Things I’ve Learned About Race and Racism in the U.S.

Matt Waldman shares what he’s learned as a white man growing up in the north and south and becoming a part of black families—things we could all benefit to learn if we want to become better allies in the fight to fix our human rights problem in the U.S.

The recent events in the United States aren’t actually new. They are ongoing for decades and centuries. At its core, this is a human rights issue that transcends politics.

This business I run that has provided you insightful analysis, entertainment, and often keys to earn you pocket money (and for many, much more) is essentially a black-owned business.

My wife Alicia is my business manager with an educational background in marketing and a 20-plus-year, career in sourcing. If you don’t know what sourcing is, it requires legal and financial expertise to do the research and then involves negotiation–a skill that many business people think they have until they meet someone like her.

For a number of years in between, she ran a successful full-time business re-designing homes and those services included everything but plumbing and electric. Contractors come to our house and ask for the card or contact info for the persons who did the painting, flooring, stonework, tile, and shower installation and are bewildered when I tell them my wife did it all on her own.

The only thing she can’t do is cook, and I’m thankful or I’d be completely useless in our household.

Alicia is the first person to suggest I make my own site, create a newsletter, and do my own podcast–years before I finally did in each instance. She’s also helped other people you know and love in my industry negotiate deals or avoid bad deals with their employers.

Recently, she gave me the confidence to explore an offer that I would have normally turned down flat–an offer that was from a company I once revered. I knew her expertise would keep me from making a huge mistake–even if what they offered seemed like a great thing during these uncertain times and supposedly wouldn’t have changed how I work with my RSP subscribers.

I am nowhere near where I am with the Rookie Scouting Portfolio today without Alicia’s skills, influence, patience, and support. It means that you are nowhere near where you are today with your fantasy leagues or knowledge of football that you attribute to my work without Alicia.

Even before I married Alicia, I have had family ties with black people. What’s happening in the U.S. is another wake-up call to whites about the longstanding issues our nation has with systemic racism.

We have been brainwashed. Don’t take this characterization as an insult. If you’re not black and grew up or lived for a long time in this country, you are a product of a flawed system–even if you strive to be tolerant, loving, and open-minded. No shame, no blame, just where I’ve been and what I’ve learned that may strike a chord for you.

I emerged from this denial slowly, between the ages of 15-30 as a suburban white kid in Atlanta who strived to be open and tolerant but learned I had blind spots. Liberal, Conservative, Christian, Jew, and I dare say, other non-whites who may also deal with discrimination and harassment in this country but, according to my friends who tell me about their cultures, many still have deep pockets of their populations who look down upon blacks and exploit that systemic advantage as well.

I urge you to read these threads I posted on Twitter. These are my experiences: A 50-year-old white man who has grown up in the north and south and has become a part of black families.

And if you prefer to listen, here’s a podcast. It’s emotional listening for many and contains explicit language.

Football is my livelihood. I’ve done a lot to earn an independent living as a football analyst. Especially when you consider I have no NFL experience and have acquired NFL and NCAA customers who tell me they’ve learned from me.

Having focus has never been an issue when it comes to completing my work.

At this moment, it is. I don’t want to study football. I have to study football because it’s my job.

I eventually hope to feel the joy I once had for my job return. I think it will but I doubt it will happen anytime soon. What we’re witnessing is something I’ve seen played out for the 45 years that I’ve been aware of systemic racism.

I have hope that we’ll continue to see things change. After all, when my wife and I were born, interracial marriages were still illegal in many states–including the one we live in.

Just because there has been change it doesn’t mean that the issue has been fixed. It’s still far from fixed.

It’s still dangerous. It’s still limiting. It’s still humiliating and enraging.

You’ve listened and read hundreds, if not thousands of things I’ve created while dealing with the insidious influence of systemic racism. I’m tired of dealing with it, and I can step outside my home alone and never deal with what my family potentially might–and has–on a daily basis when they do the same things.

We need to fix it. It’s not about blame or shame. It’s about action and doing what’s right.

Here’s some additional reading and viewing material worth your time if you don’t know where to begin. There are thousands of great options but I’m only going to list a few because the choices are overwhelming, and I have specific reasons for these picks:

  • 13th by Ana DuVernay – Available on Netflix, this great documentary explores the loophole in the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and how it has been exploited since the end of slavery to create substitutes for slavery ever since.
  • Race: How Blacks and Whites Feel About the American Obssession by Studs Terkel: This is the first book I would read if you’re a white person trying to get a broad understanding of the dynamics of race in this country. Although it came out just after the Rodney King case, it’s still applicable to what’s happening today. Terkel interviews a wide range of people white and black about race and it’s a fascinating page-turner.
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley – Want to know the difference between a white person who has a more accurate understanding of race in America and one who is still regurgitating what’s been brainwashed into them? One telltale sign is how they view Malcolm X. I encourage you to read the book before you watch Spike Lee’s fine movie.

These three recommendations should give you more than enough to see the insidiousness of this systemic disease.

“White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard. It means that your skin color isn’t one of the things making it harder.”

– kimblackproud (Twitter)

7 responses to “Things I’ve Learned About Race and Racism in the U.S.”

  1. Your article was exactly the read I needed this morning. I’ve been a fantasy footballer for decades, lately it seems so insignificant and no fun. What a pleasant surprise it was to see the name of your article today.
    Thank you Matt for sharing

  2. Thanks for the resources. Just to help out some of the folks looking for the books. For Studs’ book, it’s “Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession”.

  3. Matt, To add to the collective voice of gratitude – thank you for sharing your experiences, wisdom, and resources.

  4. Matt, your podcast on the subject was visceral, courageous, and extremely influential on my perception of the issue. I have personally been subject of racial discrimination, but you and your family’s experiences helped me better understand what it’s like to be black in America. Thanks for never being afraid to speak your mind, whether it’s about player evals or deeper subjects like this one. I’ve always appreciated the vulnerability you (and Mark) are willing to show. It’s rare in this industry, and it’s unique and refreshing to get more out of listening to your podcast than just football. Keep doing what you’re doing! Best to you (the team) and your family.

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