PROLOGUE: The mood throughout the United States at the moment is not a positive one. Which happens from time to time. Political tensions have long served as a divider, but pale in comparison to racial issues dating back long before any of us walked the Earth. Plenty of “isms” still exist. Maybe they always have. Maybe they always will. The only thing I am sure of is that none of it is or ever will be tolerated in my personal life, and the same goes for this platform that is supposed to bring out the best in our athletes and our sport.
To that end, the last thing I wanted to do was cut up some trite graphic declaring how Five Point Move “stands with” African-Americans, or Black Americans, or how racial and social injustices are unacceptable, and then call it a day. As if doing so would be profound. No dice. It would not have been. Would it have looked okay? Gotten some half-hearted attempt at a message across? Probably. It would have certainly fell in line with the work other outlets and brands have put forth this past week.
That’s fine. I mean, a man was murdered in broad daylight for all to see. Just one more in a long line of needless victims of violence perpetrated by those holding some semblance of civic authority, authority that has too often proven to deliver abuse and betray the public trust.
But I didn’t want to touch it. Nope. No way. Wasn’t going to. You see how many days have gone by? Figured it’d be a better idea to leave that kind of thing for social media addicts to deal with. Only problem with that? Social media during times like this one, where it all seems so make or break, has become poisonous. Most of the time, those are egos thumbing posts into the ether, not actual hearts and souls. It seems like.
Still, I felt something needed to be said. On here. But not by me. Not even close. What can I offer? Nothing much, nothing substantial. Still, if the commitment is to document the sport, that sometimes urges going beyond the scope of what is considered the usual. After all, we are explaining an era that shapes perspectives from those inside the sport. Can’t leave anything out.
That’s the wheelhouse around here. All I’m doing right now is setting the table.
I wanted an athlete-leader to have their say, from a passionate and credible viewpoint that could convey what they see as the issues at hand in a manner relatable enough for everyone to consume appropriately. That person had to be Ellis Coleman. He’s done it before on this platform. I wanted him to do it again. All I had to do was ask.
It would have been infinitely more enjoyable to grab Ellis and discuss his arm, discuss the Olympic Trials’ postponement, healing up, and preparing for whatever the beginning of the redo at an Olympic season will look like. He and I are close enough by now to where that kind of thing is almost automated, so it sucked having to dig into an area of American life that I cannot believe still requires hardcore conversation in the Year of Our Lord 2020.
Just look around. Unfortunately, it is in fact still necessary. Ellis had already provided a primer in an Instagram post earlier on Wednesday. All we did on this evening was aim for a free-form missive that would explain what it is people, in the wrestling community or otherwise, might be missing. To continue the dialogue here with brutal honesty in his own way.
If Ellis has something to communicate, it enduringly comes from a place of positivity. Yet he still felt compelled to caution, “I don’t want you to lose any viewers.” Ha. I answer only to my Lord and Savior. I try my absolute best to produce quality literature and content because I do care about our readership greatly, and Ellis is a stakeholder in that whole endeavor. At the same time, if this piece results in the user base declining, I quite sincerely don’t want them anyway.
That doesn’t make me a saint, by the way. At absolute most, it makes me human. Just like my two white law enforcement siblings.
Okay, enough. Prose, not a huge fan.
Try to digest this. You don’t have to love it. Just consider a lens though which others view the world. Others for whom love comes as easily as competition. Open up the brain box. As usual, Ellis’ skills on the mat are very closely rivaled by the ease and depth in which he expresses himself off of it.
I love this man. He knows this. That I feel it pertinent to mention that is actually bothersome at the moment.
What You See
“One reason it has gotten as bad as it has is because people have become stressed out with the coronavirus and just witnessing how much control the government actually has. Forcing people to stay inside, people can’t go out, cannot do this and that. I think a lot of people are just lashing out with the riots. People have a good reason to protest. But some people are saying ‘Screw this’ due to everything that is going on in our nation right now.
“This is something that has been happening for years and years. There is so much that goes into it. You see what you see everyday. Except, there are a lot of things people don’t see. Racism in the US hasn’t changed at all. It is just being recorded now. People have phones now, they have cameras. There are so many people who are dead, so many who are in jail, so many families that have been ruined from situations like this. And even worse than this. But you can’t educate people about this because they only see what they see.
“A lot of people don’t want to see it, hear it, or read about it. They want to make excuses, which they can do because this is the land of the free and there are opportunities to do that, to ignore. And those opportunities only go as far as the leaders will allow them to go.
“You have to understand, when you see people post stuff, it is coming from a deep emotion due to things that are happening. A lot of people are born into situations that you don’t see. Families are going through things you do not see. So instead of turning your cheek and saying, ‘You need to do this, not that’, and being a critic — which is what everyone is good at, right? — try to be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes.
“I know, that is difficult if you’re not black, Hispanic, or something else. But our country is full of immigrants. Everyone is an immigrant in the US. People have to understand that we are all Americans. We are all Americans here. It’s not just one race. All of these people are America. All of these different cultures and ethnicities make up America. When you bring all of that in and combine it into one culture, that makes America. That is why everyone wants to live here. There is so much to do, so many different cultures and mindsets. That’s why people come here from different places.
“There are still people who are older, hard-nosed, and have their reasons and perspectives for why they don’t want to change. They don’t want to change anything, and then they are teaching their kids this. It just gets pushed onto new generations over and over and over. It is a domino effect. The same exact thing.
“You think that people who were slaves, people who were segregated and abused for centuries, are going to have as good of a lifestyle as people who just live normally? It is difficult to do well for your family and for your community — if you’re black, Mexican, or whatever the ethnicity is — because you’re not going to get hired for high positions. During segregation, white people, or people in high places, hired others who looked like them. They still do. Without hiring anyone of a different race or ethnicity, there is no way for blacks or other ethnic groups to get those jobs. They would look bad if they hired a black person or someone of a different ethnic background. So those jobs are turned over to more candidates who look just like them. There is no way for people to better themselves and keep going up.
