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A week after we discussed the White Sox’s conspicuous silence on the nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the club formally entered the forum on Monday, and with Kenny Williams leading the way.
It wasn’t the first gesture White Sox personnel had made. Williams and Rick Hahn participated in supporting Black Lives Matter and Major League Baseball’s “United for Change” initiative during the MLB Draft, and Williams shared some thoughts with Ken Rosenthal afterward from his perspective of one of the few African-American executives in Major League Baseball:
Williams added, “I’m not going to get into my feelings on the violence and the looting, except to say I’m not for it. I never will be for it. But it didn’t surprise me, because when you take away hope and vision for a better life from people, then on top of that you tell them how, when and where you want them to protest against you – which was the case with the Colin Kaepernick kneel, and that being rejected so soundly – you’re asking for trouble.
“I’m not saying the type of trouble that happened was warranted. All I’m saying is that it didn’t surprise me.”
But all this was a preface for the club’s big move — posting the remarkable 34-minute long video embedded above, in which Williams discusses the nationwide unrest and the various forms of racism he and his family have experienced during his lifetime.
Williams responds deliberately and sometimes emotionally to questions and prompts from off camera, covering what the organization ignored in its initial response. He’s asked about his reaction to the George Floyd video, and he answers bluntly:
“We watched a murder right in front of our eyes. We’ve seen it before. I don’t know that we’ve seen it that casual before, that total disregard to humanity before.”
He also raised the topic of racism in the White Sox’s backyard, telling stories of the hate mail he received after Jerry Reinsdorf hired him as general manager in 2000, including one message applied directly to his house (“No n***** should run the Chicago WHITE Sox”; Williams did not censor the word).
But interspersed with the often wearisome weight of his experience is hope — cautious optimism — that even Williams finds surprising. He mentioned it to Rosenthal in the aforementioned article, and he shared the same sentiments here — that once the peaceful protests sustained their energy after the initial rush of looting and violence, he found feelings he didn’t know he still had.
“Once the violence and the looting came about, I thought, ‘Oh no. They’re going to drown out all the peaceful protests out there and those positive voices.’ Once that happened where the positive voices and the protests took that shape, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know what to say, because I had never seen people come together like that for a Black cause. Not in my lifetime.”
Williams cited the diversity of the protests multiple times, stressing the factor as crucial because, “Black people alone cannot erase racism, no more than Black people could have solved slavery on our own. We need white people to do that. And it appears to me — maybe I’m overly optimistic, but it appears to me — that people have seen enough.”
And near the video’s conclusion, Wlliams offered encouragement toward that goal.
“I gotta tell you … I don’t know how this is going to come off, but you white people can march your ass off. [laughs] I… I have been impressed, and I have been impressed with the union, the unity that has come about as a result of it.”