To the black and white youth of America,
On my first day of kindergarten, we stood in a circle and said the Pledge of Allegiance. The teacher asked everyone to hold hands. When I reached out to my classmates, no one would touch me. No one would hold my hand. At five years old, I looked around the classroom and I immediately knew the reason.
I was black and everyone else was white.
My high school experience was unique because I was a star athlete. While my classmates respected me, some of my opponents from other schools still held my race against me. In football, players from other teams would sometimes call me a N***** after they tackled me and in basketball, some fans from other schools would taunt me with racial slurs while I warmed up for a game. I was offended, but it never caught me off guard. This was and still is customary as a black kid and man in America.
Now, you may look at me and see a successful black man: a graduate from a top university, a first-round NFL draft pick, a 12-year NFL All-Pro, a Hollywood actor and a CEO of a tech startup.
You may say racism didn’t impact me on my journey. But that is far from the truth. I just so happened to have athletic skills that allowed some to push racism to the side because I benefited their team, city or bank account.
Even with my status, when I am pulled over by the police it’s not just an annoyance like it is for someone who is white. For me, it could be a life-or-death experience just like it was Philando Castile. He was shot and killed in front of his girlfriend and her child during a traffic stop while his girlfriend says he was just reaching for his license.
The police officer that killed him did not even go to prison. He was acquitted and paid nearly $50,000 as part of a separation agreement to end his employment.
Black people are even hurt or killed by the police in their homes. Recently, a 28-year-old woman, Atatiana Jefferson, was shot through her bedroom window by a police officer. Before the shooting, her family says she was playing video games with her eight-year-old nephew. As we await more answers, the police officer who killed her was arrested for murder but released hours later on $200,000 bond.
Her story comes on the heels of the trial for Botham Jean. Jean was shot by an off-duty police officer while eating ice cream in his apartment.
The police officer who killed him received a 10-year sentence with eligibility for parole in just five years.
Instinctively, I have extreme anxiety about the police as the aforementioned stories are just a couple of examples that show me that the justice system was not set up to protect black people. It was not set up to protect me.
Black people in America statistically don’t receive the same treatment or opportunity as white people. That does not mean that if you are a white child, you have to grow up feeling sorry for black kids and if you are a black kid you don’t have to feel like woe is me. But this is the society you inherited.
Whether you are a white kid or a black kid, racism is not your fault. It started long before you or I got here. However, it is up to you to make sure it’s not here long after we are gone. All of you can help dissolve racism.
Instinctively, I have extreme anxiety about the police.
Here is how…
First, we need to start over. To do so, we need to look back at our history. You have to know where you have been to know where you are going. Slavery is at the root of racism in America. If you study the atmosphere in which slavery was cultivated, it will give you a greater perspective on the racial dynamic between black and white people in this country.
A part of the problem is the current curriculum in most schools doesn’t efficiently address black history. It gives us a couple of cool black people that were assets to white culture and then focuses on men like Thomas Jefferson. Schools teach us that Jefferson is one of America’s founding fathers. He even founded the University of Virginia, where I received a great education. What schools failed to teach me as a kid was that he was a slave owner, housing my ancestors on the same grounds where I ultimately attended classes and starred on the field. Therefore, he is no founding father or hero to me.
I didn’t learn much about African-American or African history until I searched for it either in college or in the last 15 years through resources online. I realized that black history didn’t start with slavery. Black people have a global history of greatness that started long before coming to America. Brilliant inventors and royalty are just a part of black people’s lineage. Africa is the richest continent in natural resources. From its food to its music, African culture has a worldwide influence.
Even though you are just kids, you need to venture outside of your classrooms and your schools to learn African history as well as real American history. Go to the library, go to YouTube or listen to podcasts. Expose yourself to the accomplishments of black people while also acknowledging the ugliness of our country’s past. It is important that all of you, black or white, understand that there is so much more to black history than what you’ve probably been taught in school or you have seen on TV.
Secondly, be unafraid to talk about race.
Sometimes white people ask me, “Why does everything have to be about race?”
What they don’t realize is that America was built on race and racism. It has been intertwined in nearly every aspect of our society since slavery.
Some white people will say, “Well, slavery is long gone. Let’s forget it and move on.”
