Unity /yo͞onədē/ word. – 1. the state of being united or joined as a whole 2. a condition of harmony See also.U.N.I.T.Y by Queen Latifah – the song speaks out against the disrespect of women in society, as well as addresses issues of street harassment, domestic violence, and slurs against women in hip-hop culture.
So, my name is Morgan Burns. I’m From Wichita, Kansas. I’m 26 years old. I guess, a little bit about my background…Grew up in Wichita, have two brothers and a sister. I guess, specifically, my family, grew up in a diverse…what I’ll call a biracial…family. I played a lot of sports growing up and just through sports even had a lot of different experiences. Met a lot of different people, counting people all across the spectrum…ethnically, economically, culturally. With that, I grew up in a Christian home where I think faith played an important role, even in the schools that I attended. I would say grew up in a Christian home, but I wouldn’t say grew up in a church context, like regularly going to church every Sunday. But we had a lot of Christian values and I went to youth group myself. So, that weighs heavily in my background and how I view the world. With that, I went to a private Christian school growing up, which is primarily a White experience. That’s a little about my background…and then I went to K-State, played football there. And then I am currently a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. I’m married with a two year old daughter, and another daughter on the way in April. So that’s me.
Hi. I am Ashley Burns. I am 25 years old, biracial–Black and White. Yeah, I grew up, same as Morgan, as far as a Christian home. I will say one thing that is different is that I had been in private Christian schools all throughout my schooling. All the way from kindergarten up until college and even now, being in grad school, it is also a college that is affiliated with the faith. So, I’ve never really had the experience of a public school in any area. So that has been an area that has shaped me maybe a little differently than the experience of that of my brothers. I’m also very involved in sports, even went on to play sports in college. So that shaped me a lot as far as how I interacted with people. Just being busy and getting connected with different people from different backgrounds. I wouldn’t say different backgrounds as far as faith necessarily.. But that exposed me to different people maybe economically and a little bit racially. And now I am in grad school and I work at Trinity Academy, I work in the office at the elementary school
Hello. My name is Tyler Burns. I am 23 years old and biracial, Black and White, just like my siblings, and went to private Christian schools until college. And then I went to and still am currently going to Kansas State. I play football there. I played and then I quit for a year and then went back to playing. Being on the football team just took around a lot of different types of people with different backgrounds. And I currently work at Chick-Fil A as well as playing on the football team. Which has exposed me to a lot of different people as well…A lot of the younger kids and high schoolers that are trying to work. It’s just really given me a lot of different perspectives And yeah, I currently have a degree in social sciences and with a minor in leadership and American ethnic studies and I’m working towards getting a masters in communication studies.
Beauty in general, as cliche as it sounds, I think has to do with like, the eyes of the beholder kind of thing. People see beauty in different things. I think beauty is as natural as you can get, just cause I think there’s a lot of beauty in what we were born with. Obviously growing up biracial or Black…trying to understand like the meaning behind hair is something that was really important for me. I kind of saw beauty as what was being promoted in society and having the straight, long, silky hair — and I’m not trying to say that there’s anything wrong with that…even women that are born with naturally curly hair, if you want to straighten your hair and if that’s really how you feel the most beautiful or if you want to switch it up and have different styles…I think that’s important…whatever makes you feel most beautiful in your own skin. There’s a lot of power in finding beauty and true confidence in what God has given you and what you’re born with, whether that be your hips, your lips, your hair, all of those things. For me personally, I would have to say, when you are natural and showing joy and just embracing what God has given you.
For me I would define Black beauty in a lot of similar ways as Ashley. I would say it’s just being proud of who you are, who God has made you to be. Not feeling like you have to conform or assimilate in any way of how you look and what society sets as a standard. I would say that’s my standard of beauty of anyone and everyone…of just being, like Ashley referred to, just being proud of like your hair and not being self conscious about your lips or your body or saying, Oh, it doesn’t look like the people on TV. Overall, just being proud of who you are and not feeling like you have to change yourself. And just going like, Oh, this is how I was made and it might be different than a White person that is popular or famous on TV, but I’m still proud of it. This is how God made me to be. And yeah, my hair might be curly, and react differently to certain products…or whatever the case…but I’m proud of it and I’m Black and I’m beautiful.
Yeah, I would say I probably struggle the most with this question, even thinking about a definition. I think what probably comes to my mind in how I think of beauty and even what is beautiful is…I think it’s cool that everyone has their own style and culture and backgrounds they came from. And not just ethnically. Like we can look the same ethnically and racially, but be very different culturally. And so I think it’s beautiful when someone can live out their culture and their heritage based on their family, where they’re from, what time and era they grew up in. Just how every culture and people bring something different to the table when it comes to style and looks. And, specifically being Black, you know, And, kind of what Ashley said, she referenced that to be beautiful some people would say, You have to look like this, act like this…and be very mainstream and like the majority of people in our country. But I feel like I’ve just seen, as I’ve grown up, people who really want to live in their culture, their background, where they’re from…whether that’s be all natural or to be different. I think the beauty of our country is that we have so many different people and cultures and ethnicities. And I love it when we can bring all those together and draw kind of what’s good and beautiful from each culture and just learn from other people. I think we have a lot to offer each other. I really picture like a mosaic or a tapestry of different colors. And that’s really how I view our country. We’re becoming more diverse, we represent a lot of different cultures and ethnicities. And I think that is beautiful. Not just one dominant culture that says, This is how we define beauty, this is beauty. Cause I think that’s hurtful, I think it’s oppressive. And I just don’t think it’s helpful at all.
Initially I would say just, cool. Like honestly, just like stereotypically, I think, like Black culture, like you get a pass of being cool no matter what it is. And I think that’s what a lot of people would think from an outside perspective. But, I would say…Cool, raw, and uncut. I think a lot of Black culture is based around, like, exposing the truth as well, especially in music, just being, in a way like, You know, sticking it to the man…Like, this is what’s really going on in America, and trying to expose the truth. Another word that comes to my mind…entertaining. Which, I don’t know if that’s always something that Black people are trying to do, but yeah, I think from outside perspectives it’s always like, Oh, Black culture’s entertaining, and people try to mimic it.
I would say…Unique. Fresh. I think…vulnerable, creative. I feel like Black people have really paved the way, are always paving the way when it comes to culture and style. I mean, even just thinking about music.. just the role that Black people have played in different types of music from hip hop to jazz…a lot of our music is rooted in African American culture. And then even clothes and what people wear. I’m just thinking through what I wore today. I mean, I wore Michael Jordan shoes, a Jordan bag. And…just thinking about this, the impact that Black people have played in our culture and style…it’s fresh, it’s new, it’s unique. It’s really cool to just see the imprint that some of the people have had.
And I think for me, I think over the years I’ve probably pressed into more of Black culture and Black style. Just with my hairstyle and what I wear and almost wanting to be a little bit more edgy, to be a little counter-cultural. Kind of what I said earlier, that mainstream culture would say this is what it means to be stylish or what is cool. And I felt a part of me wanting to go against that and say that there are other cultures and styles that are beautiful too. But again, most of the brandings and marketing are geared towards the majority. I feel that in my spirit, of like really wanting to press into my…you could say…my roots or Black culture cause I think it has a lot to offer people. It’s beautiful, it’s fresh, it’s unique, it’s something different. And if you just look historically, Black people played a huge role in style across the board, in every area.
Some words that come to my mind…I think just…power and energy. Not so much power as in like, I have power over you, but it’s just power. And like something specifically that I think of when I watch Beyonce’s Homecoming video and just you see all of these Black men and women coming together and collaborating and dancing and obviously there’s choreography and everything, but also there’s a lot of freedom in times and snippets within that video that she just lets people go and you just see that raw uncut energy that Black people, I think they just kind of feed off each other, and something just beautiful can happen. And, obviously, I think that can happen with a variety of different cultures but I think just with the history of Black culture and stuff in America, I think you start from not really having a whole lot and whatever little you did have, just taking pride in that, and having a kind of swag that kinda came along with if you had a lot or if you didn’t have a lot, you can still look like you’re the coolest person in the room because of that pride and that energy that you carry into a room.
I mentioned before, when it came to beauty, the hair piece of it. But for me personally, I’ve really kind of leaned a little more into the fashion, and not necessarily what I should or shouldn’t be wearing, but kind of what is my own? And what does it mean for me to be a Black woman in America? And what does that look like for me when I wear my hair? Whether it be me really styling it or sometimes just waking up and kind of letting it go. And once again, as long as I feel like I have that confidence, I feel like I can walk into the room and still bring a sense of energy. Whereas before, I thought if I didn’t style my hair a certain way, if it wasn’t laying a certain way, then you could just tell that I was insecure and I didn’t feel confident with who I was and maybe what my own culture was. So I think really seeing that and seeing people understand what their culture is, what that really means for them, and finding that power and energy in that.
