I was in a cab just the other day when the driver chided me for not knowing football. He was a big Redskins (I call them the Deadskins because they need to change their name) fan, and was obsessed with RG III. I must confess that I did not know who RG III was until the driver informed me and told me that I was culturally deficient because I lived in Washington, D.C. and did not follow football.
I observed his passion as I would poke and probe at a sociological phenomenon. The brother was intense, focused, and annoyed by the fact that somebody, anybody, was not caught up in the football drama. At some point I became silent, to see how long the rant would last. And it lasted through the whole 20 minutes of my ride, through stalled traffic and long lights. The man was on a mission.
I understand that folks have to have valves to release the tension of everyday life. Maybe it's sports, reading, or music. Still, I wonder if we could ever garner these passions for our children, for their needs, for ways that education can build a path to the future.
I'd be overjoyed if a taxi driver told me that he was so excited about education that he could not move. I'd be thrilled if one of them questioned me about education as intensely as he did about football. I could imagine the questions. Why are test scores so low? Why are children not going to college? Why are so many young Black men (and women, but men pose a special set of issues) alienated from the system? What can we do to provide job opportunities for them?
What if someone had passion for our eating habits? Nearly half of the Black population is obese because pork, grease, and artificial snacks are staples of some diets. Why don't we make healthy living a priority and be as passionate about that as we are about football? Why can't we teach about ways to be healthy?
What about housing? As African Americans are being put out of their homes, there have been feeble attempts to modify loans. Those who are working on this have insufficient resources, and just a fraction of those who qualify. Nearly $200 billion of Black wealth has been compromised by foreclosures, yet too many are silent about promises unfulfilled.
Shootings in Oregon and Connecticut are heartbreaking manifestations of the violence that pervades in our nation. Anybody with an attitude and a gun can shoot into a crowd and cause major damage. Why have a couple of fools targeted an elementary school in Connecticut leaving dozens dead. Why does the National Rifle Association work so hard to maintain the right to bear arms? Why aren't more legislators working to limit this so-called right? Why do we continue to leave our population vulnerable to nuts with guns? I'd love to see some passion channeled to this issue. Why are we okay with these massacres?
I'm not so angry at the football (baseball, basketball) aficionados, but I am concerned that so much passion is channeled in one direction but not in others. The passion for sports is so rabid that I've listened to preachers pray for victory for their teams from their pulpits, never mind that those on the opposing team are God's children, too. Can a preacher or two not only throw down on education but also provide vehicles for parishioners to get involved in educating our children? Passion and intensity are important elements of our lives. Without passion we fade into the periphery, ground down by the minutia of everyday life. Get kids to school, go to work, come home for dinner, and relax. If that isn't your pattern, you've got one, and the only thing that pulls you out of pattern is passion.
There is nothing wrong with a passion for football. Can we channel some of that passion, though, that can transform our world by generating safety, education and job opportunities? That's the kind of passion that could rock our world.
[Julianne Malveaux is a Washington, D.C-based author and economist.]