Basketball was my BRIDGE - A shoutout against racism and inequality and the lessons we can use as players and coaches
I’m sick of it. I’m tired of turning on the News and watching the senseless hate and violence toward Black people over and over again. The history of our country is a lie, we were taught a lie. It’s easy for White people to LET this go. If we want change we can’t just be proactive right now in the digital world just because it’s a social trend. We have to SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER, CALL IT OUT for the rest of our LIVES. Try to find practical things you can do in your life to educate and expose that it’s wrong.
We use basketball as a platform to teach these life lessons to the younger generation to help equip them for today and a better tomorrow. This has not changed but what has changed is the fact that I’m more passionate than ever on evaluating what I CAN DO BETTER. Is there more I can do to EDUCATE and EXPOSE the BRIDGES to people who don’t know otherwise?
Bigotry and racism has been around for 400 years. There are fundamentals built in advantages for White people and serious stereotypes and oppression systems built in for Black people in our society today. If White America can’t see that, then they are mentally and emotionally blind, in dire need of a serious heart evaluation.
I want this blog to do two things to your life:
- Exposure to truth and change
I feel like I got a small glimpse of what racism was like. You see, I was a white guy in a small middle class neighborhood that chose to walk five minutes across the street, down the road to “the Hood”. In this hood, there was a Boys Club, an outdoor Community Center Basketball Court and various backyard basketball goals. I went there to become the best basketball player I could be. I achieved that, but what I also got in return was that I became the best person I could be.
I learned leadership through my sport. Basketball became my bridge. Here is what I learned:
Lesson 1: If you Want To become Great or Achieve a Goal, YOU CAN'T TURN BACK!
In Basketball: My goal was to start on my high school team and win a State Championship, to then get a College basketball D1 scholarship and play professional basketball. I was 12 years old when I started my journey in the hood. It was uncomfortable, scary at times, and frustrating. For the first time in my life basketball success was not easy for me. I was the only white guy on the court wherever I went. Just because I was different I felt I didn’t belong. I felt inferior and an outcast. I was soft, silent and had thoughts of turning around and not coming back. Again, I was 12 so my emotions and will were immature. But for many reasons I NEVER TURNED BACK. I kept coming back. I kept showing up.
In Life: If you want to make a difference in racial inequality, police brutality and bigotry you have to be All IN. For White America, it’s the choice to stand up when you see it, hear it, and are IN IT. You can’t turn back and not your back when you see and hear of racial injustice. You can’t be part of silence in one room or agree with racist spirit in “one room” or situation and then act another way in support of another. If you FLIP FLOP, you can’t turn back! There are things you can do to HELP!
Lesson 2: My Passion was bigger than the Pain
In Basketball: There was so much uncomfortable pain in the first few years. From 12-16 I dealt with emotional pain. This type of pain kills kids’ dreams because they quit or go to another activity that is safer or their passion is greater. The pain started with the exclusion. I was the last picked on teams or I wasn’t picked at all. I had to wait my turn . There was pain in what they called me, ‘white boy’, ‘cracker’, ‘white bread’, ‘an occasional honkey.’ But the pain was more so not in the words but the tone towards me because they didn’t know me and respect my basketball skills yet. I kept coming back and worked hard at getting better because I think down deep I knew I would get better if I kept working. I had that DRIVE.
In Life: From the African American culture the pain is real. It’s inspiring to me how many of my Black friends and brothers have no bitterness, hatred, or animosity towards the White race but only to the bad people doing these things. Although 1 in 3 Black people will be imprisoned in their lifetime compared to 1 in 17 for white people. The Black people in my life don’t live in fear or let it affect who they are. They chase their dreams and live life to make a difference. Their passion for change and justice is bigger than the past or even current pain they may be going through. If we want to make change we have to be passionate about change. It must drive what we say, read and live daily. The passion has to affect our choices.
Lesson 3: I Got Educated and Dedicated
In Basketball: Man, I was tired of not being good. When I did play I would always get yelled at by my teammates. That made me more nervous, more scared I was gonna mess up, and absolutely less confident. When my man would score, or I had a turnover, or missed a shot, someone would yell at me, “damn man. Come on white boy.” I remember one time John Scott said, “Man go keep swimming, this basketball ain’t for you.” Instinctively, I knew I had to get EDUCATED. And so I went to one of my mentors at the time, Mark Cooper. A Black male (about 9 years older than me). I asked him for the TRUTH. To give it to me straight. How do I become better? Why don’t they respect me? So he gave me advice. All the things I teach now. Get tougher, get quicker, learn how to defend, play with confidence and attack on offense, shoot the ball. So I took that advice, went home and got dedicated. I also sought after my Coaches, David Blizzard and Art Jones. Two Black males that poured into me because they had a HEART. Not a Black heart, not a white heart but a HUMAN HEART!
