Dwane Casey can’t forget how he was treated as an eight-year-old in a white school in rural Kentucky after the desegregation of the education system.
It’s a memory that evokes feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger and comes to mind for Casey amid the continued protests across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd. A black man who was killed earlier this week after a Minneapolis police officer pinned him to the ground and choked him with his knee.
In a statement put out Saturday, the Detroit Pistons coach revealed that he fears his son — who is now eight — will face a similarly traumatic experience to his own 54 years ago when he was the same age.
“I look at the world he is growing up in and wonder, how much has really changed? How often is he judged on sight? Is he growing up in a world where he is seen, and heard, and understood? Does he feel helpless? Will he be treated like George Floyd or Ahmaud Abrey? What have we really done in the last 54 years to make his eight-year-old world better than mine was? We all have to be and do better,” said Casey.
Casey, 63, who won Coach of the Year honours with the Toronto Raptors in 2018, recalled his own alienation in a white school in the South and how he’s seen that same feeling reverberate around the country after Floyd’s death.
“I walked into a white school where I was not wanted nor welcomed. At that time there were no cell phones to record my treatment, no cable news stations with 24/7 coverage, no social media to record the reality of the situation or offer support nor condemnation. But I can remember exactly how I felt as an eight-year-old child. I felt helpless,” he said.
“I felt as if I was neither seen, nor heard, nor understood. As I have watched the events unfold in the days following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a city where I coached and once called home, I see how many people continue to feel those same feelings — helpless, frustrated, invisible, angry.
I understand the outrage because it seems the list continues to grow: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. The injustices continue to mount and nothing seems to be changing,” continued Casey, who coached the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005-06 and ’06-07.
Casey implored his fellow Americans to push for “real change” to the systemtic issues at the root of persistent racial inequality in the U.S.
“We have to change the way we see and hear each other. We have to work together to find solutions to make the justice system just. Black, white and brown people have to work together to find new answers. The only way we can stop the systemic problems that people of colour have faced all our lives is through honesty and transparency,” said Casey.
“We have to understand why people are at their limit at this moment. It takes empathy, in its truest form. It takes a culture shift, it takes action. Let’s stop the injustice now. Let’s not allow another generation to continue to live in a world where they are treated as unequal. Now is the time for real change.”