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This contentious era offers teachable moments for impressionable youth

For those not paying attention and those who just don’t care, there is no distinction of the times and they could care less about what’s going on around them. But these times are difficult for the conscientious.

Even Black people seem to be tired of talking about it. A lawsuit is filed against the National Football League for failing to hire Black and minority coaches. How does the league respond, out of vacancies filled since the end of the season, only one new hire is African American.

Fifteen years ago, there were seven Black coaches in the NFL. Two of them, Lovie Smith (Chicago Bears) and Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts) made history by coaching the Super Bowl in the same year. Smith happens to be the new Black hire and his joining the staff at Houston doubles the number of NFL coaches to two.

So perhaps on one hand, this league which has 70 percent Black players has actually increased coaches of color by 100 percent. Such a statement would clearly be facetious, a bad and untimely joke. But the lack of response to the outcry for equity in football is indigenous to the mood of the nation; the anti-Black mood of the nation.

Because a reality show host with no record of public service beat the most qualified woman to ever run for president in 2016, the nation is left with six ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices, a full frontal assault on democracy in state legislatures, disgraceful insurrection at the nation’s capital and a feckless Congress.

Disrespect has become so commonplace in the current climate that no one blinks when a Black woman in the U.S. House of Representatives – Democrat Joyce Beatty of Ohio – admonishes a white male Republican colleague, Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, to wear his mask as required, and he instead responds, “kiss my ass.”

Beatty is not just any African American female lawmaker. She is the chairperson of the prestigious Congressional Black Caucus. She replied to matter saying, “This is the kind of disrespect we have been fighting for years, and indicative of the larger issue we have with GOP members flaunting health and safety mandates.”

Disagreement on issues is politics as usual. The disrespect is reprehensible. After rebuke of the Black Caucus, Rogers apologized. But it should never have happened. Period.

In entertainment, Jennifer Hudson was snubbed, not even receiving the Oscar’s Best Actress nomination – after her sterling portrayal of Aretha Franklin in the hit biopic, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Just last month, Variety magazine projected her Academy Award nomination for both acting and in the original song category for her track, “Here I Am.”

It is business as usual in Hollywood to ignore Jennifer Hudson. After all, there have been just over 3,100 Oscar statuettes handed out in the 93 year history of the awards yet only 17 were awarded to Black women in all the dozens of categories available. By comparison, one white man, Walt Disney, earned 26 Oscars from 1932 to 1969.

Almost as a footnote the momentum for social justice that experienced a meteoric rise in the U.S and around the world, from the grass-root level to corporate board rooms, has all but dissipated. Where are those tens of millions of dollars pledged by Fortune 500 companies – including professional sports and the entertainment industry. There is little evidence of any broad, sustainable initiatives or deep corrective impact since 2020.

Conversely, feigning fear of what is characterized as “critical race theory,” the nation is rapidly imposing laws and educational policies to severely restrict or forbid the teaching of topics in the schools that even remotely relate to racial matters past or present. Not only does that extinguish momentum ignited for more substantive anti-racial practices, but it threatens to exclude Black culture and life in America altogether.

Rather than run from these affronts on so many levels, we should instead teach young people of all races – but particularly Black – the urgency of being proactive in fighting a pattern that distorts or conflicts with higher values.

This is a time for teaching the importance of character over what is popular in the moment. This is a time to teach how important it is to stand on the side of right rather than with the crowd.

There has seldom been a better time to instill and explain the importance of values. This lesson doesn’t require history books, it can be taught in the moment.

Young people are going to become older people making decisions on which road to follow. They are rightfully confused with so many adults behaving badly. We cannot relent in the obligation to teach them to opt for the high road in the midst of adversity.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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