DeSean Jackson said he fears for his life every time he gets pulled over by police and said he understands the frustration the black community is experiencing today but also made an impassioned plea for unity and togetherness amid the violence, looting and hate.
In a powerful 30-minute interview with John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Jackson spoke bluntly about his own experiences with racism and his thoughts about how we as a country can move forward.
(Since I was) growing up as a kid, I can't tell you anytime that I'm in the car and a police officer stops me or pulls me over how afraid I am that if I move wrong or I make a wrong gesture I might be shot and killed," Jackson said. "It's just built up so long of seeing senseless killings so it's like every time I'm pulled over I'm afraid it might happen to me. And for me, I have three boys that I raised, and I can't tell you how much I'm afraid for them to grow up in this world that we're living in now. I have to protect them. I have to teach them on love and doing the right thing, but if you tell me that the people who are supposed to protect and serve us, they're not serving and protecting us. I've seen a disturbing video where a lady was actually pulled over and she wasn't African-American and the lady was frightened for her life. She was so scared. and the police officer was like, ‘You don't have to worry about us killing you, we only kill black people.'
Just think being an African American person what that does to your mind. What that triggers. Every time you have an encounter. That's why I've always felt the way I've felt that way about police. I can't stand them. For so long we've always been messed with. If I'm driving a nice car and I get pulled over, for what? Excuse me, I'm not supposed to be driving this car? Oh, I look like I can't afford this car? Why do I have to be profiled? … It's crazy, man. I just feel bad for my kids they have to be raised in this era, man.
Jackson grew up in the Compton section of Los Angeles and said as bad as things were there, he's even more scared now.
One hundred percent, man," he said. "Growing up, police messed with us. Don't get me wrong, they pulled you out of your car, they searched your car, they did all that stuff. But it's a different fear I have now. The fear I had in the past was I have a chance of probably going to jail, I have a chance of them searching my car and planting some drugs or planting a gun. But now what I'm seeing is police killing. In the past five years or however many years it's been, man, it's hundreds and hundreds of killings. Senseless killings. I'm worried for my kids more than when I was growing up.
Jackson spoke about the high rate of crime and violence in black communities riddled by poverty, poor schools and chronic unemployment and how programs are needed to remedy the root of the problem.
"The opportunity is not there," he said. "People are stuck in that zone that they're in because we don't have the opportunities. We don't have our parents setting up mutual funds and money and investments for us so when we turn 18 we're able to go out and start our own thing. We don't have that. So that's going to have people sitting in the hood and sitting in the corner store selling drugs and doing stuff and killing people because they have more than I have. It's crazy. But that's the issue that we're dealing with. If we're able to outreach and put programs in these (places) and develop a curriculum to help these kids out, you might not be able to save the whole world, but you might be able to save 100 lives, you might be able to save 200 lives. As long as you start somewhere. But right now we don't have that."
Jackson has always been active in the community, whether he was playing for the Eagles, Redskins or Buccaneers, and he said once he returns from Florida to Philadelphia he plans to be continue working to bring people together as much as possible.
"Don't tear down the community," he said. "Don't destruct what we've built up so long to get to where we're at now. Let's figure out ways to come together, man. I just want to let everyone know I'm feeling the pain. I'm in pain. And were going to get through this. It might take time, but we're going to get through it. Let's do it together as one and everybody love. One love, one community, one race. We're going to stick together for the better."
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DeSean Jacksons impassioned plea based on own experiences originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia