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Harrison Butker’s damaging commencement speech exposes his privilege


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Harrison Butker’s damaging commencement speech exposes his privilege

Commentary by Becky Tallent | FāVS News

Harrison Butker’s privilege is showing. 

The kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs football team caused quite a commotion as the commencement speaker for Benedictine College in Kansas recently. Among other things he called Pride month a “deadly sin” and encouraged women to forgo careers to become homemakers. 

But what got me the most was reading the end of the CNN story, where Butker called diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) “tyranny.” As a person of color, I am deeply offended at his characterization of denying non-white people the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am also incensed at his ideas for women — I never want to go back to being the property of my husband; but the idea that non-white people are not worthy of consideration in society (according to the way Butker’s comments were framed) is beyond the pale. 

Is it tyranny for Butker to rely on his teammates — many of whom, including his quarterback, are not white — to win a football game? Is it tyranny for a talented person to live their dream, fulfilling their human potential even though they may have a different skin tone or sexual orientation? 

Long-standing tyranny brought trauma 

Here is what people who agree with Butker and his comments miss: to deny the right to live, work and exist as full human beings is not “tyranny,” it is trauma. The generations of trauma inflicted on different minority groups is real and taking a millennium for each group to work through. 

Just looking at Native Americans, the multigenerational trauma of treatment by settlers/invaders since 1492 has brought poverty of body and soul to whole tribes while nearly erasing many cultures. It is only within the past generation Native Americans have been able to rise, reclaim/protect their cultures and be productive members of American society. 

The same is true of many other races, the roles of women, the LGBTQ+ community and many, many other groups who have had to deal with hatred, marginalization and attempted genocide. 

Ethically, one can’t have it both ways 

As Butker calls himself a Christian, a man of God, how can he condone such actions against another human being? 

Ethically, he can’t. Ethically, one cannot gloss over such obvious disdain for groups other than one’s own and still call themself a moral person.  

This is especially true of calling oneself a Christian and dealing with diversity. Geneva College in Pennsylvania calls diversity something that is “motivated by the love for God and, therefore, by love for other human beings.” 

Even Christianity Today calls on followers of Christ to lead in the work for diversity, equity and inclusion because DEI embodies the basic principles of faith. 

For non-Christians, Butker’s comments seem to embody what so many distrust about Christianity. It all comes across as selfish, an attempt to maintain an outdated status quo. For minorities, the comments are a slap in the face when they are trying to overcome a hate-filled past and live the American dream. 

Will Butker’s commencement address make a difference? Hopefully, but not the one he envisions. With patience, education and perseverance, minorities can continue to show Butker the real reasons why his comments are harmful. Perhaps, by showing grace to the kicker, he can come to understand and be less damaging in the future. 

The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

Becky Tallent
Becky Tallent
An award-winning journalist and public relation professional, Rebecca "Becky" Tallent was a journalism faculty member at the University of Idaho for 13 years before her retirement in 2019. Tallent earned her B.A. and M.Ed. degrees in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma and her Educational Doctorate in Mass Communications from Oklahoma State University. She is of Cherokee descent and is a member of both the Indigenous Journalists Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. She and her husband, Roger Saunders, live in Moscow, Idaho, with their two cats.

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Phil Faris
Phil Faris
30 days ago

Sometimes I regret having given up sarcasm…

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