Like many fellow Black players around MLS, Philadelphia Union defender Mark McKenzie took to social media after George Floyd was killed, voicing his perspective during nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
His powerful statement, which came via Instagram May 29 and called for change in America, prompted a follow-up story in The Delaware County Daily Times. McKenzie, a Homegrown Player who’s established his place as a center-back starter in Philly, explained where the emotion came from.
“Just venting these thoughts and allowing people to really understand what it’s like to be in my shoes in a way,” McKenzie said, “and my white counterparts won’t ever understand what it’s like to be Black, but at the same time, getting them to personalize that. If you know me, you know I’m a passionate person, and you’re able to feel that emotion.”
My name is Mark McKenzie. I’m a black man and proud of it to the core. I’m a human and deserve every bit of respect as my counterparts. I’m a son. I’m a brother. I’m an athlete. I’m a student. I’m a contributing member of society. And there is no reason why the pigment of my skin justifies whether or not my life is of equal value to another. I love who I am, I love my culture, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. Too many of my brothers and sisters have perished from unjustifiable acts of violence against them, with many of these acts committed by the very people supposed to be protecting us. History has repeated itself yet again, as it has been for centuries. But when is enough ever going to be enough? When will the bigots and ignorant finally acknowledge that this country has a problem? When is a hard line drawn and we can come TOGETHER to abolish an issue that has plagued not only this country, but society as a whole for hundreds of years? How do we call the United States the “land of the free and home of the brave” but continuously turn a blind eye to modern day slavery and institutional racism? Ask yourself these questions, take a look in the mirror, and truly figure out where you stand in the midst of all of this. My voice WILL be heard and you WILL feel my presence. Like my mother taught me, “they don’t have to like you or love you, but they WILL respect you.” And I WILL NOT settle for anything less. I understand we are in the midst of a pandemic and I am sensitive to that issue. I pray for healing and peace for each and everyone that has been affected and continues to be affected by COVID-19. But there has also been a pandemic against my people far before this virus, and at the rate we are going, this issue may continue into the distant future. I pray this is not the case and that God allows his peace, wisdom, and discernment to fall over ALL his children. I also pray for listening ears so that we may hear one another on a deeper level, tough minds to stand up against that which is evil and unjust and hate- filled, and a tender heart to empathize and LOVE one another for the people and humans we are. Let’s be part of the CHANGE.
McKenzie, 21, has logged 28 regular-season appearances since signing with the club in 2018. He also made his senior US national team debut last February in a friendly against Costa Rica, following his role at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.
The defender also reflected on locker-room dynamics, and spoke about the social justice and equality issues in stark terms.
“Now more than ever, it’s either you’re with us or you’re against us,” McKenzie said. “It’s not a matter of being with a specific people but it’s being with a specific cause. You’re either against racism or you’re for racism. You either support it or you’re against it. It’s as clear as that. It’s as raw as that.”
For more incredibly honest thoughts from McKenzie, check out the entire piece here.