Racism may be tied to socioeconomic inequality in a lot of ways, but being a black man raised in a relatively affluent neighborhood does not give you a “free pass” from being discriminated against. Beating racism has been a big part of Robert Anderson’s journey as an educator. For over 20 years, this educational leader and award-winning lacrosse coach has been teaching students to discover their gifts and become independent. He also works to help educational leaders like himself take steps towards personal development and professional improvement. He beautifully elaborates these aspects of his life and career in this conversation with Rob Cornilles. Listen in as he shares his valuable insights on education, racism and leadership.
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Robert Anderson | Beating Racism To Win His Race
Teaching students is hard. Teaching parents how to let their kids learn in this world, that might even be harder, but we’ve found someone who knows how to motivate kids while influencing their parents through love, inspiration and personal responsibility. Robert Anderson, author, speaker and award-winning high school coach, is our guest, a man who was growing up in New York, honors his parents for helping them overcome bouts of racism so he could recognize his own inherent gifts. It’s my pleasure to welcome to the show, a new friend, Robert Anderson, who, when you become his friend, you get to call him Rob, isn’t that right?
That’s a true statement for sure.
I get to call you Rob now, some people call you Robbie A., your father is Mr. A. There are a lot of names going around at the Anderson household. We want to thank you, Rob, for joining us on the show. It’s going to be a fascinating conversation. Welcome.
Thank you. I appreciate you having me. I’m looking forward to it.
Rob, I appreciate you being willing to join me because we’re going to talk about some issues and some topics that I know are near and dear to you. They’re very topical in society. We’re all going to learn a lot from this. You are an educator by trade. You have become an educator in your adult life. You’ve had an impact on hundreds, thousands of individuals, particularly our young people. We’re going to talk about that, but I’d like to start if we could Rob, by talking about Rob Anderson, the learner, not Rob Anderson, the teacher. You and I have talked about what’s going on in this unusual environment that we both find economic, health and social. Rob, from your perspective, what have you learned in 2020 so far?
Similar to a number of people is the emphasis on family and how important it is to make sure that we slow down. During this fast-paced world that we’re living in America, specifically in New York, life moves fast. With four kids and a wife, we have a lot of obligations and commitments. Similar to another number of people, I’ve learned to slow down and appreciate my time with family. During 2020, I’ve had an increased emphasis on how to give. That’s always been my nature, to love people, and I love people. As you’ve already noted, I love our students and I have a passion for educating, teaching and coaching students. When you don’t have the opportunity to be in front of them, you have to figure out another way to give.
2020 has put a spotlight on the emphasis of my spirit on how to give even when you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to be in front of them. It’s highlighted and created a lot of opportunities for me personally and professionally to grow, by writing a book and doing that for the educators of the world and finding a way to serve. Serve our students in a way that’s different and unique, in a way that can enhance their life. We have to start doing things differently. I’m not sure, Rob, if that’s going to change moving forward.
There’s so much in what you’re saying. I’m going to try to slice it up a little bit because I want to dig into your insights, Rob. About education, I’m a parent, I have three sons and they’re all now out of the educational system. You have kids who are in the educational system now. When I say educational system, I know that’s a wide swath. For parents, grandparents, community members, what do we not understand about the educational environment now that you, as an educator, wish we did?
I spent 14 years in the classroom and 15 years in education. I had the opportunity to work under incredible leadership for the majority of my career. The reason why the leaders that have the privilege to grow under as an educator were so influential is that they gave me an opportunity to grow. When we step into the classrooms, specifically young teachers and young educators, there’s a sense of excitement because you have so much schooling and testing. There’s so much work. The interview process is grueling, you finally get your own classroom or at least you have an opportunity to have your own students. For many teachers, those students become your own personal kids.
