This isn’t the best-written post I’ve ever made. I’m not sure I’m getting some complicated stuff correct. That’s my fault as a writer and thinker. The gist of it–>listen, learn, grow.
Roughly a year ago at this point in time, you had a lot of stress in the U.S. The obvious is the pandemic and the second full month of things being shut down in most places–and the first whines of people claiming that either COVID is fake and a Chinese plot.
You also have the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky when police came into her apartment blindly firing and looking for someone who wasn’t there. That was May 13th. Of course, that was just three months after Ahmaud Arbery was shot for having the audacity to go jogging as a black man. On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis by a cop casually keeping a knee against his back until he no longer breathed, dying as he asked for his mama.
Discussion of racism (rightfully) wound up in every sort of forum you could imagine whether it was auto racing (Bubba Wallace), food deserts in big cities, college athletics, and even volleyball.
The story starts with a basic discussion of racism with some saying it is obvious, some not having paid attention to the issue, and some denying it existed at all in the sport of volleyball. So I posted a question–can minority coaches share examples of what they face at tournaments?
And…that didn’t go as expected. Hah! Some responded angrily–that I had no right to demand examples. Others thought I didn’t word my question ‘politically correct’ enough (p.c. isn’t the term used–I don’t remember what it was but that’s what popping into my mind as I write this.) Some felt examples unnecessary because any examples would be isolated instances irrelevant to the big picture.
And–as with most internet discussions, tangents immediately broke out. In the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, there was a lot of frustration and anger (rightfully). When you are angry, you can say stuff that you’d take back if you could once you have time to cool down. And sometimes when you don’t necessarily have an immediate stake in events–maybe because it is an isolated event, maybe because of where you live, maybe because of ignorance of the issue…any number of factors, you fail to understand that an issue can be emotional, that emotion is a driving force that for better and worse trumps reason.
So–in the argument, one of the people accused me of being racist. The person demanded to know where I worked, my boss’ name, and his contact information so that he could get told what a racist he had on his staff. So I gave the info. Put it right out in public–because I hadn’t done anything wrong or racist (my assertion was that there’s a difference between something done intentionally and something done from ignorance and that the two should be handled in separate fashion) Instead, I reached out to the person privately–and he responded immediately–and away from other people making silly comments, we realized something: we’re on the same side in what we want.
It’s like George Shaw said, “England and America are two nations separated by the same language.”
In this case, I’m a white guy living in rural, 91%-voting-for-Trump Middle America. The other guy’s a black man in one of America’s ten biggest cities in a 80%-Democratic area. My experience with cops is–speeding tickets. His is (sadly) more extended…not because he’s done anything criminal, but because his skin color is dark. My experience with guns is shooting with ROTC, his is from getting shot at by a racist who didn’t like blacks moving into the neighborhood.
But here’s the thing–we both like volleyball. We both like sports. We have both been (and are) educators and over the course of several days (and weeks), we realized those differences above aren’t relevant to moving forward. I listened to him. He listened to me.
He learned how much I value facts and paying attention to the big picture–that half-truths and stories without evidence do not advance a cause, that when I argue something, it’s after learning as much as possible about the issue. I’m uncomfortable arguing without knowing stuff in advance.
I learned that while knowledge is great–that there are some problems that have gone on too long, that are so ingrained, that emotion and empathy are necessary pieces of the puzzle.
We learned we each had sons preparing to be D-1 college athletes. I learned about his father, one of the first black police officers in his city. He learned that my youngest son is a minority living in a 99.9% white area. We learned we want the world to be a better place, that both of us understand the end-goal of equality. My life is better with this person in it. My understanding of the world is better because of our conversations.
So it goes back to personal growth. It goes back to listening. Are you talking to people to understand them or learn–or is it really just to spout your opinion that you have no intent on changing? (Listening is hard, it’s uncomfortable–and it can force you to face up to mistakes you’ve made or perspectives you’ve ignored/never considered). We reached out, discussed things, and handled it with respect and decency. When I have odd questions–I don’t hesitate to ask for his perspective. Better still–through him, I’ve become friends with a few other people who are happy to discuss issues politely.
Grow! Listen! Stop yelling at others, stop being convinced you are right 100% of the time. If two guys as different as us can do this and become friends–what’s stopping you from doing the same?