only person on the podcast without kids, says he can't fathom having these conversations with his kids.
For those asking, this was the video that was discussed in the podcast that I produced gathering reactions from around the world for @TrueKofi’s moment winning the @WWE championship at WrestleMania. #KofiMania https://t.co/0hNCQQGwrR— Andreas Hale (@AndreasHale) June 8, 2020
Kofi says he doesn't know how he'll have those conversations with his kids. He says he can't recall any teachers who made him feel less but said it was difficult dealing with his peers. "Every single day there was a racial comment or joke. It was supposed to be a joke, but to me, it wasn't funny." Kofi recalls sitting around with his teammates and all of them making black jokes. One kid said something about me being ashamed that I'm Black. "The joke was, I was in a bathtub full of bleach, crying, asking God why my skin is dark and I'm in this tub of bleach, wishing it would bleach my skin white. These are supposed to be my teammates and friends." Kofi says he didn't have anyone to talk to and there weren't many black families in his neighborhood. Kofi says sometimes parents don't want to project their experiences on their children. "I get the sense of wanting to protect them." Kofi said a white man came to him on the beach and saw all the kids playing together and was like, "This is beautiful, isn't it?" regarding kids just playing together and being in a bubble. "You're not supposed to worry about being less or feeling less because of the color of your skin. You're supposed be having fun and doing things kids do. The reality is, a few miles down the road, there are riots and hate being spewed." Kofi talks about lashing out and the consequences of the action but not the why.
Hale talks about his 14-year-old nephew and wondered, "Do I take his innocence away or do I wait for the world to do it?" Hale said he had his nephew watch The Hate U Give and he broke down five minutes in and didn't want to see any more Black people dying. Hale said it's up to us to spread the language of love and acceptance. Hale recalled giving his toys to a White kid and the kid's mom coming over and saying, "I didn't know a Black kid could be so kind." Says his grandmother told her, "Get the hell out of my house." Hale talks about being labeled "the good Black friend." Says he's just as mad as any Black person and wants people to get to know other Black people because they want to love. "At the end of the day, I don't want your kids to kill my kids." Hale doesn't want people to be silent, even when the protests die down. "Keep the conversations going."
Woods discusses the "good Black friend" conversation and wanting to be seen as non-threatening and how much they have to work to do that. "If we do the work to smile and wave and make them feel better, maybe they'll feel better, but it's unfair because we have to try to make them feel better." Woods says it's a harsh realization because he is generally a happy and bubbly person, but says a lot of times he does it so people know he's not a threat. "I hate that I have to be conscious of that." Woods hopes laws get changed, but says things have to fundamentally change in people's mind across the world.
Again, not the easiest conversation to have but it’s a conversation that needs to be had. I hope this episode makes you uncomfortable. I hope it makes you want change. Thank you @andreashale for being there for it. https://t.co/0taWhwbGnm pic.twitter.com/4JbS4sx1Xm— Austin Creed - Future King of The Ring (@XavierWoodsPhD) June 8, 2020
Kofi says the situation hits differently than it did in the past, but he has more hope now based on the actions of people. "This is the closest thing I've seen to seeing the beginning of that change." Calls it a shame that things had to get this extreme and wonders if the pandemic and lack of sports would have taken away the focus on the issue.
Big E echos Hale's sentiments about continuing to have conversations months down the line. Big E wants to continue to take care of Black men and women, including Black trans men and women. "We talk about civil rights, but it's human rights." He doesn't want the conversation and empathy to be short-lived.
Hale believes people will be inspired by New Day using their platform to have these conversations. Calls the conversation therapeutic. All three agree that the conversation is therapeutic.
Everyone should listen to the podcast for themselves, and you can do so by clicking here, as a recap and transcriptions do not do their actual words and emotions justice. If you do use any of the quotes above, please give a h/t and link back to this article for the transcription.