I’d like to begin this article by admitting something I’ve been ashamed of for a long time: my third-grade soccer team wore the Confederate flag on the back of our jerseys.

It’s true.

Mind you, this was 1991 and one of the premier college basketball programs was the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, featuring Stacey Augmon, Larry Johnson, and Greg Anthony. So, our team wanted to change our name to the Lincoln (NE) Runnin’ Rebels, modeled off of that team.

In 1991, the mom of a teammate had our jerseys made up, complete with the Confederate flag on the back. Imagine a bunch of 9-year-old white boys running all over the field like this. The thought of it now makes me cringe so hard. But at the time, I was a kid who thought, “Cool, it’s the Dukes of Hazzard flag.”

I didn’t understand what that image truly symbolized.

We made it through an entire season, plus half of a second season before we were called out for it. I remember the confusion when someone told me that a kid on the other team wasn’t going to play. He was there for warm-ups, but then his mom pulled him off the field. It’s important to note that he was black. His mom would later become my middle school social studies teacher. More on that in a moment.

I should point out that we had different jerseys created soon after that. I suppose our parents received the message from that kid’s mom. Many reading this probably think, What’s wrong with these parents who let their kids run around in those jerseys?

I don’t believe our coaches and parents meant any harm or disrespect. I never heard them use derogatory terms or speak badly of others. It was a misguided decision based on popular culture, not black culture.

But perhaps this is part of the problem: not acknowledging why certain symbols, words, phrases, or actions are wrong or hurtful.

Also, when we don’t educate ourselves on issues of race and race relations, then fearfully stay silent when these issues arise, we become contributors to injustice.

Growing up on the east side of Lincoln, Nebraska, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to other cultures. My school was predominantly white. So was my church. I never noticed it much because I simply didn’t know any better. Still, I was raised to be respectful of others, to show kindness always, and to be a friend, especially to those in need of one.

RELATED: Our Kids Watch Every Move, So Let’s Set a Good Example

I was kid who tried to do and say the right things. So fast forward to middle school, and as I mentioned earlier, my social studies teacher was the black mom who had pulled her kid off the soccer field several years earlier. She gave us an assignment to write a paper. I don’t remember the exact topic of the paper, but I do remember I wrote something to the effect of, “I am colorblind to race and try to see the person for who they are, not what color they are.” So imagine my dismay when I got my paper handed back with the dreaded “See me after class” note. I had to stay late after class to discuss my work. Many of you probably remember the fear of reading “See me after class” on any paper or assignment. So I sat nervously as the class cleared out, leaving me face-to-face with my teacher.

Here’s what my black teacher told me that has stuck with me to this day:

She explained to me that it’s not OK to say “I am colorblind.”

Instead, we should recognize the differences in each other and celebrate our different cultures. I’ll never forget the grace and understanding—but also sternness—in the way she spoke in order to drive the point home. It made perfect sense to me. It’s OK to be different. It’s important to see those differences and understand those unique qualities that make everyone who they are.

I’ve carried that lesson with me through my life—into college and then on to Houston, Texas where I experienced a lot more exposure to people of different cultures. I always enjoy meeting people of different backgrounds and learning about their culture and what makes them unique. I am not colorblind.

Now into my late 30s, I don’t remember a lot of details from middle school. I don’t remember if I had algebra or geometry. I don’t remember what books I read in English class. But I recall clear as day the conversation I had with Mrs. Lillie Myles. I was a young white boy receiving an invaluable lesson on race relations from a black teacher in a predominantly white school.

Now, that shame I feel for wearing the Confederate flag as a third-grade soccer player is replaced with shame for staying silent for too long.

Just modeling antiracist beliefs is not enough anymore. Instead, I hope I can have open dialogue with my white friends who maybe don’t model antiracist beliefs. Maybe I can do more to show my kids—the next generation—the importance of recognizing and celebrating the differences in our fellow Americans. Maybe I can do more. I hope I will.

RELATED: It’s OK For Your Kids to See You Fail

Thank you to Mrs. Lillie Myles. Your actions and your teaching made a significant impact on my life. I now hope I can impact others. Better late than never.

While writing this article, I felt compelled to Google search Mrs. Myles to see if I could find anything about her. Sure enough, the first link I found was a story of Lincoln Public Schools honoring retired teacher Lillie Myles on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January of 2019. She’s quoted in the article:

“I want you to examine your heart and to examine what’s taking place around you. And be as brave as Martin Luther King and to step out and say, ‘I want equality for all.’ That is my challenge to you . . . You have work to do.”

Yes indeed. We have great work to do.

One final note regarding my third-grade soccer jersey . . .

Yes, I’ve kept it all these years. At first, I kept it as a remembrance of a time in my youth playing soccer with my friends. Now, I hang on to it as a remembrance of mistakes we make in our lives and a reminder to not repeat them.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Kyle Means

Kyle Means is the Director of Marketing for the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He enjoyed a fulfilling career in Sports & Entertainment prior to his work in higher education. Past stops include HuskerVision, Houston Rockets/Toyota Center, and the Tri-City Storm/Viaero Event Center. Kyle left the sports biz in 2014 to pursue a career more focused on marketing where he can use a combination of strategic and creative skills. Plus, he now has a few more nights and weekends to spend with his awesome family including his wife (HerViewFromHome founder) Leslie Means, their two daughters Ella and Grace and son, Keithan. Kyle still enjoys watching and playing a variety of sports. The competitive, yet unifying, nature of sports is a strangely beautiful concept that he loves. When he’s not enhancing the brand at UNK, spending time with family or watching/playing sports, Kyle can usually be found volunteering at First Lutheran Church where likes to display a strong faith and give back to the community.