What happens is the opportunity to grow is fruitful and the system takes hold of you. We all have needs. One of our essential needs is the need to grow. If we aren’t growing, we’re dying. The educational system doesn’t consistently allow our beautiful, bright educators, even our educational leaders to put their two cents into the classroom the way that they felt that they could over the course of their career. The system itself has become stringent, strict and structured, that our educators don’t consistently have the opportunity to evolve and to use their creativity, knowledge, expertise, and use all of their experiences, because the system has become so structured.
Our school administrators, our leadership is under much pressure from not just their superintendent and the school board, but from making sure that our educators are following a system and making sure that they’re hitting the standards. When you’re focused on hitting the standards and you’re teaching to the subject, you get away from having the chance to teach to the student. The more time that you spend teaching for the subject instead of the student, the reason why you went into education starts to diminish. You start to feel as though you aren’t growing. That in turn makes our system broken. It starts to break our educators and our leaders. It isn’t because they don’t have a passion for kids and they don’t have a passion for education. They just don’t have all the resources, the ability, the time to share their experiences and the things that they know that the students need because of the system that’s in place.
You’re very articulate about this. I’m sure our readers are understanding what you’re saying, but let me tell you my interpretation. It sounds to me like you’re saying that starting at administration levels down into the classroom, the teachers are forced to color by the numbers. It’s like, “Don’t get out of the lines.” If you draw outside of the lines, something is wrong with you because of limited time, and I perceive you would say limited resources, they have to stay within those lines so they’re confined. It takes a lot of the personalization out of teaching and they’re not allowed to draw from their own life experiences, their perspective, their insights because they have to be very stringent. Not to mention the fact, this is another thing I’d like you to comment on, in most classrooms, the classrooms are brimming with students. That individual attention is also being sacrificed. I want you to clarify or correct anything I said, but also to be clear, tell our audience who you focus on as a teacher. What is your demographic?
You articulated it well. The biggest takeaway, I can give you a few examples, certainly for the folks in your audience that aren’t in education so they can apply it to their world and certainly gain some value from that. First to answer your question, I’ve taught at the middle school level for more than ten years. I’ve also taught at the elementary school level, K5 for a number of years. I’ve coached at the high school level. My demographic is K through 12. When we look at education and what we’re struggling with, what educators are struggling with is consistently being able to teach to the student instead of the subject.
I’ll give you an example. This is a sport. Certainly having the ability to and the opportunity to coach the game of lacrosse, we have positions. There are goalies, attack men, midfielders and defenseman. It would be similar to saying that we only allow kids to play midfield. We have to stay in the midfield. They don’t go to attack. They don’t ever go to defense or the defensemen just play defense. They don’t have a chance to go to attack. Attack men stay on attack. If you play goalie, you never come out into the field.
That would be an example of having to teach to the subject where our educators have the ability to consistently, on a daily basis, it’s a need to teach to the students. We have beautiful educators. We have bright educators. We have unbelievable administrators. The system doesn’t consistently allow them to teach to the student. The emphasis from the system is not necessarily on the student or to the subject. In business, you could take it and you would say, “We’re just going to speak to our HR department, but our HR department doesn’t talk to our sales group.” When we know that we need each part to have conversations to make sure that the entire body is working together in unison, does that help clarify?When you spend more teaching the subject instead of the student, the reason why you went into education starts to diminish. Click To Tweet
It does. This problem you’ve laid out for us, what’s the root cause of it? Is it difficult to put your finger on one thing? I’m thinking of a lot of possible causes. It’s lack of resources, let’s just call it what it is, money or it could be the misuse of money that is being earmarked or channeled to education. There are differences of opinions as to what should be taught in classrooms. Even the qualifications of those who are granted the privilege of being in a classroom with 30 eager students. Give us your insights on some of the causes of these problems that you’ve laid out.
You’ve brought up a few of the highlights. There isn’t just one, but I focus on a specific goal and one solution. Funding is a challenge. When we look at our inner cities and we look at the classroom size, and when we look at the resources that are available to our schools in the inner cities, it is a challenge. It’s a challenge for one teacher to work with more than 25 students. That’s a serious challenge. When the emphasis needs to be on teaching to the student and not the subject, in that case and in every case, our educators have to build a connection with each one of those kids and understand who they are.