I think I have a little bit of a different experience. I went to Trinity…Trinity, our high school is like, it’s a middle-to-upper class, White, Christian private school. And so my whole life, I have been an athlete and have been successful and I’ve won awards and I got a scholarship to play at K-State. So, I feel like for me, when it comes to societal pressures, sports has kind of been the bridge that has closed the gap between me and the majority culture. I never really worried about having to find a job in Kansas, because I have a platform…I have a name…I played college football. And so I think that there are some societal pressures that other African Americans have that maybe I didn’t have to think through as in depth because of my background with football and K-State. I was well networked with people because of those things, if that makes sense?
I’d say some societal pressure which I do have is…I’m the only Black person on the staff at the church I’m at. And so I get questions all the time, Well, Morgan, what do Black people think about this? And what they’re asking is, Morgan, tell us what all Black people think or what they would say or give us the insight. And so even that pressure, I feel like I have the weight of all Black people on my shoulders and here I am as the end man to communicate to my staff, what is it like to be Black or what are all the answers. And so I think I feel that pressure. I think there’s a pressure when you’re a minority in a majority culture, there’s a pressure to always assimilate to the majority culture. And so you may have a way of doing things or a culture or a way that you talk and when you’re in majority culture, I felt the pressure — and not that some would come to me and said be this way — but I think there’s an expectation that minorities need to assimilate to majority culture. In how we talk in how we see the world, in how we dress, we need to make sure we get the memo on how things are done around here. And if you step out of that kind of way of doing things, you make it feel uncomfortable. People raise a red flag.
You know, if you start talking about race or this justice issue then people are gonna expect you to get back in line with “how we do things around here.” And I think you see that with Colin Kaepernick when he wants to stand up for something that he believes is right, which in our country you would think that that would be celebrated, cause that’s like what we’re all about…like standing up for what you believe in, freedom of speech. And so, Colin Kaepernick, people flip out when he steps out of the “status quo”, the majority way of doing things. Lebron James, just the whole shut up and dribble thing. I mean you just go down the line of Black people who have a platform…that as soon as they start speaking out about things that maybe rub majority culture the wrong way, they’re expected to step back in line or it’s like, What do you know? You’re an athlete, so why would you speak about these other things? When people on Facebook or social media are constantly giving their opinion about things that they know nothing about. And so I just think it’s really interesting, just the idea that minorities need to assimilate to majority culture. And so I, I’ve definitely felt that.
And even in our church, we’ve tried to work really hard..cause we decided to be a multiethnic church and when people walk in our doors…like, do they have freedom to be who they are and live in their culture? Or do they need to assimilate to how we do things around here? One big thing was, we had a picture of White Jesus up on our wall and someone called us out on it like, Why do you have a picture of a White Jesus up on the wall? What do you think that communicates to a person of color that walks in the doors? And the only picture of a person of color we had on the walls was our ministry in Haiti…was White people helping the people in Haiti. Which is a beautiful thing, but when someone walks in the doors and all they see of people of color is 1) They see White Jesus up on the wall and 2) They see White people helping people of color…and that’s all they see on the walls, what does that communicate about who has power here and what kind of culture we have here? And so I think all of that plays into who has the power, who sets the tempo for how things should be. And, I think a lot of that is changing in our culture and I think a lot of people are really flipping out and terrified about it. I think that’s what a lot of the uproar is about, you know, Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, these people who are really speaking out and have power. People feel uncomfortable and so they’re speaking out, they’re lashing out, they feel shame, they feel guilt and they want to protect what they’ve always had for so long and so they’re up in arms about it.
As far as pressures…when it comes to even just following people, like on Instagram or using Pinterest…Just scrolling and the celebrities that I found and the different ads…and realizing that, yeah, they just don’t look like me. For example, on Pinterest if I type in “yellow dresses”or I type in “braids” then I specifically need to type in “yellow dresses Black woman” or “braids on Black woman” for pictures of Black women to even show up. And then, specifically on Instagram, one thing that I started to do is I went through the celebrities I followed, whether it be for fitness, beauty, whatever…And I just kind of cleared out a lot of people that don’t really look like me. Like, obviously if they’re supporting good things or people that bring me joy and stuff like that, then I’ll follow. But I intentionally started to follow people that look like me, or pages that are talking about things like natural hair. And just so as I’m scrolling through I am constantly — not that you should have to be comparing yourself — able to sit there and be like, Okay, yeah, there’s people that have hair like me or there’s people that look like me and that have skin tone like me and not always thinking, Oh, well, I’m not a 5’10’ skinny blonde model…and I’m just never going to look like that. And I’m not saying that what they’re doing isn’t great, but like I said, you’re comparing something and I was kind of comparing myself in a way that I’m just never going to look like that. Not just the fact that I’m shorter, but my skin tone, my hair. So instead of filling myself with shame, I started to embrace Black culture and try to intentionally surround myself and see people that look like me. So that’s just kind of talking about maybe a little bit the media aspect along with just some of the pressures I think I kinda felt from the media.
The pressure of being Black or being White…Like, you can’t act a color…but I’ve gone to predominantly all White schools my whole life, like even K-State is a mostly White school…And I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, You’re a White-Black person. Which doesn’t make any sense. It’s a ridiculous statement. What do you mean I’m a White-Black person…because mixed? But it’s like, Oh, you don’t act Black enough. And so then it’s like, Well, How does a Black person act? Am I supposed to be like a thug? Or like, sag my pants, say the n-word? What you see in music videos from like, early two thousands is what people think of what a really Black person is. Someone who might have been in jail or something. That’s what I feel like when its like, Oh, you’re not Black. Because, Why? I guess I’m more educated or speak properly? I don’t use a lot of slang, usually, and so, that’s bothersome and that’s like a pressure. Me being Black, I’m supposed to speak a certain way or act a certain way and I can’t just speak how I want to speak.
But then, going to what Morgan said, like, Oh, but if you go too far out of line, then it’s not okay. You have like Colin Kaepernick, or people that have tried to speak up for their rights or maybe then you were too different, it’s like, Oh, Whoa, don’t be, don’t be like that, assimilate more..but then if you assimilate more then you’re not even a Black person anymore. And it’s just like this contradictory, weird, balancing that just doesn’t work and it doesn’t make sense. And even though we’re mixed, it’s still like, Well, you’re a Black person…Well it’s like…I’m just as White as I am Black. And yet, again, it does not matter, the color of my skin. I can act however I want to act because I’m just a human being.
Also I think the pressure really sticks out in me being a Black football player and there are plenty of negative stereotypes of Black football players. Of just being dumb, not being smart, having people do your homework for you, being aggressive, just only wanting to play football, that being your only passion. And that’s something that is in my head. I try to never give into that stereotype. I usually don’t wear any K-State football stuff. They give us backpacks every year and I never wear it. I’ll wear my red backpack that my parents got me…partially cause I just want to wear something that my parents got me, but yeah, I don’t want someone to just see me as like, Oh, you’re a K-State football player and then pinpoint me with all these assumptions of how they think I act or should act. A lot of people don’t even know I play football until they really get to know me, then I might bring it up or they might ask me about it because, you know, they noticed that his schedule. But, I don’t want to make this bad stereotype. I’m almost trying to be a model citizen. I remember our grandparents on our mom’s side…I just remember them telling me…I was eating food at likeTexas Roadhouse or somewhere like nicer…I think I was eating ribs…and I just remember grandpa telling me, pretty much, to make sure I do not lick my fingers…because we don’t need to be looking like that out here and like use the wet wipe…which, you know, I get what he’s saying and who knows….To me, personally, I felt like it was because we’re Black and we need to make sure we’re looking, you know, extra proper out here, not looking like animals. And maybe it was just because he just wanted good manners, it could’ve been that too. But that’s how I remembered it. I was just like, Oh, you know, we gotta make sure we’re looking good out here because we have a standard to set for Black people, especially being in a place where we’re around mostly White people. And so we’re going to be the few experiences that White people have with Black people.
I’ll say a couple…So one, in high school I was in a relationship where extended family was not excited about or wanted me to date someone who was White. They were against interracial dating and so probably that meant marriage too.
And then, a couple of years ago, I had someone call me the n-word, just kind of to my face. I think they were having a hard day and just kind of slipped.