I Struggled With My Son’s Diagnosis, But Found Hope in the Special Needs Community

In: Fatherhood, Tough Times

When I found out I was going to be a father I was beyond excited. My wife and I had been trying to conceive for years before she got pregnant. So, when she told me I was going to be a father I wanted to shout it to the rooftops! I made sure to call my wife every day at work to make sure she ate lunch. I’m sure I annoyed the heck out of her. We later found out that we were having a boy, and started to plan everything. We started to paint the baby room with blues...

Keep Reading

People Don’t Know How to Deal With Those Who Are Grieving

In: Tough Times

Cousins. Aunts. Uncles. Grandparents. Friends. Friends of the Family. Dad. Wife. I’ve known loss. If you are reading this, chances are you have, too. For all the many, many wakes and funerals I have been to, one thing has continuously occurred to me. The wake is so much easier than the funeral. When I sit back and think about why that is, I can only come to one conclusion: support. There is so much support at a wake. At least in my circle of love, they usually last over six hours and the room is usually filled to near capacity....

Keep Reading

Dear Husband: It’s OK to Be Depressed, But You Can’t Ignore it

In: Marriage, Tough Times

Dear husband, we need to have a real conversation. You are the first to admit that lately things have changed for you. Things that used to be simple for you suddenly feel impossible and require so much energy. Getting out of bed is hard. It feels so much better to stay in bed and avoid it all. Tackling household projects and chores just feels like too much. So, you ignore them. Taking care of yourself by eating healthy and exercising doesn’t sound appealing at all. But, boy, do chips and salsa, brownies, and sitting on the couch sound like comfort....

Keep Reading

Don’t Miss the Chance to Tell Your Mom You Love Her

In: Fatherhood, Tough Times

This is my Mom. Well, that’s her in the mid-1960s. But that’s her—that little girl, full of life. Before life started happening. Before traumas. Before abuses. Before a turbulent adolescence. Before an unplanned kid (me). Before an abusive relationship. Before navigating her way through an era, and in an area, where having three kids and being unwed was frowned upon and judged. Before working two full-time jobs to feed us—one a 3rd-shift factory job, and the other a day job as an administrative assistant at the local college. Before she got the day job, she worked full-time and went to...

Keep Reading

I Was an Addict. Thanks to God, I Have My Life Back.

In: Faith, Tough Times

“There’s something wrong with Daddy.” That’s what rock bottom sounds like. I thought he was too little to notice. I couldn’t fool my wife, my brother, my boss, myself, but I thought he was too little to notice. Alone on a couch at 3:00 in the morning, desperate to stop shaking, desperate to slow the racing anxiety, desperate to die and be done with it all. That’s what rock bottom feels like. RELATED: Dax Shepard’s Relapse Reminds Us Recovery is a Daily Process My wife had banished me to that couch. She was angry but she didn’t do that out...

Keep Reading

A Letter to My Wife’s Anxiety: You Will Never Win

In: Marriage, Tough Times

Your name gets thrown around a lot in our current social clime. Anxiety. Everything gives people anxiety now. We never heard your name 20 years ago, and now you’re one of the most frequently discussed health disorders in history. Some people swear you don’t exist, and that’s how I know you’re the damn devil. People who don’t necessarily feel you don’t seem to grasp—no, some don’t even believe—that you warrant any merit. That’s because to them, you’re just that. A feeling. For those that simply “feel anxiety” in a situational context, you can be stomached and put away until that...

Keep Reading

To My Son With Autism: You Will Not Be Stopped

In: Fatherhood, Tough Times

Kash, It’s been over four years since your mom and I found out we were going to have a baby. I remember when she told me. I was excited, but I was freaking out too. I always wanted a son or daughter. That was what I was excited about. I was nervous, because of the troubles your mother and I had trying to have a baby. We had miscarriages, and we had done testing. We did not know if having a child was in the cards for us. You changed all that. We found out we were going to have...

Keep Reading

Dear Husband: I Love You, But Please Don’t Ever Drink Again

In: Marriage, Tough Times

Right now you are curled up behind me like a cuddly question mark. Your body heat is more than enough to suppress the slight chill in the air. Just a few memories ago, the bed was cold with me lying alone in it. You were out somewhere drinking. Or maybe you were just drunk in the next room. Either way, I was alone. Right now the oven timer is going off. It’s late but I have Amish bread to pull out of the oven. I sidle away from you out of bed and into the dimly lit kitchen. The whole...

Keep Reading

Hilarious New Ryan Reynolds Ad Nails 2020

In: Tough Times, Work

FINALLY, the commercial that 2020 deserves. Celebrity star Ryan Reynolds and his production company, Maximum Effort, have teamed up with dating service Match.com and pop icon Taylor Swift to make a commercial for the dating service that perfectly captures everything relatable and frankly, hellish, about 2020. Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, I promise you everyone can find something relatable about this hilarious spin on our collective suffering. The commercial, aptly titled “Match Made In Hell,” begins with Satan (Aaron Reed) hanging out in hell looking totally bored when his phone starts buzzing, notifying him he’s matched with...

Keep Reading

I’ll Always Miss My Dad, But I Hear From Him Every Christmas

In: Fatherhood, Tough Times

I picked up the phone to call my dad the other day. I was thinking about my car insurance bill, and wanted to ask him something. This wouldn’t be that unusual for most people, except my father passed away almost 15 years ago. I think I’ve been through 10 cell phones since he died, so his number is long erased, yet I hit the button for Siri on my phone and stated “Call Dad” like it was completely normal. Every December, my dad comes back to my thoughts with the force of a wrecking ball through my mind. It may...

Keep Reading