That becomes a challenge the larger the class size. The demographic knowing that our kids have to deal with to get themselves to school, whether or not they have mom and dad at home, they have food on the table, they’re safe, they feel protected just getting into a classroom, which is a reality for too many of our kids. Moving along into the suburbs, it’s a matter of, yes, we have resources and I’m certainly grateful for that. I’m someone who’s privileged to that. I didn’t grow up in a tough neighborhood. I grew up in an incredibly beautiful neighborhood and environment with amazing teachers, educators and with a mother and a dad that supported me every step of the way through college.
If anything, I am fortunate to be able to explain, share and have that experience. I also know that walking into a school in the suburbs as a black man adds a completely different level of demographic and a challenge. It isn’t necessarily because of things that were negatively done to me, but it’s another example of how I know I wanted and needed in reflection to be able to connect to the people that were in front of me. The educators that I had the chance to be taught by incredible people, beautiful people that I still have relationships with now. I know that over the course of my educational career, I was constantly looking for somebody that looked like me, I could relate to, I felt instantly connected to because of the way that they looked.
I never had that. The connections that I was able to forge were because teachers taught to me, put the subject to the side and taught directly to who Rob is. That allowed for a bond to be created. At that point, I was ready to learn anything. It wouldn’t have mattered because they had the ability and took the time to make sure that they knew who I was as a person. That’s because of who they are as people that was their per desire, but it was also because of the atmosphere that I grew up in that they had the latitude to be able to do that.
Within the school environment, we are seeing and we’ve seen as long as I know, a gravitation into education by people who have first a regard for students and learning. It seems like we’ve always, however, bemoan the fact that they’re underpaid. They would perhaps say they’re not supported by parents as much as they wish they could be, or by their administration, perhaps. Without disclosing names, my wife and I visited with a woman who is retiring from education in the State of California, who I believe if my memory serves me, she has been teaching for 30 to 35 years in Southern California. She’s retiring at the end of this academic year. She says that the environment for a teacher has changed dramatically in those three decades. It used to be that she could not get parental involvement. Now at the end of her career, the exact opposite, parents will not leave her alone. They’re invasive in what the teacher is trying to do that she throws her hands up and says, “I can’t manage parents anymore. It’s taken the fun out of teaching.” Talk to us a little bit about the evolution you’ve seen when it comes to parental involvement.
I often joke, and my kids are aware of this. If my kids are going to play a sport, they have to be big enough and strong enough to carry their bag. When we see kids get off of a bus, one of the first things you’ll often see is a parent or a caregiver taking their son’s or daughter’s bag from them and putting it on their back. When we see kids walking to the sports field, you can take note of how many parents are carrying their son’s or daughter’s bag to the sport field, to the sport that the student is going to play. They don’t carry their own bag. My kids laugh at me all the time because I look at their bag as something contagious, and they just put it on the ground at this point. They need to get themselves situated because my wife and I are not carrying their bag ever.
To your point, there’s been a massive shift in the way that parents see themselves and the achievements of their students as an accomplishment of themselves. Parents have taken note that if their son or daughter is going to achieve, that’s great. They give their son or daughter credit, but the idea of them failing is an example of the mom or the dad failing. That is a major shift because growing up, my mom and dad sent in cookies and treats around the holidays. My mom and dad said hello to my coach and goodbye to my coach, and drop me off at the door and that was it. We didn’t have any other conversations. That’s where the shift is first started where parents see the achievements and the failures, or I will say the failures as their own. I don’t know at what point in education that happened, but it’s happened.
If you had opportunity on day one of a school year or one of the seasons, rather than collect the students in the classroom or gather your team around for a huddle to explain your philosophy and what we’re going to do this season. Let’s say the kids were waiting in the car and you were gathering the parents around, whether it’s in the classroom or the athletic field, what would that conversation sound like if you had that opportunity?
