Finding peace, meaning in the face of suffering and pain in America

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Appalling, unacceptable, disturbing, unnecessary, offensive and tragic.

Choose your description of the video and subsequent death of George Floyd and the shoe would most likely fit nearly perfectly.

Overt racism and covert racism remains an unfortunate part of our society in 2020. The year of COVID-19, thus far, stinks to high Heaven and so does the concept of discrimination. The smell is nauseating.

Why is there still a mindset among some to vilify, speak down upon and to knock down people of color?

This is not a general, inclusive admonition as our country has certainly made progress since my youth but recent incidents have provided us with a sobering, humbling reminder of the stark reality of hatred that still exists and manifests itself in many ways.

This is not a condemnation of police, by any means, as a whole.

There are many, many, most law enforcement officers who do a tremendous job protecting us from the harmful aspects of unlawful behavior in the world. There are many who have paid the ultimate sacrifice trying to do so. There are many I know and have known who are truly wonderful people and wonderful servants. I thank them regularly for their service.

There are also those who are outside of the bounds of decency and the law, itself. The hope is that true character is ultimately revealed and that those rogue aspects of the profession are weeded out, cast aside and held accountable for horrific actions.

Brice Brown played at Karr and has now led his alma mater to an amazing four state championships. It has been a challenge, on and off the field.

“I think this tragedy in Minneapolis would have been a great teaching moment for this generation and these kids because they have been exposed to it a great deal through social media,” Brown said. ““I think the key is to stick together and to teach our younger generation of core value, respect and integrity.”

Brown knows and has experienced discrimination in his lifetime and he has seen it with his players over a period of years as well.

“There is prejudice,” Brown said. “We’ve faced a lot of teams that were all white. Most of the time, it has been an excellent experience, filled with hard play and mutual respect. We teach our kids that we are all the same, all Americans, all sons and daughters. We teach respect of everyone and we sincerely hope that carries over into real life.”

Action is important in dealing with offenses. So is reaction.

“It is important how we express ourselves,” Brown said. “It is important to temper and deal properly with frustration and to rise above. Things will be good but things will be bad and that is when we have to handle things properly. That does not include matching violence with violence.”

Sometimes, ignoring the garbage spewed by insensitive, uneducated, brainwashed others is not easy to do.

“We have played games where people have called our kids the “n” word,” Brown said. “Turning the other cheek is a cliché but it is key and it reveals character. There are different places in our state and people perceive you differently. It is more when we go outside of the area that we encounter blatant racism.

“We go the extra yard to handle it properly. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they look like. You hope the opponent has the same sentiment but sometimes they don’t.”

Willie Brooks has been the head coach at Helen Cox, Riverdale and is the new head coach at West Jefferson. Brooks played at De La Salle and Northwestern State. He has seen his share of racism in football.

“It is unfortunate that it exists and through coaching, you want your kids to understand they will have obstacles in life in dealing with these issues,” Brooks said. “It is hard to explain why others dislike or hate you when you have done nothing to offend them.”

When encountering discrimination, Brooks urges patience and rational thinking.

“We have to deal with those who act in that fashion effectively,” Brooks said. “That is not to loot and riot against innocent people. My way of dealing with racial tension in this country, as a coach, is to get our kids to look at things not as black and white but to treat people equally and demand the same. Try hard to relate to others and hope they reciprocate. Sports can help a great deal with this.”

Brooks has coached a bevy of young men from different races.

“We coach all kinds of ethnic backgrounds and try to promote the right things,” Brooks said. “It’s truly unfortunate that kids get to see these type of things and experience racism. Fortunately, we haven’t had terrible experiences like some but I know others have.”

With tension and protests taking place in so many locations, including New Orleans, Brooks feels strongly that there is a proper reaction.

“This is a teachable moment,” Brooks said. “We must learn from this and stop it from continuing to occur. We need to genuinely try to understand each other and work with each other. Violence is never the answer. That was a horrible event in Minnesota. It cannot continue and must not be tolerated but we must not answer violence with violence. We are better than that.”

Nick Foster is now the head coach at St. Augustine. Foster grew up in New Orleans and played at Karr and in college at UAB.

“When we played at Karr, we dealt with unfair judgment by certain referees,” Foster said. “I dealt with racism playing in college, being called names and people throwing things at us. It was hard to understand. There was one time when I deserved to play but was kept behind another for a period of time. I bided my time and finally got my opportunity.”

Foster is certain one thing.

“I don’t care where you are in our country, you are going to deal with discrimination,” Foster said. “We have to be better. We have to work hard enough to overcome it. There is no reason for it, none. Why hate another when he or she has not done anything to you?”

Foster has experienced the pain first-hand.

“I have definitely dealt with it,” Foster said. “I was coached by white men at Karr and I was raised by white men. They were good to me. We never teach our kids that white people are the enemy but we have to teach our kids how to deal with discrimination, what to do when you are pulled over or treated improperly. It could make a dramatic difference in what follows.”

