Everything Great is Birthed from Discomfort with Emmanuel Acho
When it comes to changing unhealthy dialogues and digging up errant roots that have been allowed to grow deep—many of us tend to ignore the discomfort and carry on with our days. However, when we live in denial, inequity and ignorance cannot be challenged, and greatness will not be achieved. During our For the Love of Transitions series, we’re learning how to embrace change. We’re sharing the stories of people who have lived through or implemented drastic changes in their lives and came out on the other side stronger and better than before. Some transitions are extremely broad in their scope and may seem nearly impossible—and one issue that’s come to the top of our agendas over the last year is; how do our communities and our country get to a place where we are moving toward an attitude of racial sensitivity? Is it possible that we agree more on what needs to happen around racial justice in this country than what we’re seeing portrayed as a great divide? Former NFL football player/now author and host of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” Emmanuel Acho believes that many of us truly do want the same things when it comes to racial justice, but by living in long-held attitudes and perpetuating insensitive commentary around race, we’ve been unable to make the big strides needed to make lasting change. Emmanuel believes that everything great comes by being uncomfortable first, and by pushing us toward those uncomfortable moments, he’s hoping to topple the attitudes we might not even be aware we’ve been caught up in, toward a better and more understanding way of being. He also recognizes that getting people to embrace discomfort toward change is tough, but it’s worth it. Emmanuel puts the thought out there that racial insensitivity is a bigger problem than racism itself in our country, and points out that living in D-E-N-I-A-L (don’t even know I am lying) keeps that insensitivity intact. Emmanuel and Jen walk through the difference between outright racism (which universally, most of us are against) and racial insensitivity (which many of us are guilty of without even knowing it). Come get uncomfortable with us and let’s all move toward making something great.
Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. We’re in a series called For the Love of Transitions, as you know. And we are talking to leaders and thinkers and human beings who have transitioned from one thing to another. Some of them had transitions that they made on purpose. Some of them experienced some huge tragedy that forced them into a transition. Some of them are working on creating transition, which is kind of where we are at with today’s guest.
So it’s interesting to be coming out of the pandemic with some conversations nationally that are now very, very, very centered. And of course, one of those is obviously racism, and what we’ve seen, what we’ve collectively experienced, having just emerged from a year after George Floyd’s murder, and the list is long, and apparently never ending. So I can’t hardly go anywhere without this discussion being something that we are collectively worried about, concerned about, interested in, connected to, compelled by this sense of building a truly equitable culture, one we’ve never had. We have never had a truly equitable culture.
And there’s all kinds of hierarchies inside, different sorts of power plays, and at the intersections of race and of gender and sexuality. But we’ve never ever had a level playing field before, and that’s just becoming more and more clear. Encounters are now visible, where once they were just tucked away and hidden, and then of course, reframed. But here we are, here’s where we find ourselves. Right? How do we transition? How? How do we transition our culture to ensure that all people have the same rights, that they have the same dignity, that they are perceived with the same value, with the same worth? How do we move from a system based in perceived justice to a system based in actual justice? These are obviously tough questions. I know.
And there’s not an easy answer. These are complicated and complex for sure. But today, with the help of a superstar guest, I hope that we can shed a little bit of light on a few next steps, on places to begin, on hope for our future because today we have the privilege of speaking with the very extraordinary Emmanuel Acho. Emmanuel started his career, well, first of all, he played football at the University of Texas, so I’ve known this kid for a long time. I watched him from my season ticket seats years ago. So we’ve obviously known him as a Texas Longhorn.
But then he spent four years in the NFL. And then after leaving the field in 2016, he moved into the world of broadcasting and public speaking. So since then, he’s just racked up the credentials. He’s worked as the youngest national football analyst at ESPN. He was named a 2018 Forbes Under 30 selection. In 2017, his family’s nonprofit, which is called Living Hope Christian Ministries, raised enough money to build a hospital in rural Nigeria. Then he wrote a book and started a conversation series called Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, which has just millions and millions and millions and millions of views. And then he took that work and skewed it toward a younger audience, toward a teen audience, and wrote Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy.
Then recently, where you might have seen him for the first time if you’re not a sports person, he stepped into the role as interim host of a little tiny franchise known as The Bachelor, after the previous host made racially insensitive comments, and they needed someone to step in to manage the Final Rose Ceremony—somebody who could thread the needle with humor and warmth, but also candor and truth, and they tagged Emmanuel, and he did an incredible job. And of course, we’re going to talk about The Bachelor and all my inappropriate questions about it. He is so engaging. You’ll be so smitten with him. I enjoyed this conversation with him so much. This is a good leader. This is a good guy. I’m so happy to watch his path just continue to unfold in front of him as he leads well with just a real heart of integrity. So you guys, buckle up for this incredible, energized conversation with the absolutely wonderful Emmanuel Acho.