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Coach Daryl Thomas Speaks to Students About Diversity
Posted 12/12/2017 03:17PM

Varsity Basketball Coach, Daryl Thomas, invited by Campus Minister, Mr. Michael Blanchette, visited Social Justice classes (on Monday, December 11th) to conduct an open discussion about race relations in America. Thomas, who attended St. Joseph High School in Westchester, was a member of the 1987 National Champion Indiana Hoosiers. He joined the Montini Catholic family in 2015.

"The real lessons we learn come from our life experiences," said Thomas, who grew up on the west side of Chicago. "When you're young, all you know is what you are exposed to. I grew up in an all black neighborhood - I didn't know anything else." It wasn't until he would visit his grandparents in Alabama as a child, over the summers, that Thomas said he was exposed to racial tensions.

His parents grew up in Opelika, Alabama during a time of civil unrest in America. "My grandparents lived in even tougher times, when they couldn't drink from the same water fountains as whites," he told the students.

"Despite their experiences, however, my parents taught me to treat people how I want to be treated," said Thomas. "Actually they taught me to treat people 'better' than they may treat me - you will never fail in doing that."

He shared his own experiences with racism with the students before opening up the floor to questions and discussion.

"In America, we try to separate everyone by race, religion, financial situation - common perceptions are separating us," he said. "The only way to break down racial barriers, any barrier actually, is by talking to one another, finding out about one another, asking questions."

Thomas challenged the students to make an attempt to get to know someone in the school who may be different than they are. "Ask them questions about their history. What are their hobbies? Do they know a second language? Where are their parents from? Communicating is the only way to get to get rid of our perceptions and really get to know each other."

"I invited Daryl to speak because I think it is important that our students hear from his perspective/lived experience as a black man growing up in Chicago," said Mr. Blanchette. "I talk about issues of race in my classes, but I think personal stories hone in on the topic much better than any textbook could address."

Blanchette added, "I am grateful that Daryl accepted my invitation. Montini is a diverse school with students coming from different areas and different countries even. It is so important that we not only discuss our differences with one another, but learn to appreciate these differences."

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