“The carefreeness that my son walks around with, I don't want him to have to lose that because he's black."
“When the Ahmaud Arbery shooting happened, I brought my son here to the park. I never thought that in 2020, I'd have to have a similar talk with my five-year-old son, but there I was having to have a similar talk with him, the same talk that my dad had to have with me, the same talk that his dad, who was born in 1905, had to have with him.
We were walking, and I had him on my shoulders. I wanted people, my wife, my friends, to see me because they know me, they know my son, they have a relationship with us. I wanted them to see us and to know that this could be me or my son because of the things that some people harbor as truth in their hearts because of how they were taught.
I was a little leery about posting the video, but I got past the apprehension because of the fact that I was just I was too familiar with hearing these stories over my life. You know, they had always been happening, but now because of social media and cameras, everybody was seeing it live, in real time. And, you know, I'm like, you're catching up to what we knew was happening in the 80s and 90s. So welcome. But I made the video because, you know, I'm six foot three, 250, and I had started a bike club, and there are a lot of African Americans in my bike club.
I believe that all people at their core are good. They just don't always have the opportunities to show their goodness. So this event happened and I made this video talking to my son, having the conversation about things that you shouldn't do and things that you should do because you're black in America.
A pastor saw the video and reached out to me. He and I talked and he was in tears and he said, 'I want you to know that, you know, I don't know you, but I want to get to know you. I don't understand, but I want to know, I want to understand.' He had adopted black children and he said 'Until you made this video, I never thought about the fact that my black son could go in our white neighborhood and ride his bike and somebody could not know that this was my son and he could not come home.'
I said, 'Man, I live with that. Every day my wife calls me. Are you almost home? Where are you? Sometimes two or three times, just because it is something that you are conditioned to do. So when you talk about being able to just walk without having these worries, I would love a world like that. And because of the way that my brain has already been taught to process things, even if the world gets to that point, it'll never happen for me. The carefreeness that my son walks around with, I don't want him to have to lose that because he's black.'
So we got with other white black pastors in this community and we decided that we were going to do something about it. We've been working together and we've been meeting together. He did something that is amazing; he invited me to his predominantly white congregation a couple of weeks ago. He and I sat on the stage together and we talked about race and race relations right there on Sunday morning, and I could probably count the number of African Americans that were in the crowd. But I can't tell you the number of hearts that were affected by the message. I've received phone calls, text messages, Facebook friend requests. People in the school district that I work in that I don't even know, that I didn't even realize went to that church, have emailed me within the district saying 'I appreciate what you did,' 'This moved me,' 'I'd like to become friends,' 'I'd like to get to know you better.' And that's what it's about.
That's what Comm/Unity WORKS is about. It was birthed from the idea of focusing on our commonalities. You and I, we can look at each other and I can tell that you're a white woman, you could tell that I'm a black man. But we struck a chord with our commonalities, with you talking about your daughter and me talking about my own experiences. And I believe in that moment, we were just people talking to each other. And I think that if we can get to that point, then we can truly begin to see change.
I've talked to people who had rebel flags in their windows. And it started off with tension and contentiousness and then I get to talking about the time I went to a David Allen Coe concert in Jacksonville Texas. And then they say, 'You did? Where’d you go when you were there?' I tell them a little honky tonk that I went to. 'Oh really,' they say. And then, there we go, we're talking, and they find out that I grew up the same way that they grew up because we both hauled hay when we were kids and our grandfathers both raised cows. Now we've got these commonalities in these common threads and then they say to me, 'Well you're different.' It's like, 'No, I'm not any different than any other black person. We just took time to talk to each other. And when you take time to build relationships you find out that we've got a lot in common.'
We've got a lot in common, if you take the outward skin away. Everything on the inside is the same. And I think the creator, whatever you believe that to be, has created us to have community and to have family and to have connection with each other. Here in my community, I am trying to take this one thread and link everyone together.” - Sherman #Texas