The problem is the damage has led to deeply-rooted systemic and psychological effects that are still very much alive and prevalent today.
So while some white people are tired of talking about race and racism, trust me, black people are even more tired of talking about race and enduring racism.
But an open dialogue is necessary for change.
The other day one of my white producer friends said, “It’s hard being a white man in America right now.”
I initially looked at him like he was crazy but then I decided to take it as an opportunity to have a meaningful and educational conversation about race.
If you are white, you might be uncomfortable asking questions about race. It’s OK if you don’t know about a black person’s experience, but to solve the problem we all have to talk about it. We have to be open to listening and trying to understand each other’s circumstances, so we can be more aware and compassionate.
Regularly, I post on social media about black love and black excellence. Some people have called me racist because of it. That’s not the case. In reality, I am trying to encourage and empower black people to love and value ourselves and to realize we are not inferior like we’ve been told and treated throughout American history.
I want you all to understand that honesty is not racism. It’s OK to speak the truth and it’s also OK to ask about the truth. The acknowledgment of race doesn’t perpetuate our problems, dismissing or ignoring that there are problems is how racism thrives.
I also hope you speak up, not only for yourselves but for each other. Even as kids, whatever your race may be, you can take a stand. If you see someone using racial slurs or mistreating someone because of their race, help them. Live your life with dignity and courage, by not only supporting what is right for you but rather advocating for what is right overall.
A lot of successful people with large platforms won’t talk about race because they are afraid of the backlash. They are afraid it will hurt their careers or their businesses. I always say integrity over income. You get a dollar, you spend a dollar. Your integrity is here forever.
That’s the way I live my life. That’s the way my parents raised me. And that is why I am writing to you right now.
I want you all to understand that honesty is not racism. It’s OK to speak the truth and it’s also OK to ask about the truth.
Lastly, don’t think because you have friends of a different race you are not capable of being racist.
As a former star athlete, there are a lot of white people who call me their friend. They treat me with respect and acceptance. However, I will go out with a friend who is black but did not play football and right in front of my face, those same people will talk to him differently. They will judge him differently.
That is racism. Those people in all likelihood like me for my status. What if I never played football? I might be treated just like my friend. The way I see it is disrespecting my friend is disrespecting me.
Never approach someone with preconceived notions of their character, their ability or their background. Be kind and respectful to everyone.
Understand, all white people are not racist and not all black people are criminals. When you meet people, give them a chance and take the time to get to know them as individuals instead of buying into stereotypes.
To end racism, we have to treat everyone equally and fairly. While it is a simple concept, it’s not easy to execute.
Racism today is a byproduct of years and years of inequality and mistreatment in this country. But I believe in you and I believe progress can happen.
See, the day I first recognized racism, in my kindergarten class when I was five years old, was also the day I realized how we can all fix it – by reaching out our hands and doing it together.
We can be the difference,
Thomas Q. Jones
About the sponsor and the charity:
Since 1981, Race Forward has brought systemic analysis and an innovative approach to complex race issues to help people take effective action toward racial equity while catalyzing community, government, and other institutions to dismantle structural racism and create equitable outcomes for all.
Alison Epperson is donating $100 dollars in honor of the first 100 shares of Thomas’ letter. The Unsealed will match the donation if we get 100 new Facebook followers and 100 new subscribers by 10-19-19.
If you want to support Thomas and his message you can also donate to Race Forward.