Maybe a month ago I was sitting at a table with one of my good friends who is White and we’re sitting down at a restaurant and I’m wearing, you know, a button up, khaki pants and he’s dressed up as he would to go to work, he actually has a high up job in the city of Wichita, he’s like a VP of like development in the city. And we’re just sitting there just talking about church related things and the waitress comes up to me, she did not hear a word we were talking about…we weren’t talking about anything had to do with basketball, and she comes up and says, What’s going on here? Like, are you recruiting him to play basketball? Is this a recruiting visit? And she immediately thinks that I am some athlete being recruited by my friend, Evan. And we’re like, No. Then she leaves, comes back and she’s like, No, seriously, tell me like, he’s an athlete, right? Like, you’re a basketball player? And then he said, No, actually he’s my pastor. And she laughed and he’s like, No, seriously. And Evan, like, immediately stopped her and said, No, you’re wrong. And then apologized to me for what she said because she was just making a stereotype that I was an athlete and that he only way that we would be meeting together was if he was recruiting me for some type of sport or sports team and what made it even worse than that, she laughed at the idea of me being his pastor. Someone who maybe had authority or who used his brain or at the idea of me shepherding this guy. And so it was just really interesting, that experience. I was actually kind of glad that my friend Evan experienced that with me cause I think it just opened the doors a little bit to maybe what Black people face on a regular basis or what they feel.
The few that kind of like have stuck in my mind…I feel like I dealt with a lot of like smaller stuff growing up. I know in high school we had to do a project and, I don’t know, it was like us getting into groups and we had to present something and the teacher was trying to make it fun and said, Either sing a song or rap, and one of the guys in my group looked at me and he was like, Let’s do a rap, and just kind of looked at me, like, Ok, like Ashley. And I just kinda sat there. And I know that’s not really something that’s really intense racism, but it’s like, Okay, what makes you think that I can rap? Like, like a majority of the kids that went to school with me in high school probably knew more rap music and listened to probably more of the culturally Black music than I did at the time. I’m like, I don’t know if you realize I listen to John Mayer, probably more than that. So I think just small things like that I had to kind of just laugh off or just kind of let it roll off my back.
And then when I was working as an admissions counselor I was constantly meeting with different families every day, sometimes multiple families a day. And just having that job was a little nerve wracking in itself. You’re having to really connect with the families, find out what is meaningful to them, what they’re looking for, and basically you have to learn how to read people really quickly to be successful at it. So one of the families that I had, they were from like a small town and when the mom and daughter met me she had just a kind of look of almost disbelief like, Okay, like, do we shake her hand? You could tell in the mom that maybe she just hadn’t had a lot of interactions…I would assume because of my race. I struggled with that a lot, meeting with families, because I also knew that I was fairly young, just graduated from college. So, I didn’t know if it was a race thing or an age thing. I met a lot of families like that who would meet me and they almost didn’t know how to interact with me. And then, especially when I saw that they were coming from a small town in the Midwest, then I would kind of wonder, Okay, like have they really even interacted with diverse people? And what are they going to think about me showing them around and them having to basically see me as the expert of the school?
And then I had one family the grandma and daughter shook my hand but the grandpa and the uncle, they didn’t shake my hand at all. They stayed really distant from me and didn’t really talk to me. But when I had one of my other counselors go along with me on the trip, they had no problems talking to him. And actually he was also mixed, but looking at him, you would almost think that he was just maybe a darker complected White guy. But yeah, he was Black and White, but he had straight hair he’d cut pretty short and his complexion was just a little tan, in a sense. So I think it’s just awkward of, how do I handle those types of reactions with people that I’m trying to do my job still trying to be professional and treat you guys well, cause in a sense you’re the customer, trying to look at and kind of shop different schools. But it was very obvious that there were times that families just did not want to interact with me and sometimes were more apparent than others. So, just going back to that subconscious thing for me…after having some of those bad experiences, really looking into where these people were coming from and almost having to overshoot like, Okay, let me be extra pleasant today. Let me make sure I’m not using any type of slang or joking around and like making sure that I’m having to really kind of break down those barriers of what they might be thinking of me already.
Or those people who check receipts at Walmart. One of my friends, Sarah, she’s White and there’s been a couple of times we’ve been at Walmart and I’m always talking like, They’re gonna check my receipt, they always check my receipt and yeah, Sarah gets irritated about it Cause she’s like, They never check mine. I could be here with tons of stuff. And they never check mine. Or if she’s with a White man, they might get checked. Who knows if it has to do with how she looks or if she’s just a White female, but yeah, sometimes I’ll have the smallest bag or I won’t even have a bag and I’ll be carrying my two items and they’re like, Receipt please. But, who knows? It could be a chance thing depending on who’s working, but yeah, the odds of that always happening, it just doesn’t seem like it’s just a chance thing.
I had a lady that I liked going into college, and it’s not like it was something really serious, but I had a little crush on her and we’d talk every now and then…and not tons of details to this story…but one week she was just being distant and I was like, Okay, that’s fine, whatever., cause I was just trying to get to know her. And she’s like, We need to like talk. I was in Wichita at the time and so she was like, Just like Skype me, FaceTime me when you get home. I did and she called me and she was crying. She had talked to her parents a little bit about me…and I don’t think she even knew herself, but I think her parents were, like, racist and they were like, Well if you go down that path, you’re not going to have the same opportunities and all those things. And, I was just like, Oh, ok. Honestly, I wasn’t really taken back by it. That’s easily the most direct experience I’ve ever had with racism. Literally just someone thinking badly about me or thinking that you’re just not gonna have as good of opportunity simply because I’m Black.
I would probably start with books. I can name a handful of books off the top of my head. I think one book that kind of started this discussion, when it comes to race and culture and even my story, is a book called “Letters to a Birmingham Jail.” In essence what it is…Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter in the jail of Birmingham and this book is a response to Martin Luther King’s letter by multiple church leaders and pastors. It’s edited by Bryan Loritts and he gathered a diverse group of pastors, from White to Asian to Black, to respond to this letter. That book really started this conversation for thinking about race and my story particularly. Bryan Loritts also came out with a book called “Insider Outsider”, which is his story as an African American pastor in White evangelicalism and how he was brought up in that context and how it impacted him. There was a book called “Stamped from the Beginning”, which is a thick book that tracks through the origins of racist ideas from the very beginning until today. Books by John Perkins have been really influential. Soon-Chan Rah has written a lot of good books on culture and race. Those are a couple of books off the top of my head that have impacted me.
I think there’s been an increase in the culture of movies and shows where Black people are playing the main role. I think there’s been a push for it, and I think you see that in Jordan Peele‘s movies…”Get Out”..you know, he’s known for making Black people the center of his movies with the main roles. So I think those movies were really crucial in some of my processing. I think the whole Colin Kaepernick thing, with him kneeling, and just the division and processing that that’s brought in a lot of people’s lives has played a huge role. I mean, I think Donald Trump being elected president…I remember around that time, in 2016, that it started a lot of discussions about race and difference and culture and even political difference. And looking back, stuff like “The Proud Family” probably played a huge role in our lives. Maybe I didn’t realize at the time, but like, how many cartoons are there where it’s about a Black family where you have a couple that’s married with kids? Like, I think that’s pretty rare. I probably didn’t realize at the time what that did for me. Same thing about “Fresh Prince”, probably play that role. The Cosby Show, probably played that role. Now, people probably mourn that show a little bit, just with everything going on with Bill Cosby.y. Those are a couple of things that come to my mind.
For me, I don’t think I really realized how much I wasn’t exposed to when I was younger. Just with going to a practically all White private school and growing up like financially…we weren’t really high up but we weren’t really hurting for money…what you might consider growing up in the stereotypical White culture. I don’t think I really realized it until I got to college where I think I was embraced and hung out with more Black people. So therefore I was exposed to having more conversations maybe realizing what my own thoughts were and how they’d been shaped by how I grew up and my mentality of what I thought Black people could do and couldn’t do was just the exposure to people and the timing of shows for me. Like “Dear White People” (2017, 2014), “Blackish” even just the recent show that just came out, “Mixed-ish”. Some of those shows are giving a voice and maybe talking about stuff that has kind of always been there, it just hasn’t always been talked about.
