National tragedies—the sort that knock you off your feet, leave your chest aching, and punch you in the gut with the implausible fact that America is, in many ways, not the country you once thought it was—are often the perfect time for opportunistic politicians to “prayerfully” connect with Americans. “I am grieving with you!” they say after every mass shooting as if hoping to convince their constituents that they are feeling, hurting human beings and not real-life Scrooges who return to their palaces at night to bathe in tubs filled with gold coins. Usually, we’re not convinced.
While Dan Patrick was busy cancelling his NRA speaking appearance (not because he’s ready to pass gun control reforms, but because he knows the optics of speaking at an NRA event days after 19 children were killed are despicable, at best!!) and Ted Cruz, a politician whose job is to literally discuss politics, was busy persuading reporters that now is not the time to “go to politics,” at least one individual seemed to understand the gravity and rage necessitated by two mass shootings in one week--both of which were aimed at communities of color. Though she’s not a politician (or, at least, not yet), the Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud is one of the few public figures who were able to summon the only correct sentiment this week: “We are trash.”
After Washington won 70-50 over the Atlanta Dream on Tuesday night, Cloud announced that the team would be holding a media blackout. Cloud dedicated her regular post-game press conference time to an impassioned and apparently spontaneous speech as she honored the lives lost at Robb Elementary School and pleaded with the government for action. The guard for the Mystics often speaks on behalf of her teammates, but as she wracked her brain trying to find a singular sensible reason why only American politicians continue to do jack-shit to curb gun violence, she spoke on behalf of all of us.
“This game doesn’t matter,” Cloud said. “The lives that were lost today from senseless gun violence in Texas, at an elementary school…we’re talking about our kids not being safe to go to school and our government is still not implementing sensible gun laws. This isn’t about taking people’s rights away from bearing arms. This is about putting sensible gun laws in so this doesn’t happen again.”
Over the course of her speech, Cloud appeared rightly flabbergasted at how ineffective and numb our politicians seem to have grown to the 214 shootings that have taken place in 2022 alone. She spoke more honestly than 99 percent of the individuals who are supposed to be running this country, but are instead busy bowing to lobbyists and the interests of the ultra-wealthy. She then announced that after her WNBA career ends, she intends to go into politics—not because of ambition or for wealth, but because (like the rest of us) she’s tired of watching the same ambivalent fraudsters play a “political game” with people’s lives.
“How do you even talk about what’s going on in our country? This isn’t even just gun control. This is women’s rights, this is the LGBTQ+ community, this is systemic racism, this is our prison reforms that still haven’t happened. This is the foundation of America,” she said. “I’m tired of pointing the finger at all these different countries like, they suck, they suck, we’re superior. We are trash. We are actual trash. And it’s frustrating…because we can utilize our platforms. We can do marches. We can try to educate people. But if our representatives don’t do their jobs, if they don’t fulfill their oaths that they took to serve their communities, to not line their pockets, to not worry about their own power…what can we do when [we] have corrupt-ass individuals in those positions of power?”
That sort of incredulity feels like the only correct response to the sheer horror that has washed over the country in the last week—that, without government action, will continue to taunt us for the rest of our lives. But Cloud knows that America doesn’t just have a gun violence problem. We have a sickening white supremacy problem, she says.
“We’re talking about lives, we’re talking about 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5-year-old kids. We’re talking about elderly folks just trying to grab groceries…in the only grocery store in their community because why? It’s a lower economic community. It’s a Black community,” she said. “And this was a minority school for the most part. It took the police 90 minutes to get inside that school. It’s a fucking joke.”
Our political system has long been irrevocably broken, but with Cloud as a rising figure on the horizon, there may be cause for an ounce of hope. She pledged to continue speaking out for victims of gun violence. Sick and tired of Black athletes being alone in advocating for social change, she urged the Capitals and the Nationals (“our white male counterparts”) to step the fuck up. As we look back at a horrific week that reignited some of our worst fears, we can take comfort in knowing that when the McConnells and the Hawleys and the Abbotts die out, one day we’ll have Natasha Cloud.