Lamont Wade Is Trying to Change the World

By Bill DiFilippo on June 28, 2018 at 1:32 pm
Lamont Wade
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Antwon Rose was murdered. There's this thing that happens when a police officer shoots an unarmed black person, it's always gross and it involves people justifying why that happened. The fact that a gun was pulled and used to end a human's life didn't matter, because the unarmed black person "deserved" to die. In the case of Rose, he was in a car that was pulled over because police officers thought it was used in a drive-by shooting earlier in the night. Rose tried to run away after the car was pulled over, at which point officer Michael Rosfeld (who, to steal a line from your uncle who is talking about Rose on Facebook, was no angel) shot the teenager three times.

We'll never know why Rose ran, outside of the obvious reason of he was a terrified 17 year old who police officers accused of being involved in a drive-by shooting. Maybe he was involved! Maybe he wasn't! Again, we'll never know for certain.

All we know is that another unarmed black person — this time a teenager — was murdered by a police officer who, beyond being charged with criminal homicide, decided their only choice in a situation in which the suspect was running away from him was to play God. The reason these moments are described as "play God" is because a matter of life and death is put into the hands of a person who is not equipped to decide whether someone should live or not, because no human is equipped to decide whether someone should live or not, and also because if you feel the only course of action when a person runs away from you is to kill them, you should not be given the chance to play God.

I think about that a lot, because I live in America in 2018, and on a near-daily basis, we hear of people deciding to play God. It is abhorrent, because it always involves someone dying, and oftentimes that person is a black person who died because a police officer had a quick trigger on a firearm.

I am also a gigantic coward, because I prefer to sit in a room and think and write about this shit instead of trying to do anything about it. Lamont Wade is not a coward. He has a voice, he has a platform, and in a way that is refreshing to see in an era where athletes' voices are being suppressed when they want to speak out against injustice (see: the NFL), Wade deserves credit for taking every possible step to amplify his message.

For example, there's his Twitter account, where Wade has been perhaps the most outspoken players in the locker room on social issues ever since stepping on campus — an impressive feat in and of itself, as the Penn State staff has cultivated an environment where players are encouraged to speak out and, if possible, use their voice in an attempt to spark the change they want to see in the world. Wade, a native of southwestern Pennsylvania and a black man in the United States in 2018, was obviously struck by Rose's murder, so he's used his Twitter account as a way to speak out and raise awareness about what happened, especially in the wake of some inaccurate information regarding what happened.

But anyone can hide behind a keyboard and tweet or comment on their favorite Penn State football blog or pop up in a comment section on Facebook. Wade wants to actively be a part of the fight for justice, which is why he's marching. He's serving as a public face in this fight, using his platform and then acting on it.

Wade even made an appearance on CNN to discuss everything that has gone on over the last few days and say why he is making it a point to use his voice to speak out.

People like Wade do not get championed. What's going to happen is Rose's murder is going to get forgotten in a few days — another unarmed black person might get shot, or the president might open up jails on the moon for latinx people, or LeBron James might join the Golden State Warriors, who knows. Society moves so fast in 2018 that issues get forgotten, which means the people who are involved with issues get forgotten. By the time Penn State takes the field this fall, Wade is going to be known as a sophomore defensive back. Maybe he'll be a sophomore defensive back who picks off a few passes. That'd be cool.

That would also be a shame. Wade is more than a football player, and people who are more than football players either get Colin Kaepernick'd or have their activism, which is more important than anything they'll do on the gridiron, looked over. This shouldn't happen. This should be praised in every instance, especially when a teenager like Wade decides they're not going to #StickToSports and instead scream until their lungs give out about why this should not be normal.

My America is different from Wade's America. I can try my best to understand his America, but I will never fully get it, because I won't ever know what it's like to be viewed as a lesser person because of the color of my skin. The worst people in my garbage version of America do this to people from Wade's America, it's a constant dehumanization that leads to things like Rose's murder being just another event rather than the source of national outrage, anger, and sadness in my America. 

Wade doesn't want that, and through sheer force of will, he is one of the many people doing whatever they can to make sure outrage, anger, sadness, and far more importantly, a desire to make things change are shared by everyone. It's more important than any tackle he could make, any pass he could pick off, or any trophy that he could lift during his time as a Penn State football player, because while all of those things would bring us the joy sports would bring, none of them are as important as Lamont Wade trying to make sure the death of Antwon Rose leads to, hopefully, the world not being so awful.

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