And that might be more of a personal thing, like if I grew up in a more diverse setting, I may have been exposed to some of those things and talked about them sooner. But I think on a social level, you’re kind of realizing, yeah, Black people are starting to get those voices and people are starting to talk about hair and rights and maybe just the small little passive racism and things like that that’s happening…Not saying that it hasn’t been there before, but it’s just giving it a voice. And even with me, specifically in my field, wanting to be a marriage and family therapist, I kinda got joked about, Oh, well yeah, you know, you’re not Black because Black people don’t talk about their feelings. And I think that has kind of been a stereotype for a lot of Black people, kind of growing up not feeling like they can really talk about their feelings or they had to be tough because they went through so much stuff historically. Rarely complaining, it’s just kind of, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep pushing on. Or if you do deal with stuff, it’s done through humor and comedy. And that’s what you see with a lot of Black comedians and stuff. But I think, just like I said, recently you’re seeing a little more of that softness. And seeing even some Black male characters show softer characteristics. It’s not always the hard Black men in the projects. You’re seeing men like Cliff Huxtable or Andre in Blackish. Just having some of those types of dads and showing that in the media is showing people a different side of Black people and even Black people themselves, if they haven’t had that thing, showing them what they could be and maybe realizing it’s okay to feel those certain feelings.
I think of like pop culture things…A song, which the song is by a White man, his name is John Mark McMillan and it’s called No Country and he didn’t even want to release the song cause he’s like, I’m a White man, I don’t have a right to make the song, but he ended up releasing anyway. And he’s just talking about being a person who feels like you have no place to call your home or your country. That song kind of resonates with me. I’ve felt that plenty of times…like the football team…like guys that are, I guess, full Black and where they’ve come from… It’s like, Oh, you’re not Black enough. You’ve got to almost prove yourself to be Black enough. And like, how do I prove that I’m Black enough? Like that’s just who you are. And it’s just a weird concept and dynamic that people are balancing all the time. I think it’s kind of funny and kind of stupid too. Because, people just like lose their identity because of those things.
Musically, I think a lot of hip hop speaks to the issues of our country, like Donald’s Glover / Childish Gambino…obviously the song, “This is America.” Like he’s just coming after the whole system of America and how minorities just have it difficult and there’s a lot of reasons for that but maybe they’re not always talked about. But we can kind of mask it up and cover it up through entertainment. We just talk about it for a day and then we just move on. Like Morgan brought up Colin Kaepernick and he’s like, No, we’re gonna keep kneeling, he wasn’t just going to move on. Cause yeah, if he went back to just playing football then everybody would forget and be like, Well, it’s whatever. And some people are like, Just do your job, and that’s a ridiculous view. Why would you not use your platform to share what you believe? Then you have organizations like Nike. I feel like Nike is usually on the forefront of just being progressive and like, Yeah we’re gonna stand up for these topics that are maybe controversial, and they made Colin Kaepernick like a head man for their for their brand and their commercials. And I remember when their commercial came out…It’s like, Taking a stand when it means giving up everything…and shows Colin Kaepernick. I remember my whole class had long talks about that, that took up whole class periods in college. And that’s someone that like sticks out to me I think sticks out to my generation and probably will for awhile, even if it’s in a positive way or negative way. He just made people talk, made people more aware of things such as police brutality or that there is a gap between Whites and Blacks.
And like what Morgan said, like Jordan Peele or just comedians in general. I think they bring awareness by just making jokes and making people laugh and maybe people don’t think about what they’re laughing about. But it’s sad that the jokes they’re making are true. I know we all loved the Chappelle show and Dave Chappelle would just make fun of stereotypes all the time. Or even flip the stereotypes and be like, I’ll put the White person in the Black person shoes and the Black person in the White person shoes. And you see how ridiculous it is and it’s laughable. But, in all reality it is sad that it’s laughable. Yeah, I see a lot of comedians just share that through humor on television or through stand up comedy, such as Dave Chappelle or Chris Rock or Key and Peele.
Maybe to piggyback a little bit on what both Morgan and Tyler said, as far as maybe almost feeling like you need to be like an ambassador for your race when you’re meeting people, especially when it is people that most likely or not interacting with or having diversity in their life. So for me, now working at Trinity and meeting people, trying to make sure I’m pleasant, make eye contact, shake hands. I think a lot of that comes naturally because of how I was raised, but I’m almost hyper-vigilant of it because I’m thinking, Okay, yeah, maybe this is the first time that they’ve really interacted…Or…They could be thinking, Well, who is this little Black girl just sitting at the front office? Like, How is she interacting with my kids? What is she really like? So, that small amount of time that I’m interacting with them or joking with them, that’s on my mind, the racial piece.
One of the books that I read, “Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria”, it kinda talks about how you may have a White coworker that always shows up late or that they’re always loud or chews with their mouth open…and people just chalk that up to, Oh, that’s Amy…Oh, Jessica’s just like that, she’s always running late. But when it’s a Black person doing it, it’s like, Gosh, Black people are late. Or, Oh well, you’re kind of fulfilling the stereotype, Or, Wow, Black people are always loud…and that’s not always the case…And if you do fall in that stereotype, then it’s like…damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So if you do happen to be a Black person that likes rap music and likes watermelon, then it’s like, Wow, like you really fit that stereotype of what Black people are. But then at times I would be around Black people and then all of a sudden, God forbid, I’d play Mumford and Sons and then they’re like, Well, what the heck are you listening to? Because that’s too White. I’m not being Black enough.
So just the constant kind of voice in the back of my mind telling me, Okay, well, what’s okay around these friends? Or, Okay, well these White friends will understand it, but these White friends won’t. Or, They know me well enough or they don’t. Same thing with Black people. Like, Yeah, they get me enough. Or, Yeah, they kind of came from the same upbringing as me, so they understand what I mean. But if I say it or listen to this music or make this reference, then they look at me like, Wow, that’s really White of you. Or, Wow, like you’re not Black. And even when I tell people now that I went to Trinity, it’s just that automatic assumption of, Well, so you come from money, you were kind of basically raised with a silver spoon in your mouth. And that wasn’t necessarily the case. Like I mentioned earlier, financially, you know, it’s not like we were necessarily always hurting for money and we were pretty fortunate, I would say financially, in just being able to go to Trinity and everything, but there were some different hardships that we had to go through.
And I think a lot of times, it was probably more of that subconscious racial stuff of people assuming that you can or can’t do stuff. And, like for me, going to Sterling and taking a swimming class, it’s like, Oh, well the stereotype that Black people can’t swim, and here I am one of maybe two Black people in this swimming class, and here I am saying that I can’t swim. It’s just an additional pressure…Not only can I not swim, but now I’m basically telling all these people, that maybe don’t interact with Black people a whole lot, and I’m kind of confirming that the stereotype might be true. It just goes back to feeling like I am an ambassador. So anytime I interact with certain races and stuff, that’s kind of what they’re taking away from it. So yeah, I think that is what I would consider to be like a pressure that maybe your average White person is not necessarily happy to think about the racial factor…Not so much what people are gonna think of them, but racially this is why they’re going to be thinking this.
One, being a pastor to the local church and preaching God’s word. Shepherding people, discipling people, walking alongside people. That’s what I feel called to. And then even more specifically, I feel called to the multiethnic church. One of my mentors, Bryan Loritts, he’s the president of this thing called the Kainos Movement, which wants to see multiethnic, multicultural churches be the new norm. That’s what the Bible paints a picture of: a multiethnic, multicultural church. The Bible knows nothing of a homogeneous church. So that’s why I feel called to now. Right now, I’m in a context where we have some diversity trickling in our church but ethnically, the majority is still White. But, we have a lot of diversity culturally and economically. And so part of my role is leading change and leading discussions on being in a city and a country that are becoming more diverse. How do we create space and lead our people to think about diversity and difference? What does the Bible have to say about that, how to think about culture and what’s going on in the media?
So I’d say something I’m proud of in what I’ve been doing is I’ve seen a lot of people grow and take steps in thinking about race and diversity. People who came from backgrounds very different than me and who, you know, five years ago, would have never thought they’d be where they are. They have really grown and their eyes have been opened and they’ve been exposed to things that they’re thankful for. and I feel like I’ve been able to play a role in that in preaching about race, teaching a class on diversity, and just asking questions and challenging people. So, I think that’s something I’m thankful for or something I’ve been able to see happen.
So I guess in my broader story, for those who don’t know, you know, I signed with the (Tennessee) Titans out of college and then felt called into ministry. So I left that and came to Wichita and then I’ve been at City Life church ever since. In the process I got married, been married for three years and then have a daughter who will be two in February and then another one on the way, another girl, in April. And so yeah, something I’m proud of is being a husband and a dad and and then a pastor, in that order of importance, the way I see it. And then I’m also, I’m pursuing a master’s. I think education is really important…having a piece of paper nowadays is important, but also I just think growing in my mind and thinking. And I think maybe Ashley said something about this, but just as a minority, being someone who pushes their mind, pursues education, and maybe not fit the type of mold that may be in the back of my mind…it’s not my primary reasoning, but it’s in the back of my mind.
