Emmanuel Acho, Tika Sumpter on How ‘Open Dialogue’ Might Combat the Wounds of Racial Injustice (Video)

“There’s a disconnect between our white brothers and sisters and our black brothers and sisters and it’s because of limited exposure,” former NFL star and sports analyst Acho says

Former NFL star and veteran sports analyst Emmanuel Acho knows all too well the challenges that African Americans face in fighting racial injustice and inequality in the United States. Getting all Americans on board with understanding the issues and pushing for substantive change continues to be a struggle.

“I grew up in white culture. I went to an all-white private school in Dallas, Texas, and I’m first-generation American, I’m Nigerian American,” Acho told TheWrap editor in chief Sharon Waxman Tuesday during a webinar titled “Allies Unite: Fixing a Broken System and Using Your Platform for Change.”

“I don’t deal with the same hurt and pain in my heart due to years upon years of slavery, but nonetheless I’m clothed in a 6’2” 240-pound black frame and so when I step outside I’m still perceived as a threat and so I realized there’s a disconnect,” said Acho, who will soon replace Jason Whitlock as co-host of FS1’s “Speak for Youself.” “Let’s call it what it is: There’s a disconnect between our white brothers and sisters and our black brothers and sisters and it’s because of limited exposure.”

That disconnect prompted Acho to produce and host the unscripted video series “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man,” whose first episode has garnered more than 22 million views across various social platforms since it premiered last week (a second episode, with actor Matthew McConaughey, debuted on Wednesday). “Ultimately my goal was to start a dialogue,” he said. “I hung out with so many of my white friends and they asked me questions I never thought they had.”

Tika Sumpter, the star of ABC’s “mixed-ish,” said she has felt a range of emotions since the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and unrest, from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful, and wondered what she can do to make lives better for others and for her 3-year-old daughter. “I think this is an open dialogue,” she said. “I think now more than ever it’s driving us to talk about the wound that has never been healed.”

The actress, who also co-founded of Sugaberry, a lifestyle brand for “moms of color,” said she was mindful of the hazards of public protests while the country is still in the middle of a pandemic. “We’re doing all the things to save our own lives while also being the highest at-risk group of people,” she said.

For Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, the widow of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) and the CEO of Global Policy Solutions, the current push to address racial inequality feels all too familiar. “I’m experiencing this moment as a sense of deja vu,” she said. “I don’t know if you all remember but just five years ago, it was Baltimore city that was up in arms with troops on the street, tanks on the corners, and upset African Americans who were just basically mad because of years, decades, of having bad relationships with the police.”

Cummings stressed the importance of turning the momentum of the protests into meaningful action. “We will continue to be here if we don’t address the structural changes that are needed in this society, not only in the area of policing, but in the area of health, education, and economic security,” she said. “We have work to do as a nation and that work is to get rid of the racist anti-black system, that’s currently operating across our areas of influence so that we can actually have real opportunities for diverse people to live in a fair and inclusive society.”

Media-tech entrepreneur Adam Platzner, who is producing a PSA focused on how white people can effectively respond to the Black Lives Matter movement, noted the role that white allies can play in pushing for change. “We need to take responsibility, white people need to take responsibility for racism in their daily lives, and stopping it, and calling it out, if you see it, if it seems like a small thing, it’s not a small thing,” he said.

“If we’re going to disrupt racism, we need to do things that we haven’t been doing before,” he added.

Watch the video above.

Umberto Gonzalez

Umberto Gonzalez

Film Reporter ◘[email protected]◘Twitter: @elmayimbe


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