I do it. I can walk you through exactly what that conversation looks like and to the thousands and thousands of parents at this point that I’ve sat down with me in parent-teacher conferences and certainly on the athletic field, this is not news to them. The first thing I ask is, what do they want? What’s the goal that they want for their own son or daughter? I ask for the answer and I wait. The type of answers that you’ll hear are, “I want them to become independent. I want them to have a great experience. I want them to have fun. I want them to be the best in the class.” You’ll hear those types of answers or “the best on the field.” I’ll turn and I’ll say, “Why do you want that for them?” You’ll hear something along the same exact lines. The key phrase is, “What’s missing? What’s preventing them from achieving that, that hasn’t been there in the past?” Usually, you’ll get a quiet response at that point because they don’t completely know what’s missing until they are given time to reflect on it.
Slowly but surely, you’ll see a hand creep up. You’ll hear a brave soul say something along the lines of, “They need to be more independent. They need to be able to fail. They need to be a little uncomfortable. They need to be a little less scared.” You’ll hear something along the lines of that. I let that sit with all the parents and then I’ll turn around and say, “How do we do that? What’s our role? What’s my role in doing that and how do we support each other to get to our goals?” We can turn around and we can say, “Kids need to be more independent. They need to carry their own bags.” If I turn around and I started screaming and yelling, “Carry your own bag,” people get a little turned off and uncomfortable.
To an older audience, to the high school kids, if they have a problem, they need to see me first. If they have a problem, they need to see me second. If they have a problem, they need to see me third. We should only be having conversations about the weather, the game, the food that we’re going to have at dinner to make sure that it’s healthy and it’s green. We aren’t putting things that are going to slow our kids down. We need to help put healthy food, nutrition into our kids. Those should be the types of conversations that we’re having.
If you feel they’re struggling because of maybe the friends that they’re around, call me. If you are worried about their energy, call me. We shouldn’t be having conversations about playing time. In the same type of conversation in academics, it’s the same exact thing. How do they get in contact with me? They should be emailing me. How do they see me? They should be staying after. What should they do? They should be coming early. What should they do? It’s not your role. Even at the middle school level, it isn’t their role. It’s the role to make sure that their son or daughter has the things that they need to achieve.
We can check in on each other, “This is what I’m seeing. It’s great that they came in with their homework. It’s great that they came in prepared for the exam. Unfortunately, this is the grade that they received. Here’s the plan that we discussed, me and the student, and this is what we’re going to do next. If you can support them in this role, that would be great.” Instead, Rob, what we’re getting are parents bombarding, calling, showing up at the gate when their son or daughter doesn’t step onto the field, taking their kids off the sideline because they sat for a quarter and didn’t get enough time, watching the time to make sure that everybody gets equal time or they get a minute less. They have a complaint. They go right to the superintendent in order to complain. We have to establish, we in education, we as coaches, we as people have to establish what our goals are for our kids, and then we have to create a path to achieve it. We have to allow our kids to be able to walk that path alone with our support, not our control.
You are the epitome of the kind of coach that champion in a national organization called Positive Coaching Alliance. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. They’re ubiquitous around North America. I’ve been privileged to be on the National Advisory Board for Positive Coaching Alliance, for several years now. This is the mentality and culture we’re trying to promote. It’s all the way from the administration of a league, a school, a conference, down through the coaching ranks, the parental ranks and the players. You described that what we believe is the ideal environment. Out of curiosity, how many parents have pulled you aside in your history as an award-winning coach and said to you, “I appreciate you challenging my son or daughter like that. I appreciate you putting them through the paces like you are. I appreciate you not giving them what they believe they’re entitled to. I liked that you’re hard on them.” Is that a common refrain or is that like, “We never hear that.”Your gift is the thing that you do best with the least amount of effort. Click To Tweet
I don’t want to put an artificial percentage on it but I would say it’s extremely high that I would hear that. The mass majority of the athletes and I would even say the students I’ve had the opportunity to work with, that’s the line, the phrase and the gratitude that I hear from parents, the mass majority.