I have a great family. I have a great job. I’m at a good place. I feel like personally I’m always learning, growing. And specifically in Wichita, I’m thankful just for my support and I’m just well loved in Wichita. I would not be where I am without people in my life and my family and siblings.
I would say I am proud of the education piece, as well. I think just the hard work ethic, that I think all of us, but specifically talking about myself, I think have. I think a lot of that just has to do with how we were raised, going on to college, and almost not really seeing college as an option. That is a little bit of having gone to Trinity and the people that were around, with it being a college prep school and being the nature of Trinity being that most of the students were going to go to college, or that was the goal. Where as, I think you, Chandler, you probably had a little different motivation to get to go to college. And I think…you kind of set the stage…the fact that we’re seeing our older sibling go off to college and just kind of assuming that was the natural course that, Okay, after high school, college was going to be happening.But then hearing you kind of talk about it…that was something that you wanted to kind of go and do your own thing. Whereas for me, yeah, I think it was just kind of natural, almost.
And seeing the difference when I got to Sterling about how some people…I would say probably a lot of it had to do with where people came from geographically, but also even racially…Sometimes I would see some of the guys that got to Sterling’s simply because they were playing football and money might be an issue…or they were failing a class because they didn’t really see the importance of going. And I look back at myself and just being proud of the work ethic. Like, even if I wasn’t in love with the class, I was going to go. Just knowing, Okay, I need to wake up, go to the class, get a good grade. And I kind of held myself to those standards. Just wanting to do well and knowing that, Okay, even if I didn’t get a hundred, I’m going at least try to do my best or at least get an A or B. So as I got older and into college…trying to set goals for myself to get a 4.0….and trying to motivate myself even though it wasn’t necessarily required of me. I wasn’t aiming for like any additional academic scholarship, I already had one. You know, some people get motivated for money or for the accolades. But I think for me it was just like, Okay, I think I can do that, so let me try to do that.
And then going onto grad school, applying and then getting in. Now that I’m a semester in, just being proud that I’m actually in it. Hoping to reach my goals of being a marriage and family therapist, eventually. So I’m proud of that. Proud of, being able to be around a variety peoples. And still choosing to change my mindset and kind of see the world differently. My worldview is kind of changing by being around different people, but also holding myself to certain standards where I can be around people that might live certain ways or do certain things and if I don’t think it’s right, I don’t feel like I’m necessarily going to judge them and I can be around them, but I don’t feel tempted or persuaded to do what they’re doing. So, I think the way I was raised and the people, like teachers and friends, that I’ve had in my life have set me up to see people for what they are and not just maybe something that they’re doing, where other people can quickly write people off because they’re involved in certain behaviors. So just feeling accomplished that I can love people the way that I think that they need to be loved. I see that as an accomplishment cause I know some people see the world as very dark and untrusting of people and just write people off quickly.
Well, I think number one, graduating college. Especially being from a family where both my parents and didn’t get to college, I think that makes me more proud. I think it’s a testament to our parents and the hard work they put in to give us the opportunity to get to that point. I guess I’m proud of myself, kind of all of us, for not giving into societal pressures or even pressure of our parents. Like I’m proud of myself that I did quit football for a year, I think it was really good for me. I think I’m proud of everyone for kind of doing something that our parents maybe didn’t like. I’m just proud of not just doing what everyone expects me to do or wants me to do, but just what I’m passionate about. It’s not like I’m passionate about something that’s off or harming people, it’s just different. So yeah. Proud of that. Not to like worship being an individual…but just not being all into sports, but like, I love musicals and music. I’ve got a lot of friends who are in band or other things that just aren’t just one type of person or just all in on football. I think I could exist in different circles, or at least have a little something to say when it comes to a lot of different things.
And to add…just the people I’ve surrounded myself with. I’m proud of the friends that I’ve made and chosen to put myself around. I think they’re very caring people, they put other people first, very loving. I think that’s something that comes from the family, I’ve put myself around people that are similar to our family or, at least, could get along with our family. Personality, humor-wise, I’m also proud of just the relationships that we have as a family. So even though they could always be probably more in depth, we probably do a better job than most families and I think get along and have a good time when we are all together. So yeah, I’m very proud of our family and probably the most fun I have sometimes is just when we’re all together.
Yeah, so I desire to be a part of a multiethnic church that’s truly multiethnic. Sociologists will say that a multiethnic church is where 30% is minority and 70% is majority, sociologists say that’s where the culture begins to shift and change to where minorities feel at home. And so I just desire to be a part of a church like that, where people can come together. I would say a goal of mine is just to continue to grow in preaching and communicating. People ask me, Do you want to be a lead pastor? I’d be open to it, but if I can do a role on a staff where I’m just preaching and not the lead pastor, I’d do that as well.
You know, I thought in the back of my mind about would I ever do more education, past a masters? And I think in the back of my mind I would. I think for me, I have to think a little bit deeper on what’s the purpose? Because I want the letters before my name? Or is it because I really want to accomplish something personally? Or is it going to be helpful for my profession as a pastor? So I need to think a little deeply on that. I think I just want to continue to grow as a person in my character. I think a lot of people I see do a lot of good things, but then never become the right person. And so, always wanting to be growing in that area. I think we have a desire to continue to grow our family. We’ve actually talked about adopting, maybe in the future. That is a question that Kelsey and I are probably going to process and think through. Other than that to be a good husband, be a good father, and if I get to the end of my life and did those things well, then it was a good goal for me.
Yes, I am in school to be a marriage and family therapist, so that is my goal as of right now. I obviously am open to it changing…it could be 15 years down the road and I might get placed somewhere else or this degree can lead me down a path that I’m not even imagining right now…But looking back at our family and the family dynamic, I think we got along really well together. But, some topics and the way that maybe we communicated or things we didn’t talk about and how we handled our emotions…even though I think we have acknowledged that and are starting to work it a little better or I guess a little more…With me going into marriage and family therapy, that’s kind of my goal — to help other people come to a compromise and realize, Okay, these are unhealthy patterns, and breaking people out of that. So kids aren’t growing up just doing the exact same thing that their parents are doing. Or parents feeling like they are poor parents and why is their kid acting this way. And a lot of it might be because of how their parents raised them. So kind of breaking those patterns down and figuring out what’s really going on and not continuing that cycle of brokenness. Learning how to communicate with people effectively and helping other family systems.
Hopefully, a goal would be to get married and have my own family one day and raising my kids up in such a way that they love themselves, they love other people. And even if I didn’t get married…or have kids…or got married and didn’t have kids..or adopted kids…I don’t know what my family system may look like…even if it’s just being connected with a good friend group…I still want to do that. I still want to cultivate a community where people can feel like they can come as they are, express what they’re feeling in a healthy way, and just have that type of community. And when people are reaching their goals that you can be excited for them, keep pushing them, keep them accountable. And when they backslide or don’t know what to do, then you’re kind of walking along with them and that. So I want to do that as an actual job, but also in my own little social circle I want to do that in their lives, I want to be that person for them.
For me personally, I don’t believe I for sure have a “dream job”. It doesn’t necessarily define, like, what are my goals as a person. But, growing up I always really looked up to the teachers or my youth pastor, I think…just adults that were directly impacting students and kids and people. Personally, just having a degree in social sciences and all the classes that I take pursuing a masters in communication studies, all my classes are about studying people, cultures, just interacting directly with people. And so I think, personally, I have a goal of doing something that’s mentoring people or just positively impacting people and helping them find their voice, being an advocate for people. Whatever the case is, whatever people need.
But, hopefully it’s working directly with numerous amounts of people in different kinds of ways. I know that can be seen as kind of vague…but yeah, I want to be like the pastors, teachers who have a number of people, but maybe you can spend one-on-one time with people, in the church or you can actually impact your students depending on how much time and effort you put into that. I think that’s a hard thing to do. But I think it’s one of the most important things we can do as people and I don’t think that people take the time and effort to do that…like loving people well and understanding them is hard and it takes a lot out of you. And if you don’t have a good community that’s pouring into you, then that can just be exhausting. And, yeah, people just want to quit and that’s probably why turn over’s so high in teaching and other settings like that because people are difficult to deal with sometimes and maybe no one’s helping build you up. But, something I definitely want to pursue in my life and just really be invested in loving people the best way I can, no matter what that looks like.
