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May 31, 2020 / Jackie Grady

I am racist and I’m not sorry

I am racist and I’m not sorry. I feel no guilt. I will not apologize. I did not ask to be born white. I did not ask to be raised in a white community, with white friends and white teachers. I learned in school that slavery was bad and after it was eliminated, slavery was replaced by Jim Crow laws. My white teachers made me read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.” I made decisions in my life like where to go to college and what job to take based upon what was best for me. I never discriminated in my choices.

But I’m racist and I’m not afraid. It was not until I was an adult and sitting in a doctor’s office that I assumed the African-American male that walked into my exam room, wearing scrubs, was the nurse or the assistant. I assumed that he was the person that took my blood pressure and temperature before the doctor comes in.

I was a bit confused when this man began discussing my medical issues before it dawned on me that he was the doctor. In that moment I realized that I was rascist (and sexist) because I had assumed that my doctor was a white male.

This realization troubled me. All that color blindness that I had been so proud of was a farce. That day taught me to begin looking at the deep seeded stereotypes and assumptions that my brain had accepted.

Over time I reflected on how my assumptions were created. Those white teachers taught me through white lenses. It was no one’s fault. Everyone, everyday, is doing the best they can. But by just doing our best and making decision that are in our best interest, we naturally exclude and marginalize people of color.

I always associated rascism with intentional acts to harm. I never learned in my white community, that unintentional micro-aggressions, like questioning the credentials of an African-American professional, are just as bad, if not worse, than intentional acts.

I was taught to not use the n-word. I was not taught that my network of friends and colleagues would be influenced by who I had been previously exposed to. My whiteness afforded me a certain cumulative advantage which reduced the size of the hurdles that I had to overcome.

The best way I can explain is my first job. I had gone to school. I had taken all these classes. I had an education, a degree. But this education did not prepare me for inter-office politics, how to handle a difficult boss or an unreasonable client.

Thus, how can learning about race be different? It’s not. I was not exposed to the daily racist attitudes and systematic oppression to fully understand my own racism. This lack of exposure, created racist beliefs, when I didn’t even know it was happening.

I spent the majority of my life proud of my color blindness. I will spend the rest of my life embracing my racism and being brave enough to face it head on to reduce it and hopefully, eliminate it.

How does that work? Become aware and speak up. One day I was with a friend when a jogger ran by. She commented, “I like that black man’s shoes.” Since he was the only jogger that passed us, I asked, “Why did you feel the need to say he was a black man? You could have just said I liked his shoes and I would have known who you were talking about.”

I wasn’t nasty, angry or confrontational. She paused for moment then said, “That’s a really great question, I don’t know.” Without calling her racist, I made her face her racism. I exposed her to a deep seeded belief and habit that she wasn’t aware of.

I am not a savior. I do not have all the answers. But I’m willing to learn and to confront my whiteness. That does not mean that I’m ashamed of the color of my skin. Hardly. Yet I accept the responsibility that my role in my community plays. I value diversity. I pursue it. I seek to expose myself to it.

I am racist. I am changing and evolving.

March 14, 2016 / Jackie Grady

What defeat feels like

I sat stunned, furiously trying to enlarge the leaked NCAA bracket: “There’s no way the Bonnies didn’t make it but ‘Cuse did?  How can they keep a regular season A10 champ out?”  My throat and stomach tightened.  But I sat and continued to watch the CBS Bracket show which was the most agonizing piece of invented television programming ever.  Then solemnly I hit the power off button.  I allowed the silence to crush me.  There would be no dance.  No gleeful Facebook posts and no texts reconnecting with my college friends as we together, from miles apart, cheered on our beloved Bonnies.

Unlike four years ago, there would be no few glorious days of March to revel in college basketball’s ultimate stage.   I felt anger, disappointment and, at times, rage.  As a former athlete at St. Bonaventure and competitor at heart, I also know that in the game, you must take care of the outcome yourself.  When you don’t do enough to win, you leave the results in the hands of someone else.  And someone else, the NCAA, is not in your corner.   But in my heart, I knew the Bonnies were robbed.  Victimized along with Monmouth and South Carolina.

I heard how the campus dining hall was silent when it became apparent that the Bonnies weren’t selected.  My heart ached for those students because at Bonaventure, regardless of when you graduated, the Bona experience is shared like a family heirloom, passed along from class to class.  I wanted the bars in Allegany to be full on Thursday as students cheered their school while us alumns cheered through social media.

