EMMANUEL ACHO’S “UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN”

Emmanuel Acho’s newly released “Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man” began as engaging and intuitive conversations on Instagram. Now in a new book, in collaboration with Oprah, the former NFL linebacker and sports analyst is gathering those thoughts and answers to tackle systematic racism in America and encourage anti-racist work.

Aired on December 3, 2020

 

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TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.

I AM JACK FORD.

DURING THIS EXTRAORDINARY PERIOD OF SOCIAL AND POLITICAL TURMOIL, WE'VE COME TO REALIZE THAT ONE OF THE THINGS WE DESPERATELY NEED IS MEANINGFUL CONVERSATION.

A COMMODITY THAT HAS BEEN SCARCE UP UNTIL NOW, BUT WE ARE FORTUNATE THAT ONE MAN HAS STEPPED FORWARD.

MANUEL ACHA HAS USED HIS STATUS AS A FORM ARE FOOTBALL START IN THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, IN THE NFL TO CREATE A PLATFORM FOR CONVERSATIONS THAT ARE MEANINGFUL, THAT ARE REAL AND THAT ARE RELEVANT AND THOUGHTFUL AND PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANT, THAT ARE DIFFICULT.

AND HE JOINS US NOW TO TALK ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK, HIS BOOK HAS BORROWED, IF I CAN, THE TITLE FROM HIS ENORMOUSLY SUCCESSFUL VIDEO SERIES AND THE BOOK IS ENTITLED UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN AND EMANUEL JOINS US AS PART OF OUR CHASING THE DREAM INITIATIVE ON POVERTY JUSTICE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY IN AMERICA.

EMANUEL, WELCOME.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

BEING.

THE PLEASURE IS MINE AND THANK YOU FOR THE KIND INTRODUCTION, MY FRIEND.

I WANT TO PREFACE THIS BY SAYING I READ THE BOOK YESTERDAY.

IT WAS FABULOUS AND ALL OF THOSE THINGS THAT I MENTIONED, BUT I THOUGHT AS IMPORTANT, IT WAS AS IF, AS I WAS READING THE BOOK, I WAS ACTUALLY HAVING A CONVERSATION WITH YOU.

DIFFERENT BOOKS ARE WRITTEN IN DIFFERENT FASHIONS, AND I SUSPECT THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT.

I WANT TO GET TO THE BOOK IN A SECOND, BUT I WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THIS BOOK IS COMING FROM.

I THINK THEY NEED TO KNOW MORE ABOUT YOU, AND I WAS STRUCK BY THE FACT, AND I MENTIONED YOUR EXTRAORDINARY FOOTBALL SUCCESS, BUT I WAS STRUCK BY THE FACT IN YOUR BOOK YOU SAY THIS EARLY ON.

YOU SAY YOUR WORD, I'VE BEEN NAVIGATING THE LANES BETWEEN WHITENESS AND BLACKNESS ALL OF MY LIFE.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

JACK, IF WE CAN START THIS OFF BY BEING UNCOMFORTABLE.

I REALIZE THAT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COLOR AND CULTURE.

JACK, I WENT TO AN AFFLUENT WHITE, PRIVATE SCHOOL FROM GRADE 5 THROUGH 12 AND I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A MERIT SCHOLAR AND GO TO HARVARD AND YALE AND I HAPPENED TO BE 246 POUNDS AND I SAID LET ME PLAY FOOTBALL.

LET ME PUT THIS IN CONTEXT, THERE WERE PERFECT A.C.T. AND S.A.T. SCORES FROM STUDENTS IN MY HIGH SCHOOL CLASS, THERE WERE 16-YEAR-OLDS WHO WERE ALREADY COMPOSING MUSIC FOR VIOLINS AND CELLO.

I WAS AT A SCHOOL WITH THE CREAM OF THE CROP.

IT IS CALLED ST. MARK'S SCHOOL IN TEXAS AND THE NUMBER ONE PRIVATE SCHOOL IN DALLAS.

I WAS IMMERSED IN WHITE CULTURE, JACK AND I GO TO THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AND THEN GO TO THE NFL AND I WAS IMMERSED IN BLACK CULTURE, BUT I AM FIRST-GENERATION AMERICAN AND MY PARENTS WERE BORN IN NIGERIA.