This maybe shows some of the privilege that I have…My wife and I, we decided to move into a neighborhood that maybe some people would not choose to move into. Some people would categorize it as more dangerous. It’s specifically an African American neighborhood. And from what I’ve seen…I wonder if this is true of most African American neighborhoods, specifically poor African American neighborhoods in the country…Just a lack of resources. I can drive for blocks in my neighborhood and all I see are liquor stores, pawn shops. There is just very little development in some of these neighborhoods. And so what I’ve thought is…how many kids in these neighborhoods, when they want jobs…if they don’t have cars and they don’t have transportation… and they need to travel to the other side of town to get a job…And if that’s too hard for them…then what other jobs can they get into? You know, that’s where gangs come in, that’s where drugs and all this stuff comes in. Because…what’s accessible to a lot of these kids? Why aren’t cities developing some of these neighborhoods? And creating resources for specific neighborhoods, for specific people?
Something I’ve seen in Wichita is that we’re a very segregated city. Resources go to specific parts of the city, which typically are in White spaces. And I just think there’s just a lack of resources. A lot of this is just a lot of systemic issues that people just don’t talk about, that are rooted in slavery and Jim Crow South…and families being broken up because of slavery…and in the great migration, weren’t allowed to get certain jobs, couldn’t get education…And so all of that, I think we still feel the ripple effects today. And so, how do we correct what our country has done, systemically? And I think that that’s a question that I’ve seen very few people be able to answer well and have a good answer for. I think that’d be interesting discussion or something to bring light to. And a lot of people would not even agree that some of these things are even still issues or have an effect on us today.
I think this is a loaded question cause I think there’s a lot of different things that minorities and, specifically talking about Black people, have to face. Cause we’ve talked about cultural stuff, issues, even the idea of Black on Black crime, colorism, and kinda like the Black community kind of going against each other. But I think, for me, the first thing I kind of thought about what might help and kind of propel the Black community is just education and just the way we view being educated. I think that stereotype of as, Oh, well, you know, you aren’t really that Black or You’re a White-Black person. And I think a lot of times it has to do with…yes, the music that we listen to…But also how we talk and carry ourselves. And people often connect the educated piece to being White. It’s almost as if they’re associating those good educated qualities with only being a White quality. And there have been times that I have been on FaceTime or on the phone with some of my Black friends and then you would hear one of their friends in the background, or a mom, or their dad, or someone be like, Oh, I thought you were talking to a White girl. And I had a friend that was living in Louisiana and one of his girlfriends made that comment like, Oh I could have swore you were White just based off your voice. And then she kind of caught herself and she said, Well you sound very educated. So just kind of going back to the way that Black people in general see education and not putting that White label on it.
The same way, I’m not crazy when people say, Oh, well, you sound ghetto. Like that’s just, maybe, where a person is from and a lot of times ghetto is associated with Black or poor. So, just once again, those good and positive traits and stepping out of the circle of, Oh it can only be White choosing to value education. And if you have a kid that gets to college that is of the Black race, pushing them to stay there. I’ve had so many friends that went to Sterling that they would go for a couple of years, and maybe they’d only have a year or a semester left, but because financially they didn’t want to take out more loans, they would just stay in California and they wouldn’t come back to Sterling. And I know a lot of times there’s other things that go into the bigger scheme of things that I don’t see…It can be family stuff…But sometimes it would just be financially and my mindset would be, Okay, you’re already this far in debt with loans. You might as well at least finish and get a degree and have something to say for it. Or if anything, don’t go back to the community that you’re in and fall into the same habits. I also had a lot of friends that would move to Sterling and they’d be from places like California or Arizona or Texas. And you would wonder, like, why are they staying in small town Sterling? Or, why would they move to Wichita when all of their family…or they have the beach…and all these other things back where their home is. But the reason that they chose not to go back was because they knew that they were going to get back into the gang life or they were just not going to get a job and they would have this degree but be stuck working at a corner store. So, not saying that you can’t go back to the community and get involved, but I do think it’s really sad to me when I see people that get some of the education, but maybe because of the way that they will raised to view education, or the way that when they go back home and it’s not really encouraged for them to finish up school, or if it’s other people that also Black that are getting them to involved with drugs, or just getting in a small job where you may not really move up. Like, it’s a steady job that you know you’re going to be getting money in but they’re not really fulfilling their goals or their dreams that they wanted to when they initially went to college, their stuck working in a factory or something like that. I’ve literally guys that, that’s the kind of job that they’re in, and I just know when I saw them coming in as freshmen or sophomores, they had dreams to be a coach or to be an athletic trainer. And because of just the people that they surround themselves with and the people that they’re going back home to, within that culture, they’re just not acknowledging the value of education. So I think once that happens and when Black people as a community in general start pushing each other and start elevating ourselves, then I would be really interested to see where the Black community in general will kind of take that switch and that turn, instead of just those few people here and there, kind of making it out…If a majority of can just kind of elevate themselves, I think that’d be really awesome experience to watch.
Minorities, you know, are usually the ones that are living in ghettos and just how America is set up, it’s not always easy to make it out. Even if you might make maybe a little more money than the last generation of your family. And, a lot of times when it comes to trying to fix that…People that are higher up and are in power need to make a move to do something about that. They might need to lose money to bring those people up or kinda come down to their level. I don’t know if people aren’t educated about it or just don’t want to do it, but that’s just something I wish people were to be doing. Just like realizing that and really resonating with people’s minds and hearts. Cause it’s not so hard to see. You don’t look in the ghetto and see a ghetto for White people. So, I feel like that is something that sticks out to me and I just wish people would realize that…yeah, segregation, slavery, all those things, are not that long ago. And that still impacts heavily now because it wasn’t that long ago. Hopefully you see that impact of segregation and slavery less and less as we get further from it. But, we’re still pretty darn close to it.
I think for me, when I think about justice…in the old Testament the word for justice “mishpat”…and when we think of justice, we think about people getting what they deserve. So if you steal something from a gas station, then you should get, be punished for it…Justice to me, not just to me, but in the old Testament, is this idea that everyone has been in God’s image and should have an opportunity to flourish. And so, talking about justice in the Old Testament…Israel, God’s people were commanded to look out for specific types of people that were easily pushed to the margins. And so over and over again, you see these groups of people: you see the foreigner, the orphan, the poor and the widow because of that. In that society those people were easily pushed to the margins and taken advantage of. And you could plug in multiple different names and categories of who’s pushed to the margins and has opportunities to flourish. And so for me, I just want to see in society, opportunity for all people to flourish and thrive and have opportunity to make themselves be successful, to have jobs, to have a family, to have a meal on the table, you name it. And it just breaks my heart when I drive down streets and we have a lot of homeless and people are just denied or don’t have the everyday necessities to flourish. And so, I would just love to see a society where people, especially cause we live in the richest country in the world, I would love to see us change our mindset from trying to have as much stuff as we can to, like Tim Keller says, to disadvantage ourselves to the advantage of others.
My goal, I think, for society would be two fold. So, I think my first thing would be for people within my generation, so like gen-Z and millennials, to really do something. I think based off of what I know, what I see people post and talk about, that I think people are starting to understand like, Okay, yeah, we need to be good to people. We need to make sure we’re doing the right thing. And not judging and being accepting and being aware of stuff is going on around us. So I think people are aware of it…But then I think because of all of the extra fluff and the technology and everything. Our awareness is there, but our doing is lacking. You’ll see people post like, Oh, well I believe in this cause…or…I do this. But it’s like, Okay, well are you really getting out and doing? And physically getting your hands dirty? Or do you spend more time configuring your posts and your captions and scrolling through other people’s stories? Instead of saying, Okay, I’m going to take an hour and work on this and help my community and better that. I think financially, it’s just giving and realizing what we need and what we don’t need. America definitely is a very driven society of, I need this to fit in. Like, when you see all the people make the posts about oceans and things like that, but look at what people also still putting their money into as far as clothing that’s coming from sweatshops, really looking at that kind of stuff. Like you don’t see a lot of that kind of stuff posted. You see pictures of turtles with straws and plastic, but you don’t see the pictures of people in factories and kind of what that looks like. So I think as a society, just really valuing people.
And I know also a lot of times, people that have a love for animals, are quick to post something and people feel very sensitive towards, Oh, a dog that died, or, Animals are dying in the ocean…but then we’ve just kind of become desensitized to, Oh, a shooting has happened. And like, how do we really rally around that? It’s normally the families of the people that were lost and maybe wherever that certain event happened in that city. And, Okay, well how can we maybe raise money for the family that has lost somebody? How can we make awareness for the stuff that’s going on around us and stop this from happening? Not just saying, Oh, well it’s sad that it’s happened and that shouldn’t happen again. But really looking into that more for longer than just the week or two weeks that it’s trending. Like, actually looking into it…this is a pattern. This is something that’s happening. And for me personally, I see that mental health aspect of it. It’s like, Well, let’s look at what’s going on and…the people that are doing the shooting…let’s look at their lives. How can we prevent that from ever even being an issue? Not so much…Well this has already happened, What do we do with the kid? What do we do with the man? It’s like, No, let’s try to figure this stuff out so this stuff isn’t happening. Doing it to better the people, not just, Oh, how can I get more money? I think really being focused on having a community that cares and puts people first. I think it’s kind of my final statement.
