Even Racism Wears a Gi Sometime.

A little under 2 weeks ago, I read one of a stream of stories of disgusting people trying to defend the former officer Derek Chauvin, the officer whose actions directly led to the death of George Floyd.

This particular story caught my eye because it was a member of the grappling community, a wrestling coach, Dave Hollenbeck, from Bethel, WA. He posted a picture of himself kneeling on the back of a friend, who is smiling gleefully, while extending his heavily tattooed arm to offer a thumbs up. It included the caption:

“Not dead yet I’m doing this for Are police officers the media is a race baiting machine and I’m tired of it I’m going to speak out every time if you don’t like that I’m sorry but I love All people…Wake up America.”

Now, I’ve heard so much of this tired old trope over the last few days, it makes my head spin. The media i not “race baiting” by reporting on the murder of a black man by police officers, particularly when the event is caught on camera, and performed in such a brazen manner…with bystanders attempting to intervene for 8 minutes and 46 seconds…the time that Chauvin spent with his knee on the back of the neck of a handcuffed man, one who was begging for mercy.

Of course, once Hollenbeck’s post went viral, he offered “I’m not racist man.”

Now, make no mistakes…I know deep down in my soul that Hollenbeck wouldn’t have posted his picture, and wouldn’t have trivialized this event if the victim had been some blond hair, blue-eyed white man…maybe with a rugged Brad Pitt look about him. I know this because I’ve dealt with subtle racism (and in some cases extremely overt) my entire life. I know all the rationalizations and mea culpas, including the very modern “race-baiting media” using race to stir up discord, which really means “why do we have to talk about race, it’s not an issue” which really means “black people get too much special treatment as it is” and before you know it we’re at the “Why can they have Black Entertainment Television, but if we had White Entertainment Television, everyone would go crazy?”

At this point in the game, I don’t even dignify that question with a response.

Fortunately, this situation ended with the wrestling coach being fired.

I was originally saddened by the article because it was about a teacher. It always saddens me when completely gross excuses for people work with children, and are helping to mold young minds. I shudder to think how many minds he may have corrupted, subtly, if not overtly.

Then, as I continued to read articles about Hollenbeck, I was even more saddened that not only was he a wrestling coach (I’ve previously coached wresting..1 year), but he was also a member of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community.

I’ve trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for 11 years. It’s one of my favorite things to do in this world, and I’ve always enjoyed being engrossed in the community. One thing I have loved, and found fascinating, about the Jiu Jitsu community is the fact that men and women from various walks of life, different races, nationalities, religions (my home academy is run by a Bosnian, Muslim family), and sexual orientations, come together and work together, and enjoy each others company. It’s its very own subculture.

I’m subscribed and linked to all the Jiu Jitsu news outlets on social media, so that is why this more recent article caught my eye:

FloSports claims Black Lives Matter support while employing BJJ star known for racist comments

So let’s keep things simple: FloSports is a huge media outlet that airs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions, and the star the article refers to is Gordon Ryan.

Gordon Ryan has been one of the most dominant competitors on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu scene for a few years now. He’s part of a super dominant team frequently referred to as the Danaher Death Squad, headed by grappling wizard John Danaher.

Now, I don’t follow Ryan on social media. I don’t like his attitude. Yes, he’s an amazing competitor, but he talks way too much shit for me, and just seems like the kind of guy I wouldn’t like if I met him in person, but you never know who a person is behind their online persona.

So I was very saddened to hear that one of the biggest starts of the martial art I love so much, whom has the eyes of so many impressionable young practitioners and competitors, is a raging bigot who things it’s funny to make fun of blacks and Asians. I’ll leave it up to you to go and hunt down his greatest hits if you so choose.

And here arises a huge problem in the fallout of the George Floyd Murder; a well known corporation talking out of their back end about how they stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, while employing a person well known for espousing views that some could view as racist.

Personally, I find Gordon Ryan offensive as fuck. It saddens me that he’s a well known representative of the BJJ community. However, this newfound knowledge also makes me wonder about the rest of his teammates. Do they all share his views? Is it “coincidence” that the Danaher Death Squad is a fairly exclusively caucasian club? It definitely makes me wonder, and will definitely halt me from potentially investing in any of their products in the future. I certainly would not attend any seminars offered by Gordon Ryan or his teammates at this point. Quiet acceptance of racism and bigotry has never been good enough for me, and I’m glad that the rest of the world is catching up?

Have you been shocked by how some of the people around you are reacting to the George Floyd murder and the resulting protests? Have you been forced to have uncomfortable conversations as of late? Lost any friends on social media in the midst of all this?

Tell me your thoughts down below in the comment box.

Also, as I mentioned before, I got a podcast. You can find the show on Apple PodcastStitcherSpotify, or on my podbean site. It’s called Off The Beaten Podcast. Also, follow me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. I hear all the kids are doing it. 

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