July 1, 2020
Like many people around the world, I am doing some sincere soul-searching, seeking understanding and wisdom in the current challenging times. On my journey for understanding I have had some heart-to-heart talks with friends of all races scattered around the country and some who reside outside the country. I asked those I visited with to share with me their perception of what is taking place in the world. I didn’t define for them “what is taking place;” I wanted them to tell me what they thought. The heart-to-heart talks all seemed to be somewhat guarded at first but once each person realized that I was not judging them or challenging their perceptions, they seemed to share more freely. I heard their perceptions of race relations, equality, police issues, health issues, political views, anger, personal hurt and hope. I did my very best to be open to each person’s opinions and nonjudgmental as I sought wisdom and understanding from them in these confidential conversations. Based on the input I received it is an understatement to say that there is a need for improvement. The degree of turmoil perceived and improvements needed varied significantly from person to person.
As part of the process of seeking understanding and trying to be part of “the solution” to our many challenges, I thought about my own background and experiences. I understand the basis for my own perceptions and subconscious biases. Going down memory lane for me was interesting and left me appreciative. The words “Black Lives Matter” has been part of my DNA for most of my life.
As a young boy, I knew that my Puerto Rican mother was different from most of the mothers of my peers. Some young white boys called me racially insensitive names. My mother gave me permission to fight them and I did, getting the better of them and stopping the name calling. I did not read very well as a child and as a result did not read many books. However, I did read a few books and one of the first that I recall ever reading was “Black Like Me.” It was about a white man who had his skin temporarily darkened to experience the discrimination that Black people faced from the very same people who treated the author nice as a white man. I also remember reading a book about the challenges Sammy Davis, Jr. faced as a Black man and Jew, “Yes I Can.” Another book that made a major impression on me when I was young was “The Cross and the Switchblade.” It was the story of Puerto Rican Nicky Cruz, who turned his life over to Christ. I cannot explain why I was led to these books and why I remember them so well today. Perhaps I was trying to understand some of my own early challenges. Perhaps these books laid the groundwork to help prepare me for the next stages of my life.
I remember my mother sharing with me that she overheard my Anglo grandmother ask my father shortly after they were married “Why did you have to marry one of them?” After flunking out of San Antonio Junior College, I enrolled in Saint Philip’s Junior College to learn to become an electrician, or so I thought. By the grace of God, I ran into John Benjamin Franklin Willobury Williams, Jr. Ill, a Black associate professor at Saint Philip’s who went by “J.B.” For whatever reason, J.B. took me under his wing and called me his adopted “white son.” J.B. convinced me that I could do more with my life and that I was smart enough to earn a college education and degree. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Saint Philip’s was historically a Black college and I was in the minority. There were some awkward moments but there were lots more great moments. I was a writer for the college newspaper and elected as the student government president. I was blessed to have been provided insight into the challenges that my classmates had to deal with due to race and economic hardships. I learned that St. Philip’s had been made part of the San Antonio Union College District to create the perception, at least on the surface, that there was desegregation. The year that I was student government president, we celebrated the college’s 75th anniversary and hosted a fund raiser concert featuring Isaac Hayes, who sang his hit “Shaft.” I was honored to be asked to represent the Texas Junior College students before a Texas Constitution convention committee in Austin regarding fairness in funding. Had it not been for those who befriended me and believed in me, my story would be totally different.
After leaving Saint Philip’s, I attended Southwest Texas State University to get a business degree. At Southwest I got involved in the student government. I was elected senator and then ran for president. Candidates for president were required to select a candidate for vice president. I asked Joyce Smith, one of the most qualified people I knew, to run with me. Joyce was a young Black lady and several people advised me against running with her. Joyce even offered to withdraw as my running mate, concerned that we would not be elected due to her race. I told her that I would rather lose with the most qualified person on my ticket than to win with anyone else. We lost the election but looking back, in my mind, we really won. To me it was an early opportunity to demonstrate my commitment of “doing the right things for the right reasons with the right attitude.” On the other hand, I hated losing then (and now) but it wasn’t Joyce’s fault!
As new parents some 32 years ago, Barbara and I fondly recall our babies spending time with our beloved Joyce Lyons. Joyce was a single Black mother from Pennsylvania who needed to augment her income as a schoolteacher. Joyce has been around my children more than most family members and is like a grandmother to them and a sister to Barbara and I. She is approaching 80 years old and we still keep in contact as we jointly express our love and appreciation for each other. I am most thankful for her sharing with me her words of wisdom and deep-rooted feelings about our current environment.
For about the last 20 years I have served as a board member or trustee for the Greater Dallas Boys and Girls Club. I have heard countless heartfelt stories of the challenges kids and their families have had to face in all aspects of their lives. Had I not been involved in the Boys and Girls Club I would have never met one of my “adopted” godsons about 20 years ago. He was in an audience listening to me assure a group of young kids that if I could make it, so could they. Since that introduction many years ago, I have been blessed to have been present at every major step of his life. There have been times when his mother has directed him to “talk to your white daddy” and she has directed me to “talk to your son.” I feel blessed for the honor to be part of their family.
I remember taking my son Jarid, who was about 10 years old at the time, to “hang out” with the kids at the Boy’s Club while I attended a meeting there. He shared with me on the drive back to our house on the opposite side of town that he was watching some kids shooting pool and one of the little Black boys told him to get his “dirty white hands off the pool table.” Jarid said he responded to the boy, “don’t you know it’s what’s in your heart that counts?” Jarid then went on to say that once the boy heard what he said they became friends for the rest of their brief encounter.
Jarid played 17 years of football. I told him to keep his eyes open and if he saw any of his teammates that needed a helping hand to be there for them. He was able to seize the moment several times by offering various forms of support. I remember him jokingly warning me when he was playing Division I football at Oklahoma State that he would be home for the weekend and if I got up in the middle of the night and not to be surprised if I saw some of his big Black teammates in our house. I actually unofficially adopted some of those same guys as my godsons as I tried to make a positive difference in their lives as they shared with me their challenges, hurts and dreams. I guess you can say they adopted me as they nicknamed me “Pappa King” or “Old Man.” I can say that I truly spoke to them like my own sons and there were times that they “felt the love.”
Along the way I was blessed to meet a young Black lady who wanted to become a medical doctor. I took her under my wing from afar. There were times when things didn’t go according to her plans and she almost got off course. God blessed me to be there for her and today she is in fact a medical doctor!
So, as I look back and do some serious soul-searching, I think I have tried to be a positive difference to others regardless of race. I continue to pray that our country can figure out how to get on track and move forward with God’s help.
More than I can ever recall, the words “Love Thy Neighbor” are so very important to resolving our differences. And yes, my conclusion is that there are differences that should have been addressed long ago. May we as a country have wisdom and guidance to make a positive difference.
THE WORDS TO BECOME FLESH
The model that I use for solving problems is called the M·M-o-T — Management Moment of Truth. It works to resolve almost anything and it will work to address our current challenges. It’s a simple concept and works if people are only willing to use it. I give credit to Bruce Bodaken and Robert Fritz for writing their book that describes this easy to use concept. I often say, “I can’t work on a church committee because typically there’s more talk than action.” I pray that our leaders from all groups, all races and all backgrounds will work together to find a solution to resolve our differences.
Management Moment of Truth
Step One: What is reality? (A-ha moment)
Step Two: How did we get here? (Situation analysis)
Step Three: What action needs to be taken to correct the situation or to get where we want to be?
Step Four: How will we measure and communicate the plan and tweak it as necessary to get our
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.