My dream for society, particularly America, sure, but plenty of other countries too… But for us to break the mentality of like kind of like, Look out for yourself. Like, look out for others but don’t do it if you might be losing something…or make sure you’re always gaining and always making more money. And just doing our best to look out for everyone else around us, even if we don’t get something out of it. That would involve a lot of trust, and yeah, people might break that sometimes.
Some people would look at me as like a socialist or however political way you want to look at it. Like, Don’t tell me what to do with my money or Don’t tell me how to live my life. And I understand that and I respect that. But I just wish and dream for society to just have that want to care for other people and to just love other people. Because I think the outlook of like, Oh, this is my money… Yeah, you probably worked hard for it and you just want to hold onto that so tightly, You have all this money that you make or have…like when you die you can’t take it with you. Why not do your best to impact those around you? And I understand saving up money, but you can also save and distribute, and help others at the same time. Yeah, I think if everyone did that, the whole society as a whole would be in a lot better place…less homeless people…People would just genuinely be happier…and there’d probably be a lot more trust, because on a normal basis people would be helping others out and not just being like, Oh, I can’t trust you because my wellbeing is my first concerns…And yeah, I know that’s a big thing to ask the people..and safety is important….all those things. But just to support others above themselves. More times than not.
Some people would feel very uncomfortable with this, and it’s very small, but who in your life is someone that is different than you, ethnically, economically…that you don’t know very well…but maybe rub shoulders with or you can ask to lunch or ask to coffee and just begin a discussion. Asking questions, listening, and not trying to change a person, to allow them to shape your worldview. I’m a big believer that change is not going to happen, without relationships. Martin Luther King said multiple times that, we can change laws but we can’t change hearts. And so I think heart change happens on a relationship level. And people might say, I need to pursue someone just because they’re Black? And yeah, it might sound weird to say it just like that, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. Who’s someone different than you that you can learn from? And just build a relationship with them, cause I think that would change the posture of most of our hearts and how we view things.
Yes. My first thought I think would just be intentional. I think a lot of people, at least within my friend group, that I’ve seen, I think are starting to see the pitfalls that technology can bring and seeing that, Oh yeah, I’m spending so-and-so amount of time on my phone, and I’m not being involved with the people that are around me. And I think once people stop looking down at their phones, stop spending so much time looking at…your cat videos and your memes and all of those things that people spend so much time on…not that they can’t bring joy or that it can be entertainment, but looking at limiting our time on social media. Or even being more aware of those books that talk about the pitfalls and feeling all the anxiety and the hurry of what technology and stuff have brought to society. So, I’m starting to see those steps with people so I’m hoping that is happening more than just within my friend group. That people are learning to set your phone down, put those time limits on, and just be with those around you. Cause I think that will not only help people learn how to have more conversations again. Talk about what you’re going through emotionally and what’s going on around the world. And even getting people active and moving around and all of the things that can follow just by opening up that time and not feeling like you’re always hurried and needing to be on your phone. So, I think there’s a lot of things that can get to the goal, but I think if everyone in the world that had a phone cut their time in half, for those that have social media, then I think the world would be a much better place. Because I think other things will start to follow.
For people to get out of their comfort zone. Get out of just like knowing the same types of people. I think that’s what gets a lot of people into the mindset of always thinking the way they think is right and not seeing other people’s perspectives and. If you’re only around people that look like you, think like you, et cetera, then you’re not going to feel any compassion for other people. You’re not going to know other people, you’re not going to understand any of them. You’re not ever going to be thinking about these other people because the only people you think about is other people that are just like you. And if you actually knew this person in the ghetto, whatever they might look like. Or this immigrant…Yeah, you’re going to feel a lot more compassion for others and, Oh, these are, these are good people as well, they’re just different from me. They’ve had maybe different life situations and you’re willing to hopefully be more inclined to want to help in some way. Or, I think even have more hope and faith in people being good because I think it’s easy to have a negative mindset or stigma upon a set of people…say homeless people. You’ve probably never talked to a homeless person…If you go and talk to homeless people…not having to go and serve them or give them stuff…but just actually just talk to them… Yeah, a lot of homeless people probably aren’t these aggressive, awful people. Like they’re probably totally fine people. Maybe had some bad luck. There probably are some situations where people aren’t always going to be the best people, but that’s in every ethnicity, every case. But yeah, I think that’ll show you like, Oh, there are good people in every sort of living environment and I could be helping them out. I think as we get older, it’s easier and more comfortable doing the same thing everyday,mundane thing, instead of trying to experience new things which would give us more compassion, more perspective, more understanding.
Yeah, I think it’s easy as a minority person to just live a bitter, angry life. And I think many minorities would wipe their hands clean of White people, cause they’re done with them and saying, They no longer have control over me and then live in bitterness and anger. And I think if you live in bitterness and anger, you’re allowing White people to still dictate your attitude and who you’re becoming because you’re becoming more bitter, anxious, and angry. Martin Luther King talks about, and he gets it from scripture, that darkness cannot drive out darkness. And so, if we’re frustrated at the world or at this group of people and we want to respond in hatred or bitterness, change is not going to happen that way. And so he said, Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only light can drive out darkness. Only love can drive out hate. And so I think I would say we need to have endurance and patience and choose love instead of anger and bitterness. Cause I think for truth…in anger and bitterness and hate, we’re not going to like the people we become. And I think it’s hard because that’s us choosing to be the bigger person and sometimes that’s really hard.
My advice would probably be — it’s like a theme in what I’m saying — would be to break patterns. Being educated about stuff that’s happened in the past. Which, I feel like the majority of the Black community is pretty educated or is aware of, but then not getting stuck and thinking, Okay, well this is just how it’s going to be. I think I’ve also seen a lot of people that, even though there has clearly been a lot of stuff set up to where Black people have the disadvantage, like that’s very apparent… But I’ve seen a lot of bitterness and hate towards White people from some Black people. Where they don’t trust them. And not necessarily that you have to go off and like be best friends with all White people or anything along those lines…but it’s like trying to break patterns and trying to figure out, Okay, well what can we, as a community, do? Instead of putting all of that pressure on that one talented kid in your family that is going to go to college and maybe play a sport and make money so the rest of us can get out. And instead if it’s like, No, let’s try to all focus on education and let’s try to not encourage the poor behavior, not to this keep happening. And not just saying that, Oh, well it’s because we live in so-and-so community and that’s just what happens when you live here. That’s probably a lot easier said than done…when I think about people that are heavily involved in a community that has a lot of gangs and drugs… I think it’s easy to say, Oh well, you know, just get out of that lifestyle. It should be easy. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot more to break those patterns. But I think if all Black people, in general, were kind of on that same page, instead of, Oh, well how can I get out? Or how can I make the money? How can I do this? And how can I get these people working for me? And it’s like, Well, no, how can we all work to better our community? Make the community safer and then educate ourselves? So I think it’s just unity within the Black community. I think for the most part, Black people get along pretty well, but I still think that there’s still a little bit of, Oh well I don’t like this person, or, Well, she thinks that she’s better than me because maybe her mom went to college or ,you know, They got out and they don’t live in this town anymore. So I think these kind of little nuances can put the Black community against each other. And when we’re not working together it can be even more difficult, with the hand that we’ve been dealt to begin with, as the Black community. So yeah, I think that would be my piece of advice, just work together in this, as a team, breaking down those patterns.
Yeah, Black people, get to know people who are different from you. I think it’s easy to just stay with people that look like you or that act like you. And I don’t think you’re going to grow and understand people from being with people who are just like you. And, I think in some ways it doesn’t help with any stigmas, the stereotypes. And I don’t think that anyone’s trying to be racist in any way, but if we’re not going out and branching out and meeting people that look different from us…Then yeah, you might have these people of a different ethnicity, all White people or whatever the case is, that are like, Oh, all Black people are staying together. Then it’s gonna in turn make it harder for people to be more comfortable and get out of their comfort zone. It goes both ways. I think everyone does a poor job of that a times and then that gets us trying to answer all these questions that we don’t know how to answer because we don’t know anyone different. Assuming answers like, Oh, what do White people think about this? And you don’t know any White people. Or like, Oh, what do Black people think about this? And you don’t have any friends that are Black…And you need to have more than just one friend that’s Black. I think just never being afraid of new experiences or thinking that your knowledge is like the only knowledge or the best knowledge.
