These past couple of weeks have been a terrible stretch of time for our country. With the murder of George Floyd and the renewed interest in the Black Lives Matter movement, there are more and more reasons for we as compassionate human beings to consider what is happening in the world around us. This horrific event opened our eyes to the ongoing issues that people of color (POC) have been dealing with for many, many years.
There have been numerous rallies and protests across the country in big cities as well as small, rural areas. People are taking a stand. People are showing connections with each other to pull together in a show of solidarity to make change. Change for the good. Change for equal rights. Change to make the world a better place for everyone. I applaud and respect all of these actions and pray that they help move us forward as a nation and as a people.
So What Next?
But, it begs the question, where do we go from here? How do we continue the move forward? Protests have been going on for years about these issues as well as others. Racial injustice has been around for a long time – I vividly remember Tommy Smith and John Carlos on the awards stand in Mexico City in 1968, for instance. Sometimes the protests worked and other times they fizzled out and little or nothing actually happened from the voices that we out there.
There are no easy answers to this multi-faceted question. There are so many factors that go into making change on a large scale. One such key is education. And I believe this education should start in the home. Parents of black children have had to give them the talk about the issues they can expect to have to deal with, just because of the color of their skin. On the other hand, parents of white children also need to be to educating their kids about kindness, compassion and empathy toward everyone, no matter their race, religion, gender or sexual identity. Teach them to understand that there are racial injustices in the world and not to tolerate and continue accepting them.
My Childhood Influences
I grew up in a small town that was predominantly white back in the 60’s. At that time, there was a lot of separation of the races and unfair treatment of POC. There was political unrest and protests going on around the country, but our little town just quietly and discreetly separated the black people from white people. There were two streets that all of the black individuals and families lived on, one at the west end of town (Union Street) and another in the central part of town. I’m sure this happened in many small towns across the country.
Growing up, I lived about 3 blocks from Union Street. Although segregation was the norm at the time, I was never told not to associate with the kids on Union Street. I remember many times going up the street to play with my friends. We played football, basketball or baseball, whatever season we were in. We all got along and I don’t ever recall any issue of me being white and they being black. It was never a big deal to be playing with my black friends. We were just friends playing and having fun.
I played Little League baseball for the Giants (ironic, because I was REALLY little back then!) Our team was all white except one black kid. To my recollection, there was no big deal made out of the fact that he was black. Maybe the fact that he was a pretty darn good pitcher might have helped. Or maybe I didn’t hear or see any different treatment he may have received. But the cool thing was that after the game, my mother would open up our humble apartment to the guys after the game for lemonade and popsicles and he was just as welcome as everyone else on the team. Sounds like not a big deal, but back then, it was a huge deal to have a black kid in your house. Looking back on it, it was never a big deal to me or my mom, it was just doing what came naturally in how people should be treated.
Which brings me to my point. My mother (God rest her soul) never had a mean bone in her body. She probably didn’t even realize she was doing it at the time, but she was teaching her young son a life lesson that would be carried on into his adulthood. Be kind. Be empathetic. Do the right thing. No matter who it is or where they come from or the color of their skin.
Seems like such a simple concept but if all of the parents and coaches out there who work with young kids keep these values in mind and teach these values, this would go a long way in continuing to improve our society. It’s one thing to talk about it, but keep educating and living it from early on.
A Message From Totten Training Systems: We at Totten Training Systems, vehemently stand against racism. The last few weeks, have had us stepping back to listen and learn how we can be better allies to our friends and colleagues who have faced any levels of racism, sexism or other forms of discrimination, based on their identities. However, we realize that just listening and learning isn't enough, and that we must also take action. As a company that is rooted in education, we firmly believe that a large piece of the puzzle lies in educating. We don't know the answers but we are eager to continue to have open dialogue with family, friends, teammates and colleagues. It is our intention to continue to constantly reflect and learn ourselves so that we can continue to share that knowledge with others. Coaching isn't just about the sport, its about the people, and that includes ALL of their experiences- on and off the platform. Please read Leo's latest article as he reflects.