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I have learned over my Fifty-Eight years of life, and more specifically over the last 10 that FDR's words about fearing only fear itself ring true; to me, they do, anyway. And, at the same time, how the words of the 23rd Psalm comfort me and my abundant faith in G-d allows me to fear only fear, knowing full well that He is always with me. Growing up in a Non-Orthodox, yet Observant Jewish family nicely brings both together and not only makes me feel more protected but commands me to believe so. You see, I have lived a different kind of life, as we all have to some degree, but mine changes daily. Not that I am ANY BETTER than anyone else, in fact, probably less so... I stray from my stories often. I shouldn't, but since my Stroke in 2012, I have somehow developed some sort of ADD, so please bear with me, the end will justify the means and I will *try* to stick with my story; for you, my readers. I moved my family of the ex-wife and four children Cross-Country in 2002 to be closer to my dad who was turning 75 that year, and while I could not afford both financially as well as mentally to move back to Southern California (where he and my mother lived), I chose the Midbar (Hebrew for Desert) of Arizona. Within just a few short weeks of moving here, I woke up one day with some of the most severe abdominal pain I had ever experienced. I found a local doctor and made an appointment to see him that day. I arrived at the appointment and was ushered into an examination room by their PA (Physician's Assistant), who is supposed to be the same as a Doctor, but not really (?). I was examined and Prescriptions for a Pain Medication and an Antibiotic. They continued to treat me in a like manner for almost six months when I ended up in an Emergency Room, where a CT Scan was performed and Colonoscopy was scheduled. I was then diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized obstruction and abscess in my colon that would require surgical intervention. Surgery was scheduled for two days later, on a Friday in Mid-March 2003. I arrived at the hospital at the designated time, 5:45 am; was admitted to the hospital; told them about ALL my allergies (including a BIG ONE, an allergy to a particular anesthetic agent), and taken to a room where I was put into one of those awful gowns and told that they'd be "right back" to take me to surgery. They promptly came back at 10:30 in the morning and took me to yet another room... to wait some more. At 11:45 the Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me. He informed me that he was going to use Propofol for my induction and that he was planning on using the EXACT ANESTHESIA TO WHICH I AM ALLERGIC to maintain me through surgery! "NOT ON ME, YOU'RE NOT", I exclaimed! "I'M ALLERGIC!!!" On my wrist sat a red band that clearly said ALLERGIES: CEVOFLURAINE. I then proceeded to give him a list of anesthetic agents that I knew to be safe. He tapped me on the knee and said: Okay, Smart guy, put yourself to sleep and quickly left the room. I awoke from the anesthesia on the following Wednesday evening. In addition to the NINE small incisions from various attempts to perform the procedure of removing 18" of my diseased colon through a scope, I also had one 6" cut in my belly that began around my navel and continued to just above my groin. I also began experiencing severe shortness of breath. The staples were ripped out of my skin by the Butcher Surgeon two weeks later, but my breathing difficulties continued. After being examined by one doctor after another, I finally decided to be examined by The Mayo Clinic. Over a ten-day to 2 week period, I was examined by multiple physicians, underwent numerous tests and procedures and was finally ready for my Report Appointment. I would learn the results of all of the tests and procedures and hopefully have a clear diagnosis and prognosis. The verdict had come in. Diagnosis: Terminal COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Causation: Bacterial Pneumonia due to Malignant Hyperthermia caused by induction of Detrimental Anesthesia Prognosis: 5% chance of Five-Year Survival I then took my report to a highly regarded Pulmonologist for Follow-Up Care, but not before enrolling in Rabbinical School in New York City. I had, (since age ten) always wanted to be a Rabbi. It was now or never. On the advice of the Pulmonologist, I began taking Prednisone (a Steroid) that would open up my Bronchioles and make it easier to breathe. The normal dosage for a man who is 5'9" and weighs 150 pounds (before I got sick, I weighed 174 pounds, all muscle, by the way) is <100mg per day. My STARTING dose was 100mg THREE TIMES a DAY. the dosage was increased every few months for the following THREE YEARS, when, on Sunday, September 9, 2007, at the weight of 340 Pounds (the Steroids had been increased to 250mg Four Times a day), I collapsed and at Mayo Hospital, was intubated where my organs began failing. Two nights later, on the First Night of Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year, and while being mechanically ventilated, I went into Full Blown Total System Failure, and suffered a Cardiac Arrest for 14 minutes, followed by a Coma of several weeks duration. During my Coma, I felt as if I was in a box. The box had four dirt walls and smelled like the Morning Dew. In the upper right corner of the box sat a red square with a white X inside of it. "If only I could click on that X, I might stop this program", I thought to myself, but I could not move; I could not stand; could not reach, and could not scream for help. I lay in this place crying out in fear for what seemed like days and weeks and months. Suddenly, my cries were replaced by Psalms. I was reciting Psalms, some of which I had never even read before! And the Psalms turned into Prayers; The Kol Nidre, chanted at the beginning of our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; every other