March 27, 2018

Here's hoping Michael Bennett makes white people uncomfortable in Philly this weekend

The newest Eagle had a book event set for Saturday in Germantown (but it was postponed)

Opinion Race Relations
032318_Bennett_usat Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports, File

New Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett.

When I heard that Michael Bennett would be in Germantown on Saturday night to talk about his book “Things That Make White People Uncomfortable,” it made me – a white person – anything but uncomfortable.

This, because I would like nothing more than to hear the new Philadelphia Eagles defensive end talk about that whole mess down in Texas, where police have made the rather unbelievable assertion that he assaulted an elderly, paraplegic security guard at Super Bowl LI.

I say unbelievable not in an effort to blame the victim. 

I say it because absolutely nothing about the case makes sense, from the time it took to bring charges, to the very notion of the stadium or league hiring an elderly paraplegic woman to work security at its international showcase of a game.

I wasn’t there, though, so I can’t speak to what specifically went down.

I’m a sentient being, though. So, when I see a police chief – in this case, Houston’s Art Acevedo – mount that soapbox and chirp phrases like “morally bankrupt” and “pretty pathetic,” just months after his high-profile target clashed with law-enforcement peers in Las Vegas, red flags appear as far as the eye can see.

Add to that the fact that the outspoken player’s controversial book is slated to be released next week, and it’s not all that difficult to compose a theory that the charges were a pre-emptive shot at a man whose initial public statement upon becoming an Eagle was “Free Meek Mill.”

Bennett was a little busy down in Texas this week, as you can see below.

While Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books – the Germantown establishment sponsoring the discussion and book signing at the People’s Sanctuary (5507 Germantown Ave.) – said Monday that the event was still on, it remained up in the air a day later as to whether it would really happen. 

(UPDATE: On Wednesday, the store announced the event was postponed.)

Seeing what I’ve seen about Bennett, I’d like to think he would still do the event. After all, holding court about the case (and other topics about which he's been vocal, as is his right as an American) would make a whole lot of white people a whole lot of uncomfortable.

On Monday, publisher Haymarket Books posted a “We Stand with Michael Bennett” statement co-signed by 16 supporters including John Carlos of raised-fist-on-Olympic-podium fame.

It deemed the assault charges “absurd, curiously timed, and deadly serious” and demanded that the charges be dropped “so Michael Bennett can get back to his life and important work.”

“We also question the timing of these charges, taking place as Michael has become more widely recognized as an outspoken opponent of police brutality and corruption and is about to release a book in which he speaks about why he chose to protest police violence and racial inequality during the national anthem over the course of the 2017 NFL season,” it continued.

These are things I would like to talk to Bennett about in Germantown on Saturday if the opportunity arises (or, if it's postponed, at a later date.)

In the meantime, I reached out to his co-writer, Dave Zirin, Tuesday morning who wasn’t scheduled to be at the event and, at Bennett’s request, didn’t comment on the Houston stuff.

He did, however, describe the book as a “memoir/manifesto that aims to talk about issues most of these books don’t touch, centrally why an NFL player would risk his job to protest racial inequality during the national anthem.”

He also said the book is “honest, funny, vulnerable and uncomfortable.” (My advance copy is en route, so I know not whether I'll describe it similarly.)

“I think Philly fans, known for their hard edges and the kind of biting humor that leaves a mark, will love it,” he offered.

Of that last note, I’m not so sure.

Certainly, Eagles fans who think along the same socio-political lines that I do might love it.

The fact of the matter is some will be so turned off by the title that they’ll lash out with their predisposed notions about race, not even bothering to read – or listen – to what Bennett has to write and say. 

Heck, maybe they'll keep pretending they're sticking to their NFL boycott since players of a different (and some of their own) race decided to kneel in a protest that was misrepresented as many things it wasn't.

Good for them.

Those are the people – like the ones you’ll see commenting on this piece without reading far enough to see this namecheck – who need to be made uncomfortable. 

If it takes attention drawn to a book event in Germantown to do it, even better. That's why it'd be a shame if the apparently trumped up charges in Texas take that opportunity away.