Diversity is More Than a 9-Letter Word
If our neighborhoods and schools are full of people who look like us, how will we ever know anyone different?
It's a bright, sunny August Saturday. I'm standing on a brand new million-dollar-plus turf "practice" field in the upper parking lot of Mt. Lebanon High School, my community's 90+ million dollar cathedral of learning. It's amazing, and the school district has the test scores to prove it. But the Range Rover, BMW, Escalade-filled parking lot looks more like a luxury car dealer.
We made it. Or did we?
Today is flag football combine day. One-hundred and fifty kids running up and down 'round and around little cones. Their fathers timing them with their iPhones.
Vince and me.
My son's in the mix - so are a number of his friends. All of their fathers are here. All of them are successful. There are doctors, lawyers, CEOs, investment bankers. I'm right in there - the CEO of Sparkt.
We made it. Or did we?
I live on a street, in a home that I only peeked at as I drove through this neighborhood with my father as a kid. He had this beat up MG, a tiny, rusted out British sports car. I remember yelling over the engine noise pointing at one of the white columned mansions, "Hey, Dad. Do these people eat steak?" "Yeah. They eat steak," my father said. Last weekend, I bought steaks for grilling for seven people.
We definitely made it. Or did we?
On paper we're fine. But the paper's missing something. There are zero minorities in our neighborhood. Zero. No blacks, no Hispanics. On the flag football practice field where I'm standing, there are 150-kids - there is ONE black player.
If our schools aren't diverse, how do our kids meet people who are different than they are?
My nine-year-old son has zero minority students in his middle school classes. My Mt. Lebanon high school daughter has a few students of color in her classes. No surprise there. Mt. Lebanon has a roughly 94% white population, 1% black, roughly 4% Asian, a little over 1% Hispanic. We're just not diverse.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
I tapped a neighbor on the shoulder. We were watching the flag football tryouts together. I said, "Hey, there's only one black kid in this entire group." The "steak-eater" responded, "At least we're not as bad as Upper St. Clair." Well... that's that. My greatest fear that my children will fear, not embrace, anyone who doesn't look like them.
I don't see a lot of different colors on the streets of my community, and I'm not talking about the crosswalks.
An angry man called my talk show, I was having this conversation... He said "Hey, Marty. If you don't like Mt. Lebanon, why don't you move into the 'hood'?" He hung up. So, do we move or do we try to change what we see every day? Look, I love my community... my neighborhood, my police, my schools. I like being a steak eater. But I'm confounded by the lack of diversity.
MLK again - "We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
In my house, we're trying a few things. A diverse, Christian Church outside the "Mt. Lebanon Bubble". Summer camps that include kids from the city and other neighborhoods.
But it's not enough. I need outsiders' views. I need your advice - your help. I'll listen. I'll use Sparkt, my radio show.I'll use this column. So you know, I'm not talking about radical socialism here - some "redistribution of wealth". I'm talking about figuring out a way for everyone to eat a little steak every once in a while - at the same table.
Finally, I get a bit annoyed, thousands of you read this column, lots of folks say they love it, but NO ONE gives their ideas. I could care less about "likes" or "followers". I need some leaders. How 'bout you?
Prove me wrong. Show me you want to make a difference. It's what we do here at Sparkt.