prayer recited on this Holy of all Holy Days; the Prayers for the Sukkot Holidays that follow the next week and the Readings for every single Torah Portion of the year. I somehow knew them all. By heart. Without hesitation of memory and obviously without any text to look at. I kept reading and chanting day and night; night and day and resting in between. Really resting. Sleeping... until one day, I opened up my eyes to see my beautiful son Zac sitting at my side on my bed. Covering the holes in my throat and on the side of my neck, I managed to spit out "C'était le rêve de dix minutes le plus étrange que j'aie jamais eu"! I told my son that was the weirdest ten-minute dream that I have ever had in FRENCH, my first language and native tongue. He then told me that it had been over two months, and I was in a Hospice Facility. The night before, I had begun to breathe on my own a minute or so after being disconnected from the machines that had sustained my organs since September. A few days later I was wheeled to an ambulance outside to be transported to the truly amazing HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale. The sun kissed my face as I felt like I was pulled up into a body of love. It spoke. In Hebrew: Don't worry, it said. "You and I are going to be okay". I spent the next six weeks learning to do things like eating and holding a pencil; how to shower and dress. I learned how to return to life. Six weeks after leaving HealthSouth, my dad died. In July 2018, my mom joined him. I have had many trials and tribulations over these last twelve years. A Stroke in 2012 took my ability to project my voice loudly; I've been hospitalized many times and know how very precious time is. I do not live for today, rather, I live for tomorrow. I do everything I can do today to help others, and pray that I am again awakened tomorrow to do more good. And if so, great! And if not; if G-d decides to take me tonight, I will hang out with my parents and loved ones forever. I win either way. President Roosevelt was right to believe in only fearing fear. Psalm 23 is even more so, as Faith follows all of us.
Funny my mom passed in 1991 as a 13 year old it was hard but she was much more then beauty. She was a fighter from the beginning and I will never be able to explain her impact. It shows you came from a strong famiy and I'm glad you had both a mom and dad because a lot of people don't. I pray your truth can make a difference
This is trying to scare us with more misinformation then actual information but thank you for giving us your reality. I like it a lot.and people just wash your hand like you should be doing anyway 😂
Great discussion, as well as some interesting numbers which I'm not sure are meant to calm us, or install even more fear. I have many of your same concerns. Just yesterday I scheduled a work trip to Miami for late next week, but am unsure if it will happen or not. And while i say or act like i'm not concerned, sub-consciously, i am quite sure it is weighing on my mind each time i cough, or sneeze, or feel "a little warm", or if someone around me does. One of the biggest fears i have is that with all of the media coverage and the additional testing becoming available, the numbers are sure to skyrocket, and this is going to really set some people off. Our country is going to go absolutely bonkers . We are all guilty of taking limited amounts of information and either talking about it like an expert, or completely overreacting. Here's hoping that the number stat to level out, and then drop. Lets hope that the American people can follow simple suggestions. Lets hope that countries from around the world can work together to come up with a viable plan to slow this train down. And last but not least, lets hope our politicians can come together to provide our country guidance as we all try to get through this. Lets hope they can forget about the presidential race for just a minute to remember what their job really is; to serve the American people. And now is their time to really step up and lead by example.
Lauren, like you I have to balance my fear and confusion. I work directly with the public and I have an immune system that is partially suppressed as a by product of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I fear for my Father the most as his body is much weaker than even mine. I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday just to learn three people were positively diagnosed on Monday in Cuyahoga county. You aren't alone in that fear. I think that we must turn to hope to keep us in this trying time. We have to...
Terry, As a man who has lived and breathed baseball, your letter was an absolute joy for me to read. What young boy wouldn't want to be in the clubhouse with his Dad? During your time as manager I've been to quite a few games in Cleveland. None though were as special as July 12th 2014. That was the day I celebrated my 30th birthday. Though the day centered around my birthday it saw me doing something for someone else. It was the day I took my Father to the very first professional sports game in his 59 years of life at the time. It was so touching the certificate that he got from the wonderful folks at Guest Services. And although the home team lost to the White Sox that day, it will always remain one of the best days in my heart. Letters like yours only serve to renew my love for the game of baseball. Thanks for sharing it with the little boy still inside of me wanting to throw that 0-2 curveball to the best hitter in the league.
[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]
Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.
Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine
You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)
[…] Here is why you need to stop being nice and start being loud […]
Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?
So nice Roger <3
Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.