Lessons from a sit-down with the athletic department of a major, state university:
Minorities, especially many young Black men, are coming to school angry. They come in feeling they are victims, that the white man wants to keep them down, that the police want to kill them and that the cards are stacked.
Can I blame black men for feeling this way? No, but my sentiment is not based on anything having to do with the truth of those assertions. Rather, it is because he himself is a victim not of discrimination but of the conditioning to perceive it.
When I went to school some years back, there were many young black men, but anger was not an adjective associated with them. What has changed?
The blame: it goes to the purveyors of untruths which create hate and division. So, let’s break down the reasons Black men might feel a particular way.
Are these young men angry because:
They live in a nation where the average income of blacks is higher than anywhere else in the world?
They can get an education AND play a sport at the collegiate level that very few get to experience?
They are heroes to many a youngster of all backgrounds and fans of the university in general?
They are respected and held in awe because of their talents and work ethic?
They are the beneficiaries of actions taken by parents, grandparents, and others who helped pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make sure legal discrimination would be overcome?
They will have more opportunities to reach their potential in this nation than any other nation on earth?
They live in a country that started a worldwide abolitionist movement?
More white men and women, by far, fought for their ancestors’ freedom than fought against them?
Or, might these men be angry because they are being lied to and believe:
Police are hunting them?
Most, if not all, whites are still racists?
They are entitled and should be treated differently because they are marginalized?
“Systemic racism” is real and teaches them, “No, you can’t do it or won’t be allowed to?”
They are the victims, and whites are the oppressor?
The deck is stacked because white supremacy is still the status quo?
That everyone else has it easier?
Readers, life is sometimes not fair, but it’s not all due to race.
In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a good angel who wanted his wings helped change George Baily’s perspective from one of doom and despair, even suicide, to one of elation and thanksgiving in a matter of hours!
How did this happen?
George’s perspective was changed in a way that was more enlightened to the truth than he had been before. He recognized how good he had it and how blessed he was. This change was not only good for him but everyone in town, except the hateful, opportunistic Potter.
Yes, there were still negative aspects to his life that he would like to change, but he saw the truth as only one, lovingly corrected, can see.
George Baily had his good angel to teach him the truth and change his perspective before it was too late, I’m glad to say.
Where is ours today?
Or, instead, is our angel today encouraging George Baily to jump — instead of jumping in to save him?
Everyone has a right to his perspectives and sentiments. But, when falsehoods or partial truths skew perspective, perhaps there ought to be something more than affirmation, validating, or empathizing—a dose of truth-telling, for example.
No, these young athletes don’t know more than you do. Yes, they may have different experiences, and some may be very harsh. Some may have legitimate reasons for being angry. Still, if their attitude can do nothing positive for them or others in their midst, intervention is required. This intervention is education.
The education may start with MLK’s message that we can’t judge each other by the color of our skin. Then, it could continue to be taught that people today are not responsible for the sins of the past, we have made great racial progress in this country, we have a shared history of struggle and triumph, and most people are cheering for and wanting the best for their fellow countrymen, no matter what color they happen to be born.
Yes, young people need correction. Heck, older people do too. When someone sees the world through a lens of negativity and victimhood, perhaps trying to change it isn’t a bad idea. Instead of validating a bleak outlook, perhaps we can change that lens we are looking through.