A personal perspective of racism and inequality
Runners: take your mark, get set and go!
In a track and field race, runners start at the same line and run the same distance.
The race begins with the firing of a blank handgun, that’s also known as a starter pistol, and the fastest runner is declared the winner.
Have you ever wondered why a gun is used to start a race? It’s loud, easily heard by everyone and a simple way to signal the start of the race.
Like the gunshots that start track and field races, there have been loud, widely heard racial gunshots over the decades that signaled a different race: the race to defeat racism and inequality. Among those “gunshots” were the murder of Emmett Till, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rodney King beating and the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Has America truly started the race to defeat racism and inequality, or were those loud shots simply a false start in which everyone was called back to the starting line?
The greatest source of frustration from these “false starts” in which the gun is fired and a clear call to action is sounded is that Black America runs the full 100-meter race only to turn around and see that the rest of society decided they weren’t ready to start. You cannot fathom the frustration and exhaustion that accompanies a tragic circumstance…running with all of your might…not being greeted at the finish line with any recognition of a well-run, completed race.
The sound of Emmitt Till resounded within us, and we took off straining for the finish line, but there was no lasting impact. We retreated to the starting line, and water hoses were turned on defenseless protestors as the country watched. Everyone ran to the starting line and declared there must be change, but again the race was incomplete and aborted. Time after time, Blacks have run for our lives only to find that the value of our lives didn’t generate the impetus to lasting transformative action that it should have. And now, quite frankly, we are utterly exhausted that we must start the same race at the same point where we’ve stood time and again.
The Shot Heard Around the World
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black American, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. A White police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd was handcuffed, face down on the pavement, begging for his life and saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
Runners: take your mark, get set and go…
That shot heard around the world has led to a first in my own life. I believe the race has finally started because, for the first time, I’ve had White friends ask me, “What can I do to help end racism?” At first, I didn’t know what to say, but after being asked by a number of White friends whom I know sincerely care, I gave their pressing questions some intentional thought.
I finally had my answer. “Just listen with an open heart, feel our pain, hear our cry for help, see the hurt in our eyes and be the HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) we need to level the playing field and start a new race where everyone’s race is the same distance.
When and Where will the Race Begin?
America has been trying to start an important race – the race to defeat racism and inequality in this great nation – for more than 400 years. The starting line has not been the same for everyone competing in the race, and the distance to the finish line has not been the same. With people of all ages and races now addressing tough questions and asking what they can do to enact change, we have hope that those inequities will narrow and that eventually – eventually – the starting line and the finish line will be the same for everyone.
Bo Porter, Former MLB Player, Coach, Manager, Executive, Broadcaster, Author & Publisher
My Perspective as a Black Man
I am a Black man who has been racially profiled and discriminated against on so many occasions that I conditioned myself. I have refused to allow racism and inequality to stop me from running my race. I’ve run with vigor and pressed forward on my journey despite the walls and barriers placed around me, and I’ve been able to do so because of the champion in me.
Some Blacks fall victim to using racism as a crutch that immobilizes their ability to persevere, which consequently minimizes their chances to accomplish the greatness that awaits. Their own actions perpetuate the very systems Blacks HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) White people will change for the betterment of all people.
Here’s the reality:
- Racism is our country’s biggest sin.
- Racism is wrong.
- Racism is not fair.
- Racism is not good for society.
- Racism has divided our country.
- Racism creates an unequal economic earning capacity for Blacks.
- Racism places Black people at a distinct disadvantage for access and opportunity.
What are You Willing to Do?
Knowing is half the battle. The other half of the battle is being the change you wish to see.
To other Black people, I ask you to stand up and take whatever others are willing to give, and then make that work for you and for those in your sphere of influence. The traps and minefields are plenty, but we must do our part to heighten the level of attention to the wrong that exists among our oppressors. The only way that’s possible is to educate yourself and others on the minefields, roadblocks and barriers out there so that you can position yourself to make more informed decisions.
The Starter Pistol
Racial tension is at an all-time high as people of all races collectively reflect on George Floyd’s last breath – the breath that fired like a shot from a blank starter pistol to start a race based on race.
I believe people are basically good, which makes me wonder how racism and inequality can still exist in America. As people of all races are starting to have open, honest conversations that can lead us to an equal starting line and finish line, we must identify if there are still those who are stuck in neutral or moving the finish line even further back. Will progress be made, only to realize that the finish line has been pushed back, further minimizing the likelihood of the oppressed to finish the race successfully?
These are issues and questions we must each ask ourselves, regardless of skin color, political beliefs or opinions about social issues.
It’s impossible to finish a race without starting. In fact, the finish line immediately gets closer once you start. I HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) my perspective and thoughts herein will help all Americans get started today.
Did You Hear the Starter Pistol?
Some point the finger at this race or that group as those in the best position to implement actionable solutions to defeat and dissolve racism in America once and for all. But if we rely on just one race or one group, then the starting line and finish line will never be equal. Time will tell who wishes to participate and who will be stuck comfortably in neutral.
The real track stars in this race are willing to give blood, sweat and tears, and they’re also committed to giving their time, talent and treasures to a race that’s not for them, but for us! And at the end, when the race is run from the same starting and finishing points for all, “us” will no longer be “Black.” Rather, it will be the collective “us” as Americans. We will all win because we will all benefit.
It’s time to start the race and level the playing field.
The Final Lap or the Stretch Run?
The encouragement we see and the HOPE (Helping Other People Excel) that we pray will be quenched in the race before us is that everyone seems to be genuinely interested in finishing this race.
And let me be clear: This is not a race for Black America. We are not asking anyone to take up a “Black cause.” We at long last seem to be realizing that systemic racism is not a Black problem after all; it is a humanity problem by which we all suffer. America is better when all Americans thrive and when all citizens have the same access to the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Today, more than ever, we need impactful leaders who empower others to reach heights they never thought possible. We need our leaders to expand their capabilities, move outside of the transactional space and venture into a transformational space that focuses on actionable solutions and opportunities for all people to achieve what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech unequivocally outlined on August 28, 1963.
I greatly anticipate the day when freedom and justice for all rings true in every corner, crack and crevice of our beloved republic. To reach that blessed end, we must all – and I do mean all – run the race that stands before us.
The shot has been fired from the starter pistol and heard around the world. Will you respond with action or apathy?
Runners: take your mark, get set and go!