Now St. Bonaventure was relegated to the consolation prize, the NIT.  I heard demands to boycott it as an act of defiance against the NCAA. I disagreed.  I thought of the team itself.  The hours the players spent in the weight room, running the stairs in the RC, sitting in ice baths in the training room.  Those players deserved more games.  More victories.

Sport reflects life.  It’s in our biggest disappointments, our largest defeats that show our character.  And then I heard about the students.  The ticket line for the first NIT game was out the door.  The student section sold out in 2 hours.  The ticket office worked extra to fill demand.  There was a game Wednesday. My rage softened and my Franciscan values poured in.  I realized then that I would be sitting there on Wednesday night, computer in hand, sharing the NIT run with my classmates.  Let’s go Bonas!

March 15, 2012 / Jackie Grady

What it means to be a Bonnie

Yesterday when I posted “What’s a Bonnie,” I wanted to reach out to my SBU friends on Facebook and share my thoughts as we all anticipate this weekends basketball games.  I thought that if 50 people read it, I would be ecstatic. I have 1,081 hits. And that’s just today. Before lunch time. Wow. Thank you.

Of course, I’ve thought more on what it means to be a Bonnie. And again, it’s nothing tangible. No one can touch it, throw it, or wave it. It’s an experience. Let me share a story:

About 6 years ago I entered into an Olympic distance triathlon in Miami. It was a beautiful November morning and I was wearing a St. Bonaventure t-shirt during warm ups. A man approached me and asked if I went to St. Bonaventure. Happily I told him I was the class of 1997. He was from the class of 1967 and was going to participate in the full length Ironman trithlon. We exchanged good lucks and went our separate ways.

After staggered starts for different age groups and distances, I began my triathlon. I managed the 1/2 mile swim by actually drinking more of the lake than swimming and stayed steady during the 22 mile bike ride. It was the run that was my undoing. My body wanted to fold in half and collapse. By the second mile of the run, the sun was blazing and I was plodding along. As I was one of the last groups to start, the course was emptying of fans and participants. I was alone.

English: Entrance to Zoo Miami

I came around a bend, just outside the Miami Zoo, when I heard a roar of yelling, clapping and cheers. Anxiously, I looked ahead to find the triathlete that was garnering this attention. Then I heard it, “C’mon Bonaventure! Let’s Go Bona’s!” It was the ’67 alum’s friends and family. None of them knew me. They didn’t even know my name. But no matter, I was a Bonnie, like he was a Bonnie (well probably more like a Brown Indian). I responded with a fist pump and a huge grin.  That gracious gift of support carried me across the finish line.

I have some wonderful athletic highlights in my lifetime but that is one of my favorites.

Does anyone else have a similar experience?

March 14, 2012 / Jackie Grady

What’s a Bonnie? An explainer on the St. Bonaventure Nickname.

St. Bonaventure Bonnies logo

Image via Wikipedia

Now that both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have qualified for the NCAA Basketball Tournaments, a lot of people have been asking me, “What’s a Bonnie?” As a proud alum living in South Florida,  my office is decorated with Bonnie paraphernalia.  With everyone  filling out their tournament brackets and researching teams, I am the office expert on all things St. Bonaventure.

My only response thus far has been, “I’m a Bonnie.”  I’m greeted with a chort and a puzzled stare.  But how do I explain?  How do I explain that we are one of the smallest D-1 schools in the country.  We don’t buy championships with luring the best coaches with multi-million dollar contracts.  Our alumni base is so small, we don’t have huge endowments to build state of the art sports facilities.  We don’t brand our logo on everything that is possible.

How do I explain that the Brown and White were not colors selected for some glitzy marketing purpose.  But rather are the colors that mirror the winter hillsides surrounding us through the majority of the school year?  That who we are, where we live, and what we believe come together at St. Bonaventure.

How can I tell someone who graduated from a mega University that we kept our doors unlocked and that Professors knew us by name, not a number.  After one day on campus, no one was a stranger.  It’s a smile, a commitment to kindness, a feeling.  How do I explain that our victories, both in sport and in life, are hollow if not handled with humility?

People want an easy answer.  But a Bonnie is not an animal, a tree, or a fruit.  How do I explain that it’s the Franciscan values that infect each one of us like an autumn day, that makes a Bonnie.  That each of us, combined, embody what it means to be a Bonnie.  That we are a school created by its people and held together by our values. We are the community.  Each of us, together, create the whole.  And what we are together is so great that the love and pride we have is not something we wear on our sleeves.  Hell no, together, we wear our heart on a mountain.

When people ask, “What’s a Bonnie?”   I respond, “I’m a Bonnie.”