Dominoes Episode Fourty-One

Tracie’s was beginning to see how the interviews would be helpful to future interns. In the ones she had done so far, she could see her own struggles. What she was beginning to see from the interviews was that difference makers are not charismatic leaders, but common folks who are focused on righting a wrong as they saw it. She looked forward to talking with Connor.

Tracie: I’ve been looking forward to this interview. You have changed the face of college athletics as well as being a force for equity in America. What was your value shaping moment?

ConnorAs I grew in my athletic talents and body, I was asked to participate in all-star events across the county. All my life I’ve been stereotyped as an African American athlete with tremendous talent. But no one ever mentioned that I was valedictorian in my high school class or that I graduated with a 4.00 GPA in engineering in college.

As much as I resented the athlete stereotype, when I met up with fellow premier athletes I could see where the stereotype came from. My teammates were degrading themselves by conforming to that athlete stereotype.

I began to realize that sports were a great vehicle for acceptance of cultural differences if we could destroy those stereotypes. That’s when I heard of Charley.

Tracie: Did you find that stereotyping among your fellow interns?

Connor(Laughing) We’re a bunch of nerds. I don’t even think they realized that    I was an athlete. No, I was accepted just like the rest.

Tracie: Other than the stereotype issue, what other challenges did you face?

ConnorI think all of us face a moment of truth in our cause when our beliefs and values are challenged by opportunities. I lost a major endorsement contract by speaking out against voting restrictions. If you are going to be a difference maker, you have to win those moments of truth. Losing that contract was more valuable to me than winning a basketball championship.

Tracie: I remember Charley challenging us with the question: Do you want to be, or do you want to have? Obviously that was an important question for you to answer?

ConnorIt was, and yes it became the story frame that I use when I meet with young talented athletes. That’s a tough question to answer for a young person who had a tough life start.

Tracie: How do you help them answer that question?

ConnorWe sit down together, and I ask them to construct what their obituary might look like. Without any coaching on my part, their obituary answers that question for them. It’s all about being and nothing about having.

Tracie: We could go on for hours, but thanks for a very insightful interview. And I’ll not ask for an autograph!

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“People forget that stereotypes aren’t bad because they are always untrue. Stereotypes are bad because they are not always true. If we allow ourselves to judge another based on a stereotype, we have allowed a gross generalization to replace our own thinking.” – George Takei (Actor and Activist)

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