SO WHILE MY SKIN IS BLACK I GREW UP IN NIGERIAN CULTURE.

SO I HAD TO LEARN WHITE CULTURE AND LEARN BLACK CULTURE AND I HAD TO NAVIGATE WHITE SPACES AND BLACK SPACES AND WHILE WE ALL SPEAK ENGLISH, JACK, THERE IS A CLEAR, LARGE COMMUNICATION BARRIER BETWEEN WHITE PEOPLE AND HOW THEY COMMUNICATE TO BLACK PEOPLE AND HOW THEY COMMUNICATE.

I SHOULD KNOW, BY THE WAY, I WOULD HAVE LOVED TO HAVE GOTTEN YOU TO COME UP TO NEW HAVEN AND BLADE FOR THE YALE BULLDOGS, BUT IT WAS OUR LOSS AND THE LONG HORNS' GAIN.

LET ME GO TO THE TITLE OF THE BOOK, ALL RIGHT?

BECAUSE I THINK TITLES ARE SO INTERESTING AND SO IMPORTANT, AND THEY ARE SO DIFFICULT TO COME UP OFTENTIMES, AND I KNOW YOU HAD A WORKING TITLE THAT WAS DIFFERENT FROM THIS.

WHY IS THE NOTION OF UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS SO IMPORTANT?

BECAUSE I THINK THAT ANYTHING WORTH DOING IT IS BIRTHED THROUGH DISCOMFORT.

ANYTHING GREAT, JACK -- IN PLAYING FOOTBALL, IN ORDER TO START THE SEASON, YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH TRAINING CAMP AND TRAINING CAMP FOR THOSE THAT WILL WATCH AND DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS, TRAINING CAMP IS GRUELING PRACTICES IN THE TEXAS HEAT FOR MANY WITH ABOUT 12 POUNDS OF PADDING ON.

YOU HAVE TO GO THROUGH YOU THAT DISCOMFORT TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOAL.

GOING THROUGH NO AMOUNT OF DISCOMFORT AND PAIN TO BIRTH THE NEXT GREAT CHILD THAT WILL ACCOMPLISH THE NEXT GREAT THING.

I THINK, JACK, IF WE WANT TO DO ANYTHING SIGNIFICANT IN OUR COUNTRY, WHICH IS MEND THE DIVIDE OF RACISM WHICH IS BRIDGE THE GAPS AND LEAD TO RACIAL RECONCILIATION, IT WILL HAVE TO BE UNCOMFORTABLE.

THE STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK, I THINK, IS VERY INTERESTING AND VERY COMPELLING.

DIFFERENT SUBJECTS ARE TREATED IN EACH ONE, SUCH AS WHAT SHOULD YOU CALL US?

AND YOU THIS WHOLE WAY THAT YOU LOOK AT BACK IN HISTORY AND YOU LOOK AT COLORED AND NEEG GRO AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND BLACK.

YOU TALK ABOUT ALL OF THOSE AND HOW YOU CAN BE AN ALLY AND HAVE THE CONVERSATIONS.

EACH CHAPTER STARTS WITH A QUESTION AND IT IS SO INTERESTING TO SEE THOSE QUESTIONS BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T REALLY YOUR QUESTIONS.

WHERE DO THE QUESTIONS COME FROM?

GREAT QUESTION.

AFTER THE FIRST EPISODE, JACK, I GOT 25 MILLION VIEWS IN ABOUT FOUR DAYS AND I WAS, LIKE, I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO, BUT THE HEART OF THE SHOW WAS TO TALK TO PEOPLE, SO I READ EVERY SINGLE E-MAIL PROBABLY 1300 E-MAILS IN THE FIRST FOUR DAYS AND I WOULD FLAG E-MAILS OF QUESTIONS THAT I WANTED TO GET TO IN MORE DETAIL, SO EVERY QUESTION THAT YOU SEE IN MY BOOK WHICH STARTS EVERY CHAPTER WHICH IS FROM A REAL PERSON, A GENUINE SPACE AND SINCERITY, AND I HAD FLAGGED THESE QUESTIONS FROM WAY BACK WHEN, AND I HAD TRIED TO FIND DUPLICATING THINGS.

SO I START EVERY CHAPTER WITH THE REAL QUESTIONS FROM REAL PEOPLE.

