Behind the Mic

Like Me

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Every Sunday morning after reading the two local Sunday papers, I gather my wits, trudge up the steps to my office, and sit down to write my weekly blog.  More often than not, I make the journey having no idea what I am going to write.  I hope that Clio, the muse of writing, strikes me with some great idea as my computer lights up, ready for action.  That was not the case this week.  I knew what I was going to say.

As this week unfolded, it became obvious to me what I thought about and what I would write about.  Let me first mention the events:

  • Martin Luther King Day
  • The start of the EPC high school basketball season with three new head coaches, all of whom are black.
  • The inauguration of Kamala Harris as the most powerful woman in the country.
  • The recommendation by President Biden to surround himself with the most diversified cabinet in our history (women, people of color, LGBT members, and a Native American). Sadly, many are accompanied by the label “the first” in their positions.
  • The death of the great Henry Aaron, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record (714) and went on to hit 755 career homers. During his run, he endured some of the most intense racism from people throughout the country.

This all occurred this week.

These events took me back to my days in the classroom as an English teacher.  I recalled vividly teaching two books:  Black Like Me and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 

I taught a course called Books That Changed the World.  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was part of the course.  It was published in 1852.  Uncle Tom was a slave who suffered for decades.  The novel depicts the reality of slavery with both triumphs and tragedies.  Tom is eventually sold to a vicious plantation owner, Simon Legree, who eventually has Tom beaten to death.  It was the second most popular book of the century, trailing only the Bible.  Uncle Tom’s Cabin “changed the world” by showing the atrocities of the slave trade and inspired the Civil War and the end of slavery.  I wanted my students to understand this history and gain a perspective on the origin of race relations. 

Black Like Me is a nonfiction book written by a white journalist, John Howard Griffin.  It was published in 1961.  Griffin had his skin temporarily darkened so that he could pass through the southern part of the country as a black man.  He did it for six weeks.  He changed his skin, but he did not change his identity and when asked questions, he always told the truth about himself.  As you might suspect, he faced racism from both white and black people for no other reason than the color of his skin.  After writing the book and becoming a national celebrity, threats forced his family to move to Mexico.  At one point, he was beaten by a group of white men with chains when they discovered who he was.  Same man, different skin color led to much different experiences.

My hope in teaching these two works of literature was that my students (overwhelmingly white) would understand that we are really not different.  As I tried to pass on the message, I certainly did not believe I understood what it meant to be a minority in the United States, but I felt it was important for my students (and me) to begin to believe that we should do our best to treat everyone equally.  The events of this past week give me hope that this country is moving in the right direction.

I look forward to the day when “black”, “latino”, “trans”, etc. are no longer needed when describing anyone.  Suffice it to say – they are “like me” or probably, because of their position, “better than me.”  I am happy to accept that.


  1. Congratulations to Nigel Long (Liberty), Darnell Braswell (Allen), and JT Randall (Dieruff) on their first week as head coaches in the EPC. I remember calling the high school games that both Nigel (Freedom) and Darnell (Allen) played as teenagers.  JT comes from a very successful Reading High School program. I look forward to working with all of you.
  1. Major Leaguers and legends Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Lou Brock, Dick Allen, Don Sutton, and Tom Lasorda all died recently. Now add the name Ty Stofflet, our local softball pitcher who many thought was the greatest of all time, to the list of lost legends.  He was inducted into the American Softball Hall of Fame, the International Hall of Fame, and the Lehigh Valley Softball Hall of Fame.
  1. Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are in the Super Bowl. Mahomes is the best young quarterback in the game and Brady is, well, simply the best ever.  It should make for a great matchup.
  1. Speaking of NFL quarterbacks, the story of Washington’s Alex Smith’s return to the game after a horrific leg injury is both amazing and inspiring. Take a look at his 60 Minutes interview:

  1. Covid did not interfere with high school basketball this past week. With our fingers crossed, we will bring Bethlehem Catholic at Liberty on Tuesday at 7:00pm and Allen at Parkland on Thursday at 7:00pm.  The Lafayette women return this Saturday after a 10-day quarantine when they take on American at 2:00pm and the men will play on Sunday against American at 2:00pm.  The Nazareth at Bethlehem Catholic wrestling match postponed from last week will now be held on February 3.  We will have that match for you.

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (LAST WEEK – 0-2; OVERALL- 168-97-1 – 63%) 

          Super Bowl pick next week