Atlanta, my home, my city, and my community. I grew up in a middle to an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the northwest suburbs of metro Atlanta. Looking back this was the complete definition of white privilege. I attended a small private Catholic High School where there might have been 5 African American people tops. A completely homogenous environment abundant with white people and sprinkled with minorities. My exposure and interactions with people outside of my race was mostly due to playing sports. I only had a handful of friends growing up that were black or not white and that was because of sports. Sports were all I knew growing up and that’s all I did because of the opportunities I had as a white person with privilege. I am so thankful for these opportunities, for the friendships I made with people outside my race, and cherish them even more so today. I truly didn’t realize what these opportunities and relationships meant to me until I took the time to look back and reflect.
While taking time to reflect, one of the most profound figures of my childhood was a man by the name of CJ Stewart. CJ Stewart was my hitting coach for baseball that I went to for personal lessons from the age of 10 until I was about 18. He is the best hitting coach in the country and has worked with the likes of Jason Heyward (Chicago Cubs), Dexter Fowler (Chicago Cubs), Andrew Jones (Chicago White Sox), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates), and countless other big leaguers. CJ is the cofounder of Diamond Directors which is a player development program and has launched a non-profit organization with his wife called L.E.A.D (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). LEAD’s mission to create positive outcomes for at-risk, minority, inner-city youth by leveraging the relationship between education, athletics, and service. The LEAD program provides inner-city youth with a pathway to high school graduation, college access, and career opportunities. CJ and I have continued to stay in touch intermittently while I played baseball in college and even after as I was pursuing my career in business.
I will never forget a conversation I had with CJ about two years ago when I got my real estate license and was pursuing this path. I guess he caught wind that I was entering the real estate industry and reached out to me unsolicited. He spoke to me for about an hour regarding the history of racism in Atlanta from redlining, to Jim Crow, gentrification, and the history of what the white forefathers set up much before my time. He spoke with so much conviction about these topics and at times it felt like I was being berated, but now I see why. By him knowing that I was entering real estate, he needed to inform me of this history so that as a white man I can be part of the solution and not aid in the systemic racism that was continually happening within the industry. I specifically recall him mentioning that if change and the advancement of black communities in the city Atlanta and other cities around the country was going to happen it wouldn’t be because of him as a black man, but because of me as a white person. I didn’t truly understand what he meant by this until many months later. As a white person in America, I was born with a different set of “rights” and “licenses” just by being white. I was able to walk down a street at night and not be harassed by police because of my skin color, I could be pulled over by a police officer and not be in fear for my life, and I was given more opportunities to succeed just because of my skin color. I ask myself why is that? This conversation I had with CJ stuck with me and resonates with me even more so today.
I reached out to CJ today and was slightly surprised by his answer.
I wrote, “CJ, I will never forget the conversation we had about two years ago. I don’t know if you recall speaking with me when I was doing real estate in ATL, but that conversation stuck with me and will be one that I never forget. I am praying for you and your family and the world. I am an ally for equality and anti-racism and will do anything to support this cause. Please let me know how I can help.”
He replied, “Benton, thank you for reaching out. I do remember it… it was intended to convict you and I’m glad it worked. “Please let me know how I can help” in your words. Do you mean it?”
I texted back, “I do mean it and have been working in Boston to bring a new future to communities through Crypto and Blockchain technology…”
CJ responded, “First, let’s set some context… Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected. Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of an ego, and service the work of the soul.”
Wow… Just take a second to go back and reread this quote by Rachel Remen that CJ iterated…
It isn’t that white people need to help African American people and communities, but we need to serve them. After texting back and forth for a few more minutes CJ asked me to pick a number, 10, 20, 30, or 40. I chose 40.
CJ said via text, “Got it. For 40 days, I want you to care about me. To care is to give serious attention and consideration. In the Bible, the number 40 deals with testing. Jesus was tempted by Satan for 40 days with yielding to sin. Upon His resurrection, He remained on earth for 40 days before ascending back to heaven. The Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 days trying to get to the Promised Land.
For 40 days:
Text me to find out if it’s best for me to communicate with you for 40 minutes by:
2. Phone call
If I’m not available to do either three, I may instruct you to…
Fast from food and pray for me for 40 minutes to be done at any time of the day that you choose when you eat.”
I chose to start this today and accepted his invitation to serve him. We went on to have a genuine conversation for about 40 minutes where he raised many great points about racism and how it started. A great example he gave me is that racism is by definition a race. It’s as if two race cars are racing. There will be a winner and a loser. If those two race cars tie, they will go back and race again until there is a winner. The race has been rigged so that white people will win this race almost every time… Think about this for a second and reflect back on how long this race has been happening. Literally since the beginning of time, from ancient Egypt where the Egyptians enslaved Jewish people. From the British and French Empires enslaving the people in the land they conquered, to America where we brought slaves over from Africa to build the country. This didn’t start with the death of George Floyd and countless others and has been happening since the beginning of time.
One other profound topic we discussed was when white people would become a minority. CJ asked me what do you feel is the biggest threat to me as a white person? I thought for a few seconds but couldn’t come up with an answer. He expressed to me that white people are the biggest threat to themselves. White people have the highest rates of overdoses on drugs and the highest suicide rates out of any other race in the United States. By about 2040 white people will become the overwhelming minority in the US. CJ asked me, “Do I have fear of when white people are no longer a majority?”
I took a minute to think and gather my thoughts. I declared, “No, I don’t have a fear of this because in my heart I believe that every human being has a part of them that is good. I don’t fear a future where my race is no longer the majority because I want to be a part of making sure we all have an equal future regardless of race.”
My question to you is, do you fear when white people are no longer a majority? If your answer is yes, then why? You may find by reflecting on this yes answer the root of how your mind has been molded by centuries of white supremacy thinking and ideology and not even recognize it.
CJ and I’s conversations will happen for the next 40 days and I am eagerly looking forward to learning and understanding more of what I can do to serve not only him as an African American man, but also to serve African American communities around the world. I come with an open heart, an open soul, and an open mind and I ask you to do the same in your life. My journey for the next 40 days will be enlightening, humbling, and imperative. We must be able to approach others outside of our race with humility, curiosity, and open minds. The old saying goes, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” If you are a white person that is reading this, I encourage you to reach out to African American colleagues, acquaintances, friends, or family and ask them one simple question, “How can I serve you?”.
I want to be explicitly clear that I’m not telling you about my interaction with CJ to exploit this for clickbait or to say look at me I have an African American friend, but I want to share this story because of the power in the message CJ is sending to not only me, but to other white people across the world. By listening and understanding can we only begin to take steps in the right direction to heal and serve our fellow brothers and sisters. Racism is not something that will vanish in a week or two, but through generations will the walls begin to crumble. Racism has been ingrained in the systems that have been built by the powerful white people in the world from getting loans, to banking, to education, to homeownership, to justice systems, and so many more it’s not funny. Only now are we just opening our eyes to this…
We at CryptoLiveLeak and BlockRelations stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We are bridge builders not only within our industry but within the world we live in. This means in our communities, in our cities, in our country, and beyond. As we progress through these challenging times we intend to bring to you honest, fair, and genuine information to help enlighten you to the way we see the world. We only have one world and wish to see this world filled with diversity, equality, and fairness for all individuals. CryptoLiveLeak and BlockRelations disavow racism or bigotry in any way shape or form and will continue to stand behind this message until we die. Our team will do whatever is necessary to serve those that have been crushed by broken systems and vow to do our part in reconstructing and revolutionizing a world built for every individual by the individual.