Overcoming Uniformity with Diversity, Part 2

In this continuation of our series (see Part 1), Senior Vice President Bob Wiegand tackles some additional questions from students about diversity and racism in our society. The question were submitted following a chapel presentation by Mr. Wiegand and Constable David Peterson (Hays County, Precinct 1) in September. Check back for additional blogs in the series in the coming weeks.

Mr. Bob Wiegand (right) works with Constable David Peterson to review questions submitted by students following their chapel presentations about race and diversity.
Question 1: Would either speaker say that we have systemic racism in America?

Not in America as a whole, but it is still present in some groups and/or organizations.

Question 2: Why are people of color offended when white people say “I don’t see color?”

Perhaps they do not understand it contextually. As a coach my players wore the school colors, and they were not judged on skin color, but received playing time based on skill, work ethic, character, and team leadership. I choose to be friends or associate with people of character who are positive, not because of their skin color. Thus, I am friends with Constable Peterson. You will not find a better man.

Question 3: What are your thoughts on the possibility of racism ending?

Like sin, it will likely be present in some way until we see heaven. We are sinful humans on this planet. However, by being Christ-like, we can lessen its effect.

Question 4: How is SMA trying to advocate the importance of black lives in society today and that everyone is equal no matter race or ethnicity?  

Constable Peterson and I had this dialogue to begin the discussion. Get informed and ask for dialogue in the appropriate venues (student organizations and classrooms).

Question 5: Racism is generally perceived as white vs. others. Do you think other ethnic groups can be racist too?

All groups are capable, but it is more visible in the U.S. as white toward black because of media coverage. It has taken on much uglier forms throughout the world and its history.

Question 6: In your opinion, what has changed since you were in school that makes current racial relations so much harder now than it was back then?

DIVISION! The divisiveness of some leaders and organizations. Media sensationalism and the emotional manipulation of social media. People no longer form relationships and talk. We text, chat, and email. We react viscerally (emotional reaction) rather than mentally, with reason and logic.

Question 7: Not acknowledging color ignores racism in the world, so why do you say, “we didn’t/don’t see color”?

Figurative terminology. As a coach of a blue and white school color team, I only see blue and white. Players are treated equally and follow the same set of rules. I acknowledge that David Peterson is black. I do not focus on it. I see him as my friend and colleague. I see him that way because we have developed trust and admiration for each other by being who we are.

Question 8: Why did you decide to become a coach/educator?

I had a love for coaches, young people, and athletics, not necessarily in any order. I wanted to help young people reach their dreams.

Question 9: What kind of racism have you faced as a white teacher/coach/administrator?

I have had some harsh racial epithets hurled at me as an administrator, but I really did not take offense because it was usually a frustrated parent. That is an example of what I faced, but I think your question might have been, “What kind of racism have you seen?” I have seen systemic racism within the rice farming areas of southeast Texas. We worked extremely hard as coaches to get our players on to college whether they played ball or not. It is hard to break the cycle of generational poverty. In east Houston, we battled gangs that were taking young black lives down into a life of crime and violence. We played opponents that were not accepting of our diverse makeup. This is an area that would take a separate article to address.

Question 10: Have you ever had to stand up against racism? If so, what was the situation and what was it like? Have you ever missed an opportunity stand up for someone who was being discriminated against?

Yes–the behavior of a group of people toward one or more of my athletes. I have never intentionally missed an opportunity to stand up in this regard.

Question 11: Do you think students should express their political views at school?

Prior to the current political climate, it has never really been a problem. Currently, I think those conversations need to be within classrooms where they can be moderated.

Question 12: Do you think it is appropriate to bring material objects, such as a flag, or a mask that says BLM to school?

As a school administrator, I have had to prohibit certain t-shirts, banners, flags, etc. that were inflammatory. If an item causes dissension within a school, it may not be appropriate.

Question 13: Where do you see evidence of racism in your own life and are there certain types of blacks or people of color you think you have had stereotypical responses to?

