Commentary: Talking openly about race keeps America moving forward

Commentary: Talking openly about race keeps America moving forward
December 08
10:48 2022

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

I don’t know Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. What I do know is that he has a lot of money and is revered among fellow National Football League owners.

Jerry Jones graduated from high school in Arkansas and I graduated from high school in North Carolina. Jerry Jones is white and I am Black. We both saw segregation and racial unrest.

Both Arkansas and North Carolina were hotbeds for the mistreatment of Black people. Signs that signaled racial separation were prominent in my hometown of Winston-Salem. Similar signs were in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

For example, the K&W cafeteria was off limits if you paid a skin tax like me. When we went to the Carolina theater, we had to sit in the balcony. To this day, I don’t like German Shepherd dogs because the police used them to intimidate us during our protests for equal rights.

Jerry Jones, on the other hand, didn’t have to experience segregation because of the color of his skin. He was free to move about the country roads and city streets in his city and in his state, day or night. His color created a shield of protection for him, and my color created trouble for me.

If you are in the 4th quarter of your life, raised in the South, Black or white, you have similar analogies to make.

Life gives you experiences and if you are blessed, you gain a modicum of wisdom along the way. Because of academics and athletics, I have interacted with many people who don’t look like me. These experiences have helped to shape my views about race. I am comfortable and confident around men and women who don’t share my skin color.

When Jerry Jones was a teenager, he was photographed at the scene of racial unrest. He was 14 years old and in 1957 was at North Little Rock High School where six Black students were attempting to be admitted. This was three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ended school segregation with the Brown v. Board of Education decision.

There have been questions about Jones’ presence there since that picture surfaced last week. Strangely, the press has remained largely silent as though they don’t want to ask any questions about it. LeBron James wondered why he wasn’t asked about it since they peppered him with questions about anti-Semitic comments and posts by Kyrie Irving and Kanye West.

Why has Jerry Jones seemingly received a pass not to discuss it? Was the subject of race too delicate or were reporters afraid to ask him? These are appropriate questions; however, answers won’t be forthcoming.

Jerry Jones has been queried about not hiring an African American head coach. You know, they are available. He points to the number of Black coaches on the staff, including his strength and conditioning personnel.

I don’t know who those answers satisfy, yet he has managed to keep the critics at arm’s length. In my judgment, it’s still a problem. I believe the operative word in “head coach” is “head.”

There is an emotional and psychological block he has when it comes to putting a Black man in charge. This is my opinion.

There are many leaders who talk endlessly about diversity, equity and inclusion, yet their organizations remain virtually unchanged. When you push topics of action, they push back with rhetoric.

It is important for us to listen to each other and to have the genuine patience to do so. Our experiences are different, thus learning about them can help us to understand each other better.

I believe Jerry Jones should tell us about his experiences during that time. However, it does take courage and humility.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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