How A White Life Made An Amazing Difference In My Black Success
Character counts no matter what color you are
It’s been decades now but I can still see the look of empathy in his steel-grey eyes and the fine lines that appeared around his mouth as he smiled at me.
He walked around his desk and placed his arms around my shoulders in a semi-embrace. Then he asked, “how much would it take for you to set up your own law practice?”
Thinking it was just part of the continued conversation that had been taking place about my dream to one day have my own law firm, I responded “about $5000.” That was a lot of money back then. Remember, I said it was decades ago.
What happened next was a shock and surprise to me and it has made an amazing difference in my life.
Mr. Davis said (first name omitted for privacy purposes) “I want you to meet me at my bank on Monday morning and I am going to make sure you get the $5000 you need. I want to help give you the chance to be what I believe you can be.”
Mr. Davis, a white pharmacist, made a choice. He was willing to help a young black lawyer that he saw promise in and decided to help give him a chance to be all he could be. That young black lawyer was me. We had met through the law firm I was working for at the time.
But for Mr. Davis, it’s unlikely I would be where I am today. He saw me as a young man with ambition and potential. The picture to him was not one of color but one of character.
That’s the bottom line of this article.
There are few obstacles or challenges that cannot be met and ultimately overcome or defeated if a person or people have the right character and work together.
The obstacles and challenges created by the current coronavirus crisis are no different. We will have to defeat it through the collective efforts of character.
However, there is another pandemic in America, besides COVID-19 that, in my opinion, is just as vile and insidious. That is the pandemic of racism, divisiveness, panic, and reactionary responses that are on the verge of bringing America to its knees.
As a nation, we are going backward, not forward, concerning race relations, tolerance, and inclusion.
I say it’s because America has lost its “Character Compass.”
Here are the statistics:
According to Time Magazine, in 2015, in the wake of unrest in Ferguson, Mo over the death of black youth, Michael Brown, Jr., just half of Americans said they believed racial discrimination to be a “big problem.” In 2016, only a third considered black Americans more like to suffer from police brutality, according to a Monmouth University poll. Today, by contrast, more than 75% of Americans say discrimination is a big problem and 57% believe African Americans are more likely to suffer from police violence than other demographic groups a recent Monmouth poll found.
The Congressional Joint Economic Committee Report for 2020 shows that despite significant economic progress over the past decades, Black Americans experience far worse economic conditions than Whites or the population as a whole. The report is supported by empirical evidence:
- Historically, the unemployment rate for Black Americans has been twice the rate for Whites. Although the country has had a Black president and on the surface seemingly things were changing. They weren’t and they haven’t. The same dismal employment statistic exists. White works have a historical unemployment rate of 3.1%. Black workers have a historical 6% rate, essentially a 50% difference.
- The typical Black household earns a fraction of White households — just 59 cents for every dollar. The gap between Black and White annual household incomes is about $29,000, per year.
- The median wealth of Black families ($17,000) — is less than one-tenth that of White families ($171,000)
According to British Broadcast Company (BBC), a European publication, spike in U.S. hate crime has risen for the third year in a row. The world is looking at America and the picture it sees is really ugly. Think of the example that is being set. We are no longer the “ideal place to escape to” in the eyes of many.
There’s something wrong with this picture. Something is missing. What’s missing is America has lost its character.
There is no empathy, there are no genuine seeds of love being sown for fellow human beings no matter what their creed, color, or culture. Character is lacking.
So what is character?
The dictionary definition of character states that it consists of all the qualities that make a person or thing distinct from other people or places.
Character shows itself in many ways but it is never hidden. It always shines brightly no matter what whether good or bad. Many famous people have opined about what character is and describe it with some of the following attributes.
A character can be measured
“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” — Thomas B Macaulay
My heart warms with gratitude and love for what Mr. Davis did for me. He didn’t champion the fact that he had risen to the occasion and put a black person into a position to better himself, family, and contribute to the world.
He did it because it was his character and he didn’t tell anybody else. He didn’t care if they knew or not. Because of his character I was able to rise — black as I am.“Character Counts.”
Character is active
“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” — James D. Miles
At that time in my life, there was little if anything I could do for Mr. Davis. But he took time and money and made a difference in my life. He did it because he felt it was the right thing to do. “Character Counts.”
America must acknowledge that “Black Lives Matter” and encourage the “White Lives That Matter” who have joined with the Black Lives movement together singing the chorus that “All Lives” matter. This is the character that we must strive for. This is the character that enhances and enriches.
We can do it and make the world a better place to live in.
Character is simple
It’s not rocket science. Albert Einstein, one of the world’s greatest thinkers and scientists, sums character up this way.
“Most people say its the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character. “Character Counts”
This passage from an article by the Brookings Institute regarding the issue of race relations, aptly describes where the future of America lays.
“…our response will define who we are and will be in the 21st century and beyond. Truly, the very nature of our “national soul” is at stake, and we all have a deep responsibility to be a part of the solution.”
Yes, we all have a deep responsibility to be part of the solution. Otherwise, by default, we become part of the problem.
Abraham Lincoln gave us another simple measure of how to test character. He said “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Mr. Davis had the power to make a difference. His character led him to reach out and lift me.
There is one thing that he did that was even more valuable to me than the $5000 he provided.
I met him at his bank on Monday as he had requested. We went to the bank together. He knew the banker personally and they greeted each friendly and shook hands. Mr. Davis introduce me and informed the banker that he wanted him to provide a $5000 loan to me and use his bank account balance as collateral.
He said to the banker –“If he doesn’t pay the money back, the bank can take the funds from my account which has a sizable amount in it.”
At that time the banker looked at him and then looked at me. His eyes squinted and the brow of his forehead developed furrows of wrinkles signaling his disapproval of what Mr. Davis wanted to do. Then he said to Mr. Davis. “Are you sure you want to do this for him?”
It was quite clear that the disapproving look from the banker was because of the color of my skin. Mr. Davis knew that too. His face became so flush with anger it was almost the color of a red tomato. He pushed his chair back and leaned forward, looking the banker straight in the eye.
He said — “You either give him the loan or I will take $5000 out of my bank account and write him a check now and I will withdraw the rest of my money out of this goddamn bank.”
The banker was shocked but reacted quickly and apologized and left. He came back with a certified check made out in my name for the sum of $5000.
This had a profound effect on me and cemented the foundation of Mr. Davis’ and my friendship for years thereafter.
Because of Mr. Davis’ character, I went on to establish my law practice and employed lawyers, legal assistants, and support personnel and have been able to help support numerous families over the years.
Because of Mr. Davis’s character, I was eventually in a position to be chosen to serve as a Judge Pro Tem and sit in a courtroom of law and interpret and apply rules and regulations that made a difference in the lives of people.
Because of Mr. Davis’ character, I was able to springboard from my law practice and help create other business opportunities and help black, white, and other groups of people become entrepreneurs too.
There is much more I could share about what Mr. Davis, a White man, did for this Black man but it would take volumes to tell the rest of the story.
Mr. Davis, for me, made Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream become a reality. He did not judge me by the color of my skin but by the content of my character.
One White man made an amazing difference in the success of one Black life. I believe there are many like Mr. Davis among us and I know there are lots more like me. Given a chance, we will rise together. America will be better for it.
Here’s what you can do to make a difference.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”-Unknown
You have the power to help shape America’s destiny. What will you do with it?