Foster made it clear that he is not against police, as a whole.

“We have police with us all the time at St. Aug and they are great people,” Foster said. “I just go about teaching my kids how to deal with it. We have to learn to deal with it in our world. What happened in Minnesota was simply a terrible act, terrible. Don’t blame everyone for the actions of one but hold anyone accountable for terrible actions.”

This is another chance to share reality with young men at St. Augustine when students return to campus.

“I teach my kids that prejudice exists,” Foster said. “Everyone encounters racism and discrimination, including Caucasians on occasion. It simply isn’t as prevalent as it is with regard to African-Americans. There is no doubt about that.”

Why are we still in the midst of this malaise? It is a hard question to address.

“It messes me up,” Foster said. “We are so many years past slavery and Jim Crow and we still have these incidents. I’m glad we have cameras and social media to expose wronddoing. Our relationship, you and I, is a great example of how we should be. There is mutual respect and trust. We should never see color. We should see persons for who they are.”

The destructive aftermath of the Floyd tragedy has been painful to observe as well.

Despite its shortcomings, the United States remains the best country in the world, the model for others to observe and copy.

There are still many flaws in the system and many wrongs to be righted. As the old oft-used axiom goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Our most sincere efforts must be put forth on a daily basis to arrest the ills we witness. Hatred is venomous and has no place in the hearts of those who wish to find solutions. Revenge is a thorn in the side, too painful to contemplate and too extreme to extract.

Prejudice is part of the imperfect human heart.

We always prefer one way over another, one person over another, one school over another, one city over another, one food over another.

Admitting and submitting to the flaws in our own character is the first step toward improving our behavior and temperament, a large step toward peace and understanding.

The sinner must first recognize the sin to get past it and seek forgiveness. We all need second chances.

The key, then, is to avoid repeating the same behavior, to learn from mistakes and to apply the lessons learned to life to make this more of a life worth living.

That applies to all persons in our cities, our parishes, our states, our countries.

The words have echoed throughout history, reflecting on the Declaration of Independence in 1976 from Thomas Jefferson and the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Biblical teaching is clear.

Leviticus 19:15 says, “do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. The reply was poignant.

“Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. And the law of the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In John 13:34-34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus went on to say this in Matthew 5:43-45:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.”

Jesus went on to teach us to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-40.

It is brutal to attempt to turn the other cheek and turn the page when any of us are persecuted, offended, damaged. That has certainly been true in my life, when I have fallen short of the mark set for us by Christ.

The actions after the awful occurrence on May 25 have fallen way short of the mark as well.

In this great country of generally extraordinary freedoms, we have the freedom to assemble, the freedom to express our disagreement with policies or persons we may disagree with.

That, of course, is in peaceful fashion.

That does not include burning buildings, looting businesses and destroying the lives of others who have nothing to do with the offenses we find offensive. Those actions are also despicable.

Two wrongs to not make a right.

“When people get angry when things like this happen, protests are a genuine right but we must do it peacefully and that we must all understand that we are all together, regardless of the color of our skin,” Brown said. “We don’t want to have one of our young men exposed to this. We try to teach our kids at Karr, a predominantly black school, that it is not about the color of our skin but the color of our jersey. Rioting and destruction is not the answer.”

It should be our most determined quest to gain an understanding of who others are, where they come from, why they believe what they believe and to reach a meeting of the minds, a mutual respect.

While that is perhaps an overly optimistic view, I am an optimist and always believe that people can find some common ground, if they simply try to do so. The trying is the key aspect.

For those of us who say that we understand what others are going through, that can only be true if we have experienced a very similar, like experience.

Otherwise, that is a pointless, farce of a statement.

Until you have walked in the shoes of another, you have no real idea what he or she has been through.

That is why we must make a genuine effort to reach a level of understanding.

Let us all examine ourselves in the deepest, most sincere fashion to improve who we are. That should our goal on a day-to-day basis, anyway.

The Serenity prayer is one which I turn to and is used frequently to balance thoughts and action in the midst of the often hectic, sometimes frantic, occasional anxiety-filled days we find ourselves immersed in.

“God—grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

No, we cannot impact every aspect of life. No, our voices may not be heard by everyone. Yes, we can make a difference. Yes, we should attempt to do so in bold but loving fashion, not tearing down or burning down others or buildings but building bridges between each other, building businesses and burning to build true relationships that bind with people of all cultures and backgrounds.

“We go the extra yard to handle racism properly,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they look like. You hope the opponent has the same sentiment but sometimes they don’t. We need to get to that place on and off the field, as a society.”

The ills of society require soul searching to work diligently to eliminate the heart wrenching scene of May 25 and others like it. Mankind must be better than this. Our country must be better than this. Humanity and our long-term survival depends on it.

We must not be unconscious with regard to our social conscience. Cleanse your mind of hatred and prejudice. Fill your heart with joy, compassion, understanding, giving.

Then, get busy living as we should all strive to live. Let the awakening begin!

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Ken Trahan


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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