“Noah, I’m in hospice. You have to come see me, bud.” This past Monday, I got a call that I didn’t want to hear, but I knew one day it could come, sooner rather than later. As I heard the voice amongst tears, I became speechless and Lukas Graham’s ‘7 Years’ song lyric became clearer; “Remember life and then your life becomes a better one.”
And so I remembered; as my thoughts replayed the respect and love I developed for the man over the phone who is 20 plus years my senior, I realized, ‘in life, if lived long enough, only a handful of moments bring it full circle. ‘In those moments; life becomes more understood.‘ This phone call (moment), like a few others, did just that.
Without knowing exactly what it was at the time, I experienced discrimination at birth. Being born a mixed race baby in the South was rare in 1981, because society as a whole was either black or white. My brother, Jermaine and myself were anomalies and very distinctive in our environment which made others treat us in a non-native type manner. This challenge, IE ‘school of life’, forced me to come about discernment quickly; thus grooming me for my future potential.
My first witness to racism bewildered me. I didn’t understand as I watched two white men stab my father (who is a Black American) multiple times due to the fact, they saw my mother (who is Mexican and French), as a white woman, and didn’t approve of her being in my father’s car, leading to a full on brawl. While egos flared, this was my introduction to race relations and once again, my ‘school of life,’ sculpting my mind. Those two experiences along with many other instances shaped my belief pertaining to White American Males in the ‘land of the free, home of the brave’ and I am sure you can draw your own conclusion. All thanks to God, if it were not for Jim Woodard, Kenny Bodine, Sean Kilmartin and Robert Clyburn my conviction of white males would have remained the same.
As fate would have it, Jim Woodard, ended up playing the role of a grandfather in my 20’s since I never had one active in my life.
Kenny Bodine, taught me ‘life’ in a classroom better known as a weight room. He was my Cus D’Amato.
Sean Kilmartin, taught me economics and Wall Street in his office from 9:30am – 9:30pm for two straight years. I consistently say, ‘I graduated from Sean Kilmartin University.’
Robert Clyburn, was one of the deciding factors why I pursued a career path to work in finance. He was an International pilot for American Airlines, he met me in a gym, took me under his wing; pun intended, and encouraged me to go after the career with Sean; eventually becoming my very first client to manage his money. That verbal contract changed my life and gave me more confirmation that it was time to rethink my convictions of White American males. And my return on my investment? I realized, all the years of society stereotyping and generalizing ‘me’ based on my external features, more times than not, it was due to their life experiences or lack of with people who looked like me and in return, simultaneously, I was stereotyping and generalizing ‘them’ the same way. My mind had to become more like a parachute; ‘it can only work when it’s open.‘
And here we are… He, Robert Clyburn, is the voice I heard over the phone and now I am sitting with him as his time of life is expiring. As Jay Z stated, “You could be anywhere in the world, but you are here with me.” This is true. I could be anywhere at this moment, but as a friend he called for me to spend some limited moments with him and I am honored. Who would have thought, a 50 plus year old white guy and a 30 plus year old mixed race guy would bring life full circle? He, like those other three, changed my perception, my thoughts, and love towards those that do not resemble me on the outside and gave me the true grasp to, “Judge not on looks; decide on evidence. There’s no better guideline.”