Tobias Harris calls for more dialogue about race to make a change

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Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Philadelphia 76ers' Tobias Harris plays during an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Philadelphia.
AP Photo/Matt Slocum-AP

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris called for more dialogue about race in the country and for others to speak out in an essay for The Players Tribune website.

"You have to be knowledgeable to be able to talk about this stuff and have a productive dialogue - especially being a person of influence and a role model to people, you got to be O.K. with talking. And you'll only get to that point if you're O.K. with yourself," Harris said in "Y'all Hear Us, But You Ain't Listening."

The 27-year-old said when Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American 17-year-old, was killed in Florida in 2012, it was a turning point for him.

"I realized that that could have been my brother. Once you really sit with that, it's a really scary feeling," he said.

Harris said he knew he had to get out of that 'NBA bubble.'

"I've come to grips with the fact that yes, I'm black, but that dude that's getting pulled over by a cop in his car, he don't have the luxury of that officer recognizing him. That's the problem. The difference between a cop recognizing you or not shouldn't be life or death," Harris said.

"I had to get out of my own NBA bubble, and understand that there's a different world out there. Not everybody can get in a nice car every day, drive to work, come home, work out, and be O.K."

Once he got out of the celebrity bubble, Harris said he was able to look at what black communities are going through across the country.

Harris was one of the many marchers who protested on Saturday in Philadelphia following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him down and pressed Floyd's neck with his knee.

Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers at the scene of Floyd's death have not been charged. Harris said there has been a lack of accountability for police officers.

"Those four officers should have been arrested immediately. But when you try to throw out excuses, saying you need to "see more evidence" and that type of thing ... who do y'all think you're fooling?? We got a VIDEO!! The whole world's seen it! Be straight up with the people, man," Harris said.

Harris credits one of his biggest role models Muhammad Ali for showing him the way and not being afraid to take a stand against injustice. He said silence is unacceptable.

"It was awesome to be around that interconnectedness and unity. It was really special. We walked for about an hour and a half, and it was just awesome to be in that moment," Harris said.

The 76ers forward said it is time to admit there is a problem and it's about race. "It's always been about race," he said.

"If we dig really deep, this also about HUMANITY. If you can't acknowledge that, then I can't really have a dialogue with you," Harris said. "Keep it real. Admit something's wrong in this country, admit that this is about race, and let's build a way forward."

Harris said he mentors kids around the area and is able to see the differences between a school in North Philadelphia and the Maine Line. This helped him grow his understanding and knowledge of how different things are from one place to another. He said when he was younger, he didn't really grasp that idea.

But now he has more knowledge and can talk about it.

"On Saturday in Philly, it was about a togetherness of people pushing out a message. And that message was really about respect. It was about people respecting others, and understanding their hurt and their pain," Harris said. "And we gotta keep it going - if not out in the street, then in our own circles. We gotta talk about what's really going on. We gotta use our platforms to the fullest."

Online: Read Tobias Harris' essay