I do not, and I do not wish to stereotype any group myself.

Question 14: Have you ever been racist knowingly or unknowingly? If yes, what steps did you take to educate yourself?

Never knowingly, and if it was unknowingly, I apologize.

Question 15: If you were asked to be on a national task force to address racial inequality in our country, what would you suggest as steps that need to be taken to help our nation move toward equality for all?

While that is unlikely, I would love to have that opportunity. We can’t enact laws that will be effective. There are enough laws on the books. It will take a concerted educational effort within homes, churches, schools and families. Getting past the divisiveness and reaching agreement on a curriculum might prove to be the most difficult step.

Question 16: Have you ever been aggressive or violent when dealing with racism?

No.

Question 17: Did anyone ever make fun of you for being friends with a colored person?

I just never listened to that kind of thing. People I knew as true friends did not bring that kind of thing up with me.

Question 18: Growing up during the period of segregation did you ever witness police brutality on your black friends?

I never did. I knew the sheriff and the police chief, and they would not have tolerated that. My friends made good choices and did not find themselves in adverse situations with law enforcement. However, I grew up with desegregation.

Question 19: What’s your favorite kind of potato? I’m just kidding, (I actually would like to know though). My question is, do you think your view to racism and the other such things you talked about would be different if you grew up differently?

Baked potato to the first question. For the second, in a different area, perhaps yes, that is possible, but I only have this life experience to share. Growing up in San Marcos was great. I would not trade the experience.

Question 20: What made you bring David Peterson? Did you just need a black person to talk about racism?

The Lord has placed a burden on my heart with all the unrest I am witnessing. I wanted to introduce some meaningful discussion to SMA that might lead to further dialogue. It would be nice to see increased understanding of each other with unity rather than divisiveness. David Peterson is a friend who happens to be a black law enforcement officer. It made sense to bring my friend of 57 years to the discussion. I get a feeling from some of the questions that many wish I would have brought the local BLM leader in for a debate. David Peterson is a black man who has led an exemplary life of service to his community. He is worthy of emulation and admiration.

Question 21: Are you doing anything to support black lives if so what? 

I still get phone calls from some of the young men I coached in Houston. Many of them are black. In my career, I have always tried to increase the self esteem of the young people I work with. I have tried to speak truth and self-worth into their lives. I have worked to eliminate the gangs that take so many young black lives down. The black men and women I worked with knew me to be a man who cared about all kids. I hope that some of you might receive something from this discussion that leads you to do something. I have thought a lot about questions that might be asked of me in this matter. I have a few questions of my own for those who run around spouting rhetoric and making demands. What have you done? How have you made a life matter? I have a peace in my heart on this matter.

Question 22: Did you ever think people that were a different color than you were not likable or you could not be comfortable around?

There was one black boy in our grade that was not likable. He was angry most of the time and did not have a joyful spirit. My black friends did not have much to do with him either. We all tended to stay away from him. I had at least a dozen friends who were black and even more that were Hispanic growing up in San Marcos. We were not divided by our differences. We chose to be friends by our similarities.

In summary . . .

I would encourage you to form your opinions in this matter on sound reading and research rather that sound bites and ten second videos. Make up your mind to be part of a solution rather than dwelling on differences. We live in a time where many so called leaders, media members, and social engineers manipulating social media are directing a narrative that is sensational, argumentative, and divisive. Trust in God. Trust what you experience and feel with your classmates. Engage those of different skin color, cultures, and viewpoints in civil discourse. Try to think with your logic and reasoning, rather than reacting angrily and argumentatively. Many people in this day and time lack listening skills, but they want to be heard. We can’t just shout each other down.

Constable Peterson is in the midst of running for re-election. We spent an hour on a recent morning going over the questions, and he is working on answers. He will get those to us as soon as he can, and we will get them to you.   –Mr. Wiegand                                                         

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