The Other America


Written by: Kevin Cann


I sent this out to PPS, but I feel more people need to hear it.  It seems inappropriate to really talk about anything else right now with what is going on in the world.  I titled this article after a famous Martin Luther King Jr speech where he discusses the two Americas that he sees.  He sees one filled with prosperity and opportunity and another filled with poverty.

I do not like the idea of discussing social issues outside of the sport of powerlifting.  However, there comes a time when I feel that discussions are necessary to have.  I love sports for many reasons, but one of them is that skin color does not matter.  Your social class does not matter.  Your past mistakes do not matter.  All that matters is that we can work together to accomplish the goal for the logo on the uniform.  America needs sports.  America also needs strong leadership.

I am fascinated with strong leaders.  As a coach we are leaders and we need to learn how to be the best leaders that we can be.  Martin Luther King Jr was a strong leader that spoke up for what he believed in.  He believed in something that no one else really believed in or wanted to hear, but he stood up and lead an entire community.  He was willing to say all of the things that people did not want to hear.  That took a shitload of courage at that time.  He also had the courage to do it in a non-violent way.  This man is perhaps the greatest LEADER America has ever known.

Towards the end of his life, he started to understand the violent behavior of the black community more.  The quote “Riots are the voice of the unheard” came on a 60 minutes interview about a year before his death.  In that same interview he also stated “My hope is that it will be non-violent.  I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive.”

He never condoned the violence, but he did understand it.  He also understood the boiling frustration of the entire community.  Sometimes frustration boils over.  Clearly, we are in this situation now.  Frustration has boiled over.  Whether this was race related or not, I think that we can all agree that there is just way too much hate.

In MLK’s “The Other America” speech he mentions how difficult that genuine equality is to achieve.  Some philosophers actually think it is impossible and just part of human nature.  Even if it is impossible, I believe we should strive for it.  It may never be perfect, but our attempts to get there will always allow for progress.

In this speech he mentions that more people are concerned with extremist behavior of Bull Connor and Jack Clark against the black community, rather than genuinely believing in equality for the black community.  This can be seen with the outrage after every incident, but then goes away until the next incident.  Then we get stuck in this carousel, where we never move forward, but just go around in circles.

I see posts all over social media that encourage us to check up on our black friends.  The sentiment is great, but it misses the point.  Your black friends should already know that you got their back.  You can’t just wait for an incident to occur to try to show that you care.  This is what MLK was referring to in the speech and the difficulties of achieving genuine equality.

Riots have been happening for civil rights since the 1960s.  Here we are again, meeting violence with more violence.  What happened to George Floyd is absolutely disgusting.  There was a brief moment though where the whole country agreed that it was a despicable crime.  Even far-right political voices came out at the defense of George Floyd.  I cannot think of another time that the whole country agreed on something like this.  This should give us hope.

I do not believe that a despicable crime gives people the right to commit more crimes.  Many of these crimes were committed against the same people in the community that they are protesting for.  This brings me to another of MLK’s speeches:

“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.[6]

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I was asked by someone after having a very good conversation, “Well then what do we do?”  That is the million dollar question right there.  We need to be proactive but do it in the spirit of making things better.  To quote Tony Dungy “We are going to be on the forefront of meaningful dialogue and meaningful change.”  This also was a quote from his statement, “Yes, there should be protest.  But we do not have a license to perform criminal acts because we are angry.”  He goes on to state that we need to demonstrate the qualities that we want to see from everyone.  We should not be silent, but we can’t go forward with judgmental and bitter spirits.

We need to be the change that we want to see.  I am going to leave you with this quote from Gandhi: “We but mirror the world.  All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.  As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.  This is the divine mystery supreme.  A wonderful thing it is and the source of happiness.  We need not wait to see what others do.”  If you respond to anger and hatred with anger and hatred the world will mirror that view right back.


This includes how we approach these issues on social media.  Sharing memes with your point of view does not create authentic and effective dialogue.  It is you talking, we need more listening.  Explaining to the world how white privileged you are, turns this entire situation about you.  This is not about your point of views or showing the world how “woke” you are.  It is about learning to listen and not to talk.  It should be more about the collective “Us” and how we come together.


Arguing with people with different perspectives is not how we go about creating meaningful dialogue that can lead to change.  Telling people to “Go fuck themselves” on social media only creates more hostility.  MLK and Gandhi could not have shared that sentiment more eloquently over and over.  You can’t beat hate with hate.


You can’t change the world; all you can do is control your own actions.  It is as simple as showing you give a shit all of the time and not just showing how outraged you are when an incident occurs.  The world does not need more internet memes, it needs more people that will just shut the fuck up and listen to other perspectives and be willing to have effective conversations.  Until that happens, nothing will change.






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