ONCE AGAIN, WE'RE TALKING WITH EMANUEL ACHO WHO AMONG OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN HIS LIFE IS THE AUTH ARE OF 'UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN.'

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT SPECIFICS HERE AND EACH OF THESE CHAPTERS IS SO COMPELLING AND I WANT TO TOUCH ON A COUPLE OF THEM HERE.

IN ONE OF THEM YOU TALK ABOUT THE FACT AND PEOPLE MIGHT FIND THIS ODD AND COUNTERINTUITIVE.

YOU TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE SHOULD STOP CELEBRATING COLORBLINDNESS.

MOST PEOPLE IF YOU ASKED THEM AND THEY WOULD THINK, IF THEY CAN SAY THAT THEY WERE COLORBLIND, THAT WOULD BE SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE A POSITIVE, BUT YOU'RE SAYING THAT'S NOT NECESSARILY WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING.

WHY NOT AND WHAT SHOULD WE BE DOING?

BECAUSE THERE IS A DAFRPS BETWEEN INTENTION AND DIRECTION.

THE INTENTION BEHIND BEING COLORBLIND IS PURE, AND IS TRYING TO SAY I TREAT ALL PEOPLE EQUALLY BECAUSE I'M COLOR BLIND WHEN WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING IS SEEING EACH OTHER'S COLORS, CULTURES AND APPRECIATING NONE THELESS.

IMAGINE HOW SILLY IF I WALKED OUT AFTER AN OVERCAST DAY, JACK, SEE THE RAINBOW.

I CAN'T SEE THE RAINBOW.

WHEN YOU DON'T SEE COLOR, YOU DON'T SEE THE BEAUTY THATS WITH THAT.

THERE'S A BEAUTY THAT COMES WITH MY COLOR IN BEING BLACK AND BROWN AND A BEAUTY THAT COMES WITH THE CULTURE AND I DO NOT ASK FOR YOU TO NOT SEE IT, SEE EVERY ATTRIBUTE THAT DESCRIBES ME, MY HEIGHT, MY WEIGHT AND WHATEVER THE BEAUTY IS.

SO DON'T BE COLORBLIND.

SEE COLOR AND APPRECIATE COLOR.

YOU ALSO TALK ABOUT IN ONE OF THE CHAPTERS IS HAVING AN ALLY.

YEAH.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY HOW TO BE AN ALLY?

AGAIN, I SAY, SO MANY PEOPLE AFTER THE MURDER OF GEORGE FLOYD, EMANUEL, I'M HERE FOR YOU.

WHAT CAN I DO?

SEE, JACK?

THEY WANTED TO BE AN ALLY, BUT THEY DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO BE AN ALLY.

AND I WANTED TO EDUCATE MY WHITE BROTHERS AND SISTERS AND ALL OF THOSE WHO WANT TO GET INTO THE FIGHT FOR EQUALITY WHICH WILL GREATLY IMPROVE THIS GREAT NATION, AND I WANT TO EDUCATE THEM ON HOW TO BE.

YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP DECISIVELY, PROMPTLY AND YOU HAVE TO BE ACCURATE IN YOUR SPEECH WHEN YOU DO SHOW UP.

SO IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO WANT TO BE AN ALLY.

A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE GREAT INTENTIONS.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THOSE INTENTIONS?

YOU MENTIONED IN THE INTRODUCTION THAT YOU HAD STARTED THIS VIDEO SERIES, SHORTLY AFTER THAT TRAGIC AND HORRIFIC DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD AND HOW THE BOOK HAS FLOWN, IF YOU WILL, FROM THAT.

LET ME GO BACK TO THE VIDEO SERIES.

THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS YOU'RE SEEING AND YOU'RE A HOST AND ANALYST WITH FOX SPORTS.

WHAT MADE YOU SAY, THIS IS WHAT I'VE GOT TO DO, SIT DOWN AND CREATE THIS VIDEO SERIES AND HAVE THESE UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS.

YOU KNOW, I'VE NEVER ANSWERED THIS QUESTION LIKE THIS, BUT NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, I THINK IT WAS MY FORM OF GRIEF.

