This weekend's Super Bowl is a really big deal. It gets bigger every year and this year's game between the "Monsters of the Midway" and the Peyton Manning "monster passing attack" will be historical.
It's historical for another reason as well, as both coaches are African-American, the very first black coaches in history to achieve this distinction. This, my friends, is a really, really big deal! They got here on the merits of talent, leadership and character, not the color of their skin, but still, it's huge in terms of what Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith have overcome to get where they are.
Now some are thinking to themselves, why is Kemp making skin color such an important part of this achievement? And they'll say, "Isn't it time to put race behind us and forget the color of their skin?" My answer is yes, as the ultimate goal for our nation, but right now, this weekend and in this seminal moment in pro football, no! My reasoning is predicated on recognizing the progress we've made as a nation, and recognizing how far we have to go in meeting the ideal as laid down in our Declaration of Independence and celebrated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963.
All too often "white folks" quote Dr. King's "dream" of treating people without regard to the color of their skin, yet fail to quote King's comments on the inequality that still exists. He said in that great speech, "that the negro lives on an island of poverty in the midst of an ocean of affluence and wealth." I believe Dr. King's solutions were not about establishing equality of reward, but equality of opportunity. Equal opportunity in education, jobs, ownership of homes, access to capital and the chance not just to drive a truck but to own the trucking company and someday sitting on corporate boards, running businesses and yes, coaching Super Bowl teams, (my words).
Coach Dungy went to the University of Minnesota in the '70s because it was one of the few colleges where he would be welcomed as a black quarterback.
Coach Smith grew up in a tiny town in East Texas, where his mother constantly preached "you can do it, Lovie, you're special! Whatever you want to accomplish, you can."
What an inspiration they are to all of us -- white, black, brown, but still I return to the color of their skin to make another point.
I was listening to a radio talk-show host, obviously a white conservative, the day after each team qualified for the Super Bowl, telling his audience over and over that he was above and beyond the issue of race, and why can't black folks rise above race as well and stop talking about the color of the coaches' skin?