I met a young black man, about 20 years old, on the basketball court recently. After I gave mega buckets to him and his friends (that's right--they can't stop this old man) we chatted for a while. As I usually do with young folks, I asked about what he was up to with work, school, whatever. He said he was going to community college, working, and "wanted to own a bank one day."
Cool, I said, and suggested that he should get a job in a bank now, to learn what's what.
Well, he said, I got in some trouble recently. Translation: I have a criminal record.
I told him that he could still make a nice career for himself, in banking or whatever other profession he chose. It might be harder now, but he could still do it.
He said, "Yeah, I know I can."
This impressed me. I decided to help him in some small way. Long story short, we talked again at the ball court, and I promised to give him some pointers on how to get where he wants to go, introduce him to some bankers I know. I put a plan together, but then I didn't see him for a few weeks. Today I drove past him walking down the street. We live in an affluent suburb, mostly but not entirely white, with a few low-income areas. I pulled over and gave him the plan. Then he said:
"Thanks, man. I appreciate it. Most people around here don't even see me."
Don't even see me.
I have no idea what will happen with this young man. Will he climb out of his situation, or sink deeper into it? No matter what, though, he deserves to be seen--in full.
Jesse Washington is a Senior Writer for ESPN's TheUndefeated.com