As mentioned in my previous blog, I have written a book titled The Journey of an Old White Dude in the Age of Black Lives Matter: A Primer, which will be published in May of this year.
That begs the question, “Why did I write this book?”
I’ve asked myself that question often. I know I am putting myself “out there” for backlash and criticism. Many times throughout the process, I felt tremendous self-doubt. I’d ask myself, “With all my white privilege, who do I think I am trying to reach with this? What do I really know about this stuff?” In the end, I decided that silence wasn’t an option. I had to see if I could make a difference and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same.
There are many books that cover these topics, most written by people of color. That is as it should be. But there is only so much that Black people can say to white people about these issues. At some point, we must create a little extra space for white people to talk about these issues directly with other white people.
While I may not be as qualified as others, particularly people of color or professional diversity trainers, to write about race in America, I have meaningful experiences. I enjoyed a long and reasonably successful career as a basketball player, which resulted in All-State and All-American honors and a year as a professional. Basketball culture is Black dominated. Thus, I often found myself in positions of a distinct minority. I had to observe and negotiate the mores, subtleties, and nuances of an unfamiliar culture to succeed as a player and teammate. That was because my Black teammates established the team rules and mores. In all other situations in which I found myself, white men made the rules.
Later, as a college athletic administrator at both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Southeastern Conference (SEC), as a non-profit administrator of Music For Everyone, and in books and numerous writings and essays, my work centered on access to educational opportunity, particularly as it applies to POC. In the case of college athletics, it was the educational and economic exploitation of the Black athlete, and with MFE, unequal access to music education opportunities for underserved, mostly minority populations.
I also felt compelled to write this because, at my core, I am an educator. I come from a family of educators. My father was a high school teacher, my mother worked in the school system, and my sister is a teacher, as is our son. As an educator with a Ph.D., you work hard at researching, gathering, and analyzing information to better understand and place what we learn into a broader context. The more educated we become about various issues, the easier it is to educate others. You do that because increased knowledge of history, theories, and facts brings increased understanding, empathy, tolerance, and, hopefully, action. It also produces increased familiarity and reduced fear of the unknown. I believe that my life experiences, coupled with my work in reading, researching, and contemplating these issues, will benefit others and move the needle of progress further along.
My hope is that this book strikes a spark of realization and enlightenment and possibly inspiration for other Old White Dudes. There may also be valuable material and insights for young white dudes, white women, and perhaps even some POC. Hopefully, the discussion that follows will contribute to a wider and more informed community dialogue.
To start that process, I want to call your attention to a couple of previous blogs that will give you a small taste of what is contained in the book.
Additional blogs relating to the book will follow in the weeks and months ahead.
We are all on a continuum regarding awareness, knowledge of, and commitment to, social justice. For each of us, it is a highly personal journey. My hope is that wherever you are on that continuum, reading this book will help you move along that path to impact, in a positive way, your understanding of and commitment to this cause. At the end of the day, there is no way any of us Old White Dudes will ever fully “get it” regarding what it means to be Black in America. But that does not mean we don’t have a responsibility to make an effort to better understand it. But more important, to do something . . . anything . . . large or small . . . to “make it” right.