I would say read books by people of color. So read John Perkins, read Bryan Loritts. Read. You know, there’s a lot of these people you can read, so read the different authors about their experiences. The reality is, for me personally, I grew up learning about our country’s history…which in my school it was primarily White America..And so I grew up learning about three or four African Americans.. It was Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington, you know, the three or four people that most people could name, but then past that there was just not a lot of education about Black history. And so, I think very few White people have been forced to learn about Black history the way that minorities have been forced to learn about White history. And so I think reading, educating yourself is important.
I think the relationship piece, like I said a few minutes ago, Who is somebody in your life that you can grab coffee with, regularly ask questions to, listen, and not try to change? And I’m not saying you don’t partake in meaningful dialogue where you push back in any way…but I think many of us go into the discussion already thinking, How can I change this person to be like me? And so, I think they need to have the position of learning and listening, and stepping into someone else’s shoes.
I guess last thing, maybe I’ll say is…In what way can a White person put themselves in a context where they’re a minority? And so most minorities know what it’s like to be the only Black person, only Asian person, only Hispanic in a room, only woman in a room. And so are there settings where you can displace yourself to be the minority? So go to a Black church, go to a Black owned restaurant or a neighborhood, or somewhere where you’re the minority. Where you’re the only White person or White couple in a space and see what it’s like. Take note of how you feel, how uncomfortable you feel. I think that’s an important experience that would shed light to what a lot of minorities feel on a regular basis.
For me, I think the biggest thing would probably be just surrounding yourself with people that belong to minorities, whatever that may be. Specifically I know we’re kind of talking about Black lives, but even if that means people that are Hispanic, or people that speak a different language than you, or come from a different socioeconomic status. So just all of those different things and putting yourself where you are a minority in a certain culture. And then asking questions, not to defend yourself, but just to listen.
I think I have found myself or put myself in situations where I ask questions, wanting to learn. But then I will respond saying like, Oh, well let me also defend myself. And I think sometimes, the majority culture, White people can ask a question, but then they try to sit there and defend, Oh, well you have to understand that this is why they probably did this. And it’s not necessarily saying that what they’re saying might not be true, but why are you really asking the question? Are you asking the question so you can defend yourself so you don’t feel as bad? So the minority culture doesn’t look at you as that bad of a person? Or is it you asking them the question so you are able to empathize or sympathize with the minority culture? And realize, Oh wow, this is what you have to deal with when you’re dealing with police brutality. Or, This is what you’re having to deal with when you go into a store and you’re being followed or you go into a beauty store and there is a very small section of products that are made for your ethnicity and your race. So it’s just looking at those types of things that I think the majority culture and the White culture don’t always understand unless you ask those questions.
One example I can think of was..because of where we came from financially…where Grandpa, mom’s dad, came from financially…He came from a big family and didn’t come from a whole lot coming from Arkansas, but made something of himself. He was set up financially pretty well and was able to put Mom and Uncle Walty through a private Christian school and give them a good education. And he was able to provide to where his wife, Grandma, did not have to work….So, I think with me having that history and coming from our family…and seeing mom always work hard and valuing education and helping us with our homework…I kind of took it as, Oh, well, you know, like if Black people are struggling, like you just have to work hard…And I made a mistake talking to one of my friends, talking about socioeconomic status and how Black people can fall into these patterns. And saying like, Oh, well I was just fortunate to where I have parents that worked hard… and he kind of cut me off and was like, Well, don’t say that. And luckily I had a good enough friendship with him where he didn’t get offended, but he did kind of stop me and say, Hey, if you say that around someone else…like you realize what you’re saying? And of course in my mind I’m like, Well, my parents worked hard, what are you talking about? But it was just that assumption that, Oh, so because there are people…maybe they’re single moms or single fathers and they three or four kids and their kids aren’t going to private school and they’re working three jobs just to put food on the table and the oldest kid is getting a job as soon as they were able to work and help babysit and take care of the younger siblings because the parents are out working and has to be grow up really quick…So with all that being said, me making that comment, it was almost saying, Well, someone that’s in that situation, they’ve just got to work harder. They aren’t working hard enough. And yes, I think you have some of those success stories or those people that can get out or get connected with the right people or get started and stuff. And so I think it’s easy for the majority culture to sit there and look and be like, Oh, well he did it so that means all these other people aren’t working hard enough or you’re just lazy or whatever reason…and just kind of write Black people off in general. And I think if you really sit there and, like Tyler said, look at the history and realize why these people may be set up to be in these low income neighborhoods with the schools that have less resources and getting stuck in those patterns and then it’s really difficult to get out. Just realizing, Okay, what does privilege really look like? And I almost think it’s difficult to really take away race and when talking about this, but yeah, if you were to take away race and just say, Okay, what were you born with that you did not have to work for? And how has that made your life easier or more difficult? I think kind of having those conversations with people and realizing that you are meeting these people that are coming from minority cultures who are hardworking. They’re good people. They’re very smart. But, because they were born where their parents were divorced or didn’t have a lot of money or they were born into a town where the school system was terrible and there was a lot of crime… all of those things are set up to make life a little more difficult and to cause additional trauma and cause more stressors. And yeah, if you’re so worried about your safety or what you’re gonna eat the next day, like you don’t care about what you’re learning in school.
So I think when you start having those conversations and breaking down those barriers, it’s easier to sit there and make some of those names have some more meaning. Like, when you hear about that kid that got shot by a cop and it’s like, Oh, well, you know, he probably did something bad or like, He was in a bad place at the wrong time, or He did he run away …or whatever…But it’s like…Why has he been taught to runaway? Or, how come his family had such a bad experience that he has been taught to fear the police for whatever reason? And, giving that name meaning, It’s not just a name…it’s this kid was 15, he was a baseball player, he loved math, he played the trumpet, like those things that make Black people people and make them human. When you just kind of say their name and see their face on the news, some of that stuff is stripped away. But when you really start seeing, Black people interact with each other and you see, like those phrases like “Black boy joy” and like “Black girl magic”, just some of those things come through when you’re really around them. And if you’re not around that, then you don’t realize what’s really going on when that stuff does happen or when there are things that are unfair that are going…then it’s just, Oh well, you know, that sucks for them. Like, no. That’s a family, that’s a kid, that’s a dad, that’s a mom. That’s somebody. So I think once you start having those conversations and knowing those people, then a lot of those issues will just slowly start to..to not necessarily fade away..but people that do not have voice, those people in the majority will give them a voice because they have that power.
I’m not going to repeat exactly what I said last time, but I will double up on what I said the last two times. Knowing people that are different from you. But I think also you can know your history. Go and embrace the history of America, like all the history, and not just the parts that teachers have taught us, which does not include everything always. And embrace all different types of histories. Some will share the Black side, some will share the White side. Some are biased, some aren’t. So, I think that’s important for White people to see. I don’t think some people realize how really unfair and how awful it was. And how big of like a gap was created because of slavery, segregation, and all those awful things that a lot of America was built on. Yeah, I think that when you can now go and meet people that are in bad situations just simply because of the color of their skin and you start to understand more.
If you can meet other generations of Black people, they can tell you firsthand. And I think that’s even more meaningful than from a book because sometimes it’s like, Oh, well, I don’t know who wrote this book, and then you want to be skeptical. But when you can look at a person and you can really feel it in their heart and their soul…that this was messed up and this person went through these things and you can see this person’s a good person…They didn’t deserve any awful things happening to them…It’s simply just because of the color of their skin…I think that can really build up the passion for people and understanding.
Yeah, People with stories and voices probably do more than just someone sitting down and reading a book. Which, that’s unfortunate cause books should be doing a lot more and a people should probably invest more in those…More times than not, hearing a person’s story I think can affect people more. And yeah, sometimes that still doesn’t do it and that’s just people being stubborn and maybe not wanting to believe that America is not right. And I think that breaking down the mindset of like, just because this is America and we’re the most powerful country and you we stand for all these good things..like, America won’t always be right, hasn’t always been right. And that’s true and that goes beyond just the race things. I think it’s easy for people in general, but I think especially White people are like, Oh America, they stand for what’s true. But, you know, sometimes America has done awful things and that’s just the reality of it. Sometimes the people that are in charge, they’re human beings and they’re going to mess up and make bad decisions or be corrupt or whatever the case is. Yeah, you have good people there too, but I don’t think we can always trust that every 100% of people in our government are always trying to do what’s right.
Interview Date: January 5, 2020 & January 8, 2020
Day 15 — Story posted on February 14, 2020