“They put little laws in here and there — but with their own agenda. They have to keep it institutionalized, keep it within a certain form to where they can still mask the problem if they need to.
“Things have to change. I don’t think it is going to change right away because the damage is so bad that it’s going to take years. It comes from the top. When people are only out for themselves, when they become greedy, when they only care about their own agendas. It is going to take time for there to be change. It won’t be easy. Which is why these people who are talking and saying what they have to say on behalf of their racial background means a lot. They are showing people, they are sharing what they are going through. This is what is happening in our country and in our world every single day.”
The Need for Diversity
“There are a lot of neighborhoods in the US where it’s predominantly one race living in one neighborhood. They all live in the same area. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because a lot of people want to be around those who are like them. But diversify. Allow people to move into different areas, don’t make it so difficult. Don’t ‘white flight’ it like how they did in Chicago. When they decided to really integrate Chicago, they moved all of the black people into one area, and white people don’t want to be in that area.
“I lived in Oak Park (Illinois), so I actually benefited from both sides because Oak Park did a great job of integrating. They made it really, really, really diverse. I spent a whole lot of time around white people and it changed me. I had (Mike) Powell, my “dad”. He didn’t do anything but help people like us. He was in a position to do that — but he did whatever he could and utilized his ability to do that. Whatever methods he had to use, he did it. Not everyone’s methods are the same, but there are a lot of people in Oak Park, in that community, who are like him. Go to my neighborhood, go to the school. See how diverse it is. See how many people hang out with those from other backgrounds. It has helped give everyone opportunities.
“We went to the same school. There were kids, white kids, whose parents would treat us like their own children. They would do anything they could to help us. Some of them thought my brother and I were poor, so they would bring us in, we’d sleep over for multiple days. These parents would give their kids extra money just so we could go to the movies with them. We were all one big family in Oak Park. We still are.
“People think because we live in America there is a lot of opportunity, and there is. There is a lot of opportunity. But I look at my wife. She’s from Cuba, a communistic country that is very poor. I have learned so much from her and about her culture compared to ours. Sometimes I’ll think, Wow, it sucks living like that. At the same time, it has made me think that it might even be almost better to live in those conditions just because of how people there treat each other. They go out, everyone is friendly, they leave their doors open for one another. It’s not isolated or independent. Here, everyone is distributed into sections, and just like Cuba, it’s the government that has all the power.
“Some in certain neighborhoods have money, and then there are neighborhoods where they don’t have any. And those people, they want to get out of there and get into better neighborhoods that are more diverse. But they can’t. So they’re stuck. What you get is people living in impoverished neighborhoods with bad education systems since the money the schools receive is lower, which means they can’t attract good teachers, and it isn’t diverse, anyway. They don’t have enough money to pay teachers with higher educations, and they don’t have extracurricular activities to keep kids off the streets. The money isn’t enough to fund their school systems, everything costs too much.
“Look at Omaha, where Ray-Ray (RaVaughn Perkins) is from. I read an article about how every single kid who grows up in West Omaha, basically, winds up in a gang. I mean, I talk to him (Perkins) everyday, and I’ll see all of his friends. But it’s one area, one little area with all of the black kids, and this is how they wind up. The education system is a huge factor. It determines almost everything. It determines your success, your future, because even your athletic career comes from the education system if you compete in sports, be it in high school or college. It starts there.”
“Social media is a good thing and a bad thing because it highlights so much of what goes on every single day. Everything. If that’s how you see it and learn, at least you get a visual of what is going on. You get a visual of the neighborhoods, the violence, the robberies, the cases of people being thrown in jail even though they are completely innocent. People are getting drugs planted on them. There is so much stuff that has been going on for years and people either don’t know about it — or they choose not to pay attention. They choose not see it or hear it, and they’re okay with that, because to them, there is no evidence behind any of it. Well now, we have proof of everything that is going on. There are no more excuses about any of this. You see it now.
“But don’t ask ‘What can you do about it? Instead, you need to ask ‘What can We do about It?’ What people can do about it is highlight it. Talk about it. Address it. If you see it, address it. If you see someone being wronged, pull your phone out, record it, and say, ‘No, stop, this is wrong.‘ You don’t have to be the same color to do that. You don’t have to be the same race or ethnicity to do that. You can be white, Asian, or Hispanic and say how they’re doing someone wrong.
“It takes a group effort from all of us to change it. So be the person who changes it.
“People will want to see video evidence of you trying to help. They want you to also see what is going on in other communities as well as your own. There are different ways to help out. Go set up a block party in your community and invite everyone. Go to a black church and check out how they worship. Or do something else that people can see. Like Reece Humphrey. Based on his situation, he’s a white guy, but he is posting videos of how police can take someone down without having to shoot and kill suspects. It’s genius, just showing different ideas and different ways to handle it.
“The first key is interaction. There are a lot of people who are white who understand our side and are out there protesting with black people. Which is huge. You love seeing that. It shows that people are educating themselves, they see what’s going on and want to change it. So, interact. Interact with different people, different ethnicities, and understand what it is they are trying to address, and then help them do it.
“Your morals are different when you’re a Christian. When that is your heart. Everything that Christianity speaks to revolves around love and bringing people together. And without that, it is difficult for people to understand and discover the actual motives behind everything. When people are not living for a higher power and they are just out there living for themselves, they don’t better their situations. When you are in a Christian environment, you feel nothing but love. People are there for you and they genuinely want to help and care about you.”