I'VE NEVER SAID THAT BEFORE, BUT NOW THAT FOR THE FIRST TIME IT'S DAWNED ON ME JUST NOW THAT SOME PEOPLE WERE CRYING, SOME PEOPLE WERE SCREAMING, SOME PEOPLE WERE QUIET.

SOME PEOPLE WERE DISTRAUGHT.

I WAS A LITTLE BIT OF ALL THOSE THINGS, BUT I KNEW I HAD TO SPEAK, AND I HAD TO GET MY FEELINGS OUT THERE.

JACK, I'M NOT THE TYPE OF PERSON WHO LIKES TO COMPLAIN, WHETHER IT IS JUSTIFIED AND DO NOTHING ABOUT IT, AND SO WHILE SO MANY OF MY BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS WERE JUSTIFIABLY MARCHING AND PROTESTING AND SEEKING JUSTICE IN DIFFERENT FORMS.

I REALIZE THAT MY VOICE IS MY SOURCE, AND SO I'M GOING TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE THE WAY I KNOW HOW.

WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THAT EXTRAORDINARY REACTION?

AS YOU SAID, MILLIONS OF VIEWS.

LAST TIME I LOOKED IT WAS MORE THAN 70 MILLION VIEWS OF THIS, AND AGAIN, IF YOU WATCH IT, YOU MAKE CERTAIN TO BRING ON PEOPLE AND CONVERSATIONS THAT ARE UNCOMFORTABLE.

WERE YOU SURPRISED AT SUCH A POSITIVE REACTION TO IT?

YEAH.

YOU CAN'T NOT BE SURPRISED WHEN JUST ONE EPISODE OF ME SITTING IN AN ALL-WHITE ROOM GETS 25 MILLION VIEWS IN FOUR DAYS.

PUT THIS IN CONTEXT.

I PLAYED IN THE NFL, BUT I WASN'T LIKE A HALL OF FAMER.

IT'S NOT LIKE I'M MICHAEL STRAHAN.

MAKE NO MISTAKE ABOUT THAT, IN MY NFL CAREER, WHILE I KNEW IT WAS A GREAT CONCEPT, I DIDN'T KNOW THE RECEPTION WOULD BE SO RADICAL.

I DIDN'T THINK I'D GET CALLS FROM MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY FROM NO CALLER I.D. NUMBERS AND JENNIFER ANISTON AND REESE WITHERSPOON WOULD REACH OUT AND ROGER GOODELL WOULD CALL ME.

I HAD NO IDEA.

IT'S SOMETHING THAT YOU SAY IN THE BOOK THAT STRUCK ME, AND YOUIO SAY THIS MIGHT BE SURPRISG TO PEOPLE.

YOU SAY ENDING RACISM IS NOT A FINISH LINE, RIGHT?

THAT WE WILL CROSS, RATHER IT'S A ROAD WELL TRAVELED.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

IN SPORTS, YOU HAVE AN OBJECTIVE TO SCORE A TOUCHDOWN IN FOOTBALL.

YOU CROSS THE THICK WHITE LINE AND SCORE A TOUCHDOWN AND YOU'RE GOOD.

YOU CROSS THE THRESHOLD, IN TRACK AND FIELD YOU CROSS THE FINISH LINE AND YOU KNOW THERE IS AN END POINT, BUT I REALIZE WITH RACIAL RECONCILIATION, JACK, THERE ISN'T SOME SORT OF END POINT THAT WE KNOW WE WILL GET TO SO WE MUST CONTINUE TO TRAVEL THE ROAD TOGETHER.

WE WON'T LOOK UP IN 30 DAYS FROM NOW AND SAY WE DID IT, WE SOLVED RACE IM.

THAT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN AND WHAT WE CAN LOOK UP AND SAY IS WE'RE DOING IT AND WE'RE SOLVING IT TOGETHER.

WE'RE ON THAT ROAD, RIGHT?

ONCE AGAIN, THE BOOK IS TITLED UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN.

EMMANUEL ACHO, IT IS A MARVELOUS BOOK.

IT IS SUCH AN IMPORTANT AND THOUGHTFUL AND COMPELLING DIRECTION FOR US TO FOLLOW AS HAVE BEEN YOUR VIDEO SERIES.

EMANUEL, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING AGAIN WITH YOU.

THANK YOU, MY FRIEND.

THE PLEASURE IS MINE.

TAKE CARE NOW.

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