When you posted your thoughtful Instagram message on Tuesday, I read your words with interest. I wondered how you felt about these tumultuous times and found your message to be very thought-provoking.
And as I read your words (multiple times, I might add), my heart ached.
It ached for your brother who has endured things I will never understand.
It ached for your loss of childhood innocence at such an early age as you saw that life can be so very ugly.
It ached that you had to deal with such despicable, inexcusable acts like people making racial slurs and threats of violence.
It ached because I know you aren’t alone, because so many of the high school and college athletes that I have the privilege of covering as a sports reporter have endured similar vile and disgraceful abuses because they are different.
But in the midst of all that heartache and sadness at what you’ve endured, Yoeli, I felt another strong emotion:
I’m proud of you, my friend.
I respect that you haven’t allowed those injustices to steal your joy in life.
I’m sure you have things you are working on, but in all my experiences with you since you were in high school, you have impressed me with how you treat those around you.
Sure, you have tremendous athleticism and elite basketball skills, but how you act around your teammates and coaches and reporters and fans has been where I believe you have been at your very best.
If I’m truly honest, I don’t know if I could’ve gone through what you’ve gone through and not become more distrustful and cynical.
Instead, even when you are standing tall on behalf of those like you who haven’t be treated right like you did with your Instagram post, you are doing it with dignity and appreciation for others.
I hope everyone read how you concluded your Instagram post: “I really am so grateful for those that want to hear what people of color go through and for those that are willing to listen with an open mind and heart.
“I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know how to fix everything but I believe it starts with hearing the experiences of others and trying to educate ourselves on why things are the way they are. This world needs more empathy and willingness to listen and change. There is no shame in not knowing things or not knowing what to do. The problem comes when we start to learn there is an issue and choose to be blind to it.”
Like you said so poignantly, we have to open our eyes to the impact our words and actions can have.
We must grasp that they can hurt deeply and cause pain that lasts months or years or sometimes even for generations.
No matter how much we might want to, there is no way to change the past.
Instead I hope we all can join you in looking forward, Yoeli, in putting in the effort to better understand each other, regardless of ethnicity or background or history.
You have a bright future ahead of you, both in basketball and in life. I look forward to seeing the heights you will achieve.
But right now I appreciate knowing how you feel.
We need to embrace these thoughts and conversations, with your voice joining in harmony with so many others, to make a noticeable difference in our growth as a society.
I know there are no guarantees, since true change doesn’t come quickly. It takes real commitment to be better — and unfortunately that is least likely to come from those who most need it.
Each step we take, however, is progress.
And your words are encouraging all of us to take those steps individually, which will help move us forward collectively.
So thank you.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and emotions.
Thank you for illuminating the issues and helping everyone work to address them.
And thank you most of all for being the person who you are because actions speak so much louder than words ever could.
Your example inspires me to be more understanding of everyone and that’s about the best compliment I can give.