I met Sam Wyche at the most recent Rotary meeting in Easley and it was a true pleasure as a football fan and former player.
As a coach and a member of the upstate community during some of my more formative years, he was always a shining example of what hard work could do for anyone, and I thank him for that. But I want to talk about a different Sam Wyche, one that might not be known widely and share with you a discussion we shared.
You know him as a Super Bowl coach, Furman graduate, former business owner and volunteer high school football coach with Pickens High School. You may even know about his involvement with the annual Food Fight Bowl, a fundraiser to benefit Meals on Wheels.
I knew all of these things, but what I didn’t know was how far reaching Wyche’s goals were for this community and our society at large.
I find I am usually a fairly good judge of character, which means I’ve dropped the ball more than once along the way in my life experience, enough to know the difference between posturing and genuine involvement. Based on our discussion, Wyche is genuine and beyond that, an extremely brave man in the face of a nation consumed with labels and political correctness.
What was the conversation sparking this? I’m going to call it a letter to Wyche. And why am I writing to you all about it? The events in Ferguson, Mo., have caused the man serious concern and he is proposing pulling together some prominent names to have a discussion about where we as a society stand on racism, bigotry, hatred and a complete lack of understanding or acceptance of the differences between us all.
Oh, and by the way, he is proposing the panel or committee be charged with being frank and dispensing with political correctness.
Well, Coach, you didn’t ask my opinion but you happened to hit upon a subject I am very passionate about and I personally can’t pass up the opportunity to share in your endeavor.
First off, bravo! It takes courage to stand up in the face of political correctness and address generational and racial/ethnic issues and the divide between us all. If you ask me, political correctness is nothing more than a means of creating more divisiveness between Americans, fostering a need for a label for each and every individual which does nothing more than differentiate us from one another rather than bring us together.
As for your question concerning this area and its ability to handle a situation similar to the events still unfolding in Ferguson, the answer is a simple no.
In my line of work I walk in a lot of circles with a lot of racial and socioeconomic range in the spectrum of people I deal with on a daily basis. The feeling I have is there is an underlying tension, just below the surface in this community, that could erupt into a reaction quite similar.
This doesn’t even begin to address the issue of law enforcement preparedness. That is a completely separate issue and quite frankly a discussion no one should HAVE to hold.
We as a society are at a crossroads and I see the solution to this issue ahead of us as threefold.
Political correctness and the divisive nature of special interests have to go by the wayside. There HAS to be a common ground for us as a nation and any practice that either creates a chasm or places a single interest above the good of the whole must be dispensed with.
The color issue discussed shouldn’t be about any other color than the color of money. There shouldn’t be any redistribution of wealth but a redistribution of opportunity that doesn’t include interest-slavery. A college education, for example, shouldn’t come with debt lasting a lifetime, defeating the purpose of increasing earning power by earning a degree to 20 years of interest to pay for it.
Finally, there HAS to be some new form of leadership, similar to the cross-racial, interfaith, TRUE visionary leadership of the early Civil Rights Movement. The generations have changed and if we are going to have a frank discussion moving forward, I believe the reactionary days of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have passed us by.
They have done wonderful things, but someone has to be readily available to fill their shoes and lead change in the 21st century. The leadership — white, black, brown, teal, purple…whatever color they may be — has to be open to a clean slate. History can’t be forgotten but it can be let go of to begin anew.
I want to wish you luck, Mr. Wyche, and as I told you before I would love to attend, even as a citizen and not a journalist. It’s been way too long since I witnessed or participated in a true dialog unfettered by the restraints slowly choking our nation.