Perception becomes reality when people labeled

Filed under OPINION

DR. WILLIE J. KIMMONS
READER COMMENTARY

This is in response to an hour interview I had with Mr. Andrew Gant, a 28 year-old, White male staff writer at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The interview was centered on voters’ absentee ballots and the matching of individuals’ signatures.

Mr. Gant’s perception of me was simply that I am “a local author, speaker and 6- foot 6 former basketball player with a booming laugh and a proclivity for nice suits.” The main reason I gave Mr. Gant a copy of my fifth book, a biography, a brochure of the academic and administrative positions I’ve held in the past and my business card and website was to make sure that he did not just see me as a 6-foot 6 Black male basketball player.  Nowhere in all the literature or book I gave to Mr. Gant was there any mention of me as a former basketball player.

We did discuss that I was a former classroom teacher, college professor, superintendent of schools, college president and chancellor. Mr. Gant and the News-Journal have extensive information on my professional career as an educational administrator.  Some eight years ago, I was a candidate for Volusia County School Board and recently made application to be a board member for Daytona State College.

These two entities require extensive educational attainment and related work experience. I have not played basketball in over 40 years, but I serve on numerous community boards and advisory councils in Daytona Beach, Volusia County and throughout the state and country. I work with youths, children and families, parents, teachers, churches and schools to help save our children and save our schools.

Mr. Gant did not mention that he reviewed my extensive website, noting that I was an officer in the military during the Viet Nam era and obtained a doctorate degree (1973) in Educational Administration and Supervision at the tender age of 28.  In addition, I am a family man, father of four successful children (all college graduates) and seven lovely grandchildren.

He did not mention that I conduct 40-50 keynote/motivational speeches and book signings a year around the country in 16 different school districts.  He did not mention that for the last 15 years I have served as a health care spokesperson. I review and critique funding proposals for breast cancer, obesity, prostate cancer and diabetes.

After all the information I cited in this letter and the literature I left with Mr. Gant, the only thing he could discern from our one hour interview was that I was a 6-foot 6 former basketball player with a booming laugh and enjoyed wearing nice suits.

This is the main reason I don’t trust mass media. They stereotype and negatively label African-Americans, especially Black males, who are educators, scholars, authors and community leaders committed to making life better for all people. So perception then becomes reality because we tend to label people.

My intent when writing the article about Mr. Derrick Henry’s mayoral campaign and absentee ballot concerns was to alert the voters to the media’s purposeful goal of trying to paint a picture in the voters’ mind that Mr. Henry has a problem with absentee ballots. Continuing to publish articles, rehashing old news and subtly insinuating something illegal is to plant the perception of some crookedness.  Here again, perception becomes reality in the voter’s mind.

As an experienced and true “academician,” I perceived the labeling of me as an insult. I am sure Mr. Gant did not intend to do what he did.

He simply did what he was taught in the way he was taught. We, as Americans, should make a concerted effort to try harder to understand other cultures so we can stay away from negative connotations.  Let this be a “teachable moment” for Mr. Andrew Gant and others because God made all of us. God made each of us different…but equal.

Dr. Willie J.  Greer Kimmons is an educational consultant for pre-K-16 schools, motivational speaker, author, former classroom teacher, superintendent of schools, college professor, college president and chancellor.

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