I practiced harder at home, I changed my diet, I dropped swimming, baseball and soccer too. I dedicated and sacrificed my whole life to basketball. It was family, school and basketball. I became GRIND;
In Life: Education is one of the solutions to racial equality. It’s something that White people can certainly do to help develop some empathy and change. Documentaries, books, inquiring questions to Black communities are examples of how you can make a difference. Then think about ways your life and skill sets can help solve the problem. You can’t help a situation until you can completely understand it.
Then get dedicated to the solutions. It’s maybe an annual kickball, softball, flag football or basketball game with a police force and the Black community, where teams are integrated. Black people and police members are on the same team. They compete and are forced to work together. Afterwards they all partake in a BBQ or picnic. Now that is a great idea!
Lesson 4: It takes Courage to Do What You have to Do.
In Basketball: It took a lot of courage. Why? Because I sought out the truth. I asked for real, no “fluff” feedback. It’s painful to know your weakness. I sought it out in Mark, my dad, and I heard it from my Black friends who I played ball with. I was vulnerable but displayed courage at the same time. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable can produce some of your strongest courage.
It took courage for me to retire from swimming, baseball and soccer. Why? Because I was good at them. I had a bright future in those sports already. To get to a high level in basketball looked almost impossible at age 12-15, I had to work really hard to be good at it.
In Life: It takes courage for a person to stand up for what they believe in. A Black person standing up to abusive authority takes courage. A Black person who may go through racism at one time or the other must still live in a society where they have to find a way to work with White people, takes courage. To somehow suppress the bitterness, anger and demons they face daily takes courage. It takes courage for a White person to take a stand against racial inequality because when they do, they will instantly be judged and ridiculed for doing just that. It takes courage for people right now to stand up for police officers because most are good souls. But the backlash will be exhausting because of the media coverage and the vast amount of police brutality cases.
Lesson 5 - You Can’t Affect It, If you Become It
In Basketball: I needed many things to achieve my basketball hopes and dreams. One of the main reasons I went to the hood to play was to get quicker. To learn how to develop a first step, and to learn how to guard a quick first step. I had to enhance my athleticism as best I could and gain some confidence by playing against older tougher guys. However the one thing I needed to have as a short player was skill, and great decision making. My passing, playmaking, and shooting had to be exceptional. I had to work really hard at creating. The culture I was in, couldn’t shoot but they could score, and games were full of mediocre decision making. So I had to be really intentional at developing the quickness but not becoming a non shooter and questionable decision maker. If I wanted to solve the problem of being a good shooter and “knowing how to play the game” I couldn’t become the problem of the typical player at the park. Most of the guys at my park, couldn’t shoot (especially outside) and did not have a feel for the game. That part of my game I wanted to CHANGE, so I didn’t become what was always around me.
In Life: White people talk about change. They post and interview about change. In Church, they preach about becoming “Salt of the Earth and the light of the World”. If that is the case, you can’t just TALK about the problem you have to DO SOMETHING towards the future solution. To help change, you can’t be a part of the problem. I call it “solution doing.” As a White person, if you really want to make a change, choose or do some of the following:
Real life things my family and I have done:
1) Have conversations with your family and friends respectfully and acknowledge the brutal history of Black People.
– Look up the stats of prisons, poverty, and social opportunities of Blacks vs Whites. It’s grossly disparaging. Just realize THIS, a lot of our white blessings and white privilege we have from the slaves and labor of millions of African Americans.
2) Create Community Outreaches
– visit and attend an all Black Church (monthly)
– attend a diverse Church
– Pray in park with African American church leaders
– Play a sport in the hood or a diverse area
– At Camp, integrate the White and Black kids on both teams
– Volunteer to read or speak at predominantly African American schools
– Be a Big Brother or Sister to a young Black child
3) Make it Personal (Walk the Talk)
– Don’t be afraid to date or marry an African American person. Don’t let the spirit of your family generations affect you
– Adopt an African American child
– Hire multicultural babysitters or nannies
4) Open up Your PocketBook
– Donate what extra money you have to some causes that fight racial inequality
– Create a non profit for change
5) USE YOUR VOICE TO VOTE
– Educate your family, friends and followers to vote on election days for the best candidate that will help Washington pass laws, to make a change. This could be one of the strongest solutions
In closing I wanted this story about myself not to IMPRESS you but to impress UPON you the valuable lessons and solutions we all have to make a change. I learned so much from my journey (and I’m still ON IT)!
We have to focus on a person’s SUBSTANCE not their IMAGE. It’s not WHAT they look like, IT’S WHO they are and WHAT VALUE THEY BRING BY WHAT they DO! Judge that if you want. But educate yourself and educate your kids!
Coaches, we can IMPACT far greater than most people in these kids lives. I celebrate and thank the African American community for their race! I thank them for what they bring and continue to bring to life. One day my race as a WHOLE will realize and appreciate that!
To truly make change, it starts with education of the young generation!
Let’s Keep Getting After it!