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Q. You have written that when you were growing up, your father and your teachers constantly implied that because you were an athlete, your body mattered more than your mind.
A. Well, the '60s was a time when it appeared that newly integrated sports was going to be extremely rewarding to blacks. As a black athlete, you had a special calling, and nothing else was on par with that. Not intellectual development, not personal development, nothing else. So teachers and parents winked at academic deficiencies and a lack of discipline in the classroom because the young man was on the basketball team or the football team. There was this strong notion that sports had the capability as an institution of raising the entire race. That's a hoax, the greatest hoax that has ever been perpetrated on any people in this society. And it's still alive and sick as ever.
Q. Does that mean, then, that poor black kids should not look up to someone who comes out of a similar background and is enormously successful in athletics?
A. No. It means that we must teach our children to dream with their eyes open. The chances of your becoming a Jerry Rice or a Magic Johnson are so slim as to be negligible. Black kids must learn to distribute their energies in a way that's going to make them productive, contributing citizens in an increasingly high-technology society.