MANSFIELD — Reggie Gamble never spent much time standing on the sidelines as a player and he's not about to do it now either.
Ashland University’s veteran assistant football coach offered a sobering piece of advice during Sunday’s installment of the Shop Talk series at 419 Barbershop. When it comes to race relations, everyone needs to put down the clipboard and get in the game -- regardless of the color of his or her skin.
“Say the wrong thing. Just let us know that you’re trying something,” said Gamble, who graduated from Mansfield Senior and was a four-year starter on the offensive line at AU before pursuing a career in coaching. “I’d rather see something than nothing. If I know we can have a conversation, then that changes the whole game. We can build off that.
“Say something and trust that I will want to teach you as opposed to just belittle you. The first thing is be willing to take that step. So many people are scared to be called racist right now.”
Sunday’s emotionally-charged conversation was moderated by Richland Source editor Larry Phillips. It was the second in an ongoing series of video discussions on race fostered by 419 Barbershop owner Damien Beauford. This one came less than two days after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by White police officer Garrett Rolfe after a routine sobriety check in Atlanta. Rolfe was fired after the incident and could face murder charges.
The killing of Brooks comes two weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police after his arrest on Memorial Day. Floyd’s death led to murder charges against four Minneapolis police officers and sparked protests against police violence across the nation.
The Brooks incident was another example of a broken system, said Dr. Cheryl Cates, director of outreach services at North Central State College.
“Why do you have to call the police when a brother is asleep inside a vehicle? Why wouldn’t you call an ambulance? The fact that you called the police is the big red flag that you already had it in your mind that he was not about the right thing and the right response was to get law enforcement, not an emergency vehicle,” said Cates, one of Sunday’s discussion participants. “I’m not talking about any single incident, but I’m talking about a systematic, relentless treatment of a group of people that has created this imbalance.
“This outrageous situation that we can watch a man be killed on TV in broad daylight while folk are sipping on tea, and then berate that people for saying, ‘We matter, please stop.’ ”
The incidents of recent days have again shone a spotlight on racial discrimination and forced people to engage in tough conversations. That’s a good thing, said Khyyam Crawford, a barber at 419 Barbershop who took part in Sunday’s discussion.
“Be comfortable with being uncomfortable, we take that step and then we build a relationship,” Crawford said. “Then we gain an understanding and that’s when we can really change. We’ve just got to understand each other. We can get somewhere like that.”