In fact, you surprised me with your answer. Now that you say it, it’s the case because you set the tone from the very beginning. They know that when Coach Anderson is going to coach their son or daughter, they know what they’re going to get. When you’re going to teach their son or daughter in the classroom, they understand your style. I thought you were going to say that being hard on my child is very rare. Once they meet you and they see the value of what you’re teaching and that philosophy, they’ve got to embrace it.
This is the way that I share, and I believe it’ll make sense to you. I say this to parents, you didn’t get to where you are because you’re soft. Rob, you’re a gentleman, you’re intelligent and you’ve accomplished a number of things in business and at the same time, you’re soft-spoken but you aren’t soft. When parents hear that, as they pull up their cars and their vacation homes for some folks, and for some folks that are living amongst modest means, they can connect to that. They aren’t soft.
If their son or daughter is going to take the next step, in carrying along their legacy whether or not we like it or not, you can’t be soft. Being soft would mean owning who you are. If you can’t own that, it doesn’t matter what you’re given. It doesn’t matter what opportunities in front of you. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have. When parents can connect to that, their son or daughter is going to have the opportunity to become more of who they are through this process, it does resonate. It resonates and it gives them wings. It gives them ease to know, philosophically that, the things that I say are not my way. It’s not Rob’s way, it’s the right way. That’s the only way to do things, and it’s to get our kids to a space where they can identify with who they are. Everybody resonates with the fact they don’t want their kids to be soft.
You remind me when my wife and I were young parents trying to direct our kids down the path that we thought would be most fulfilling, which would bring them happiness. We asked ourselves, “What subjects should they study?” When they’re young, we asked, “What should they be doing after school? What kind of hobbies should we direct them, introduce them to? We even include sports. My wife will admit that she grew up in a house of girls, and sports was not their thing. They had a lot of other talents. In my home, sports was what I did as a young boy. Since we had three sons, that was a new thing for her raising boys, I remember having that conversation with her when they were young saying, “I think we need to drive them into sports.”
I shouldn’t say drive, maybe we should get in the car and drive them to the soccer field or the baseball diamond. I tried to express to her that I believe sports is where kids are most likely to have to suffer through hard things without being in jeopardy, jeopardizing their health or their safety, and hopefully their mental health. Through that experience, through doing hard things, our boys will learn important life lessons that will serve them well throughout their lives. My wife agreed with that thinking and we have seen the results of it. Let’s move a little bit from the athletic field for just a moment because I don’t want to short-change the work that you do in the classroom. Tell us a little bit about the book that you’ve written, the title of the book, and a little bit about the overall goal and purpose of that book and who would it benefit most, if you would, Rob?
A few years ago, I felt as though my voice is being lost in education. The system itself I felt is broken, and I do believe the educational system is still broken. I wanted to find a solution. I knew that my background in athletics and in training was a part of the solution. It wasn’t my full voice. Being a classroom teacher for fifteen years, I felt connected. I started to feel as though my voice was being lost because of the system that we’re under. I wanted to be able to combine both of those things.
I’ve left teaching and started a firm called Win by Design. We’re an educational consulting firm that focuses on teaching educational leaders how to become more influential. We do that through a system, but we do it by teaching our educational leaders first the foundational principles of human needs, so they can identify their needs first. We teach to the teachers, the educators, we are true personal development firm for educators, not a personal development firm or personal development opportunities where we come in and put another system on people or tell teachers to how to do something.
We’re not that, but an actual firm that trains teachers how to identify their needs first because their needs aren’t being met as people. We ask them to do a lot. I know it because I was in it. I was living it, Rob. From there, once teachers understand how to develop their own personal needs, then we have an opportunity to open up the world. I would say again to our educators where now they can impart their knowledge, their desires on how to teach to our students instead of the system itself. As I was going through these virtual talks across the country and I was sharing, it started develop a thought on what I can give of all the things that these kids don’t learn while they’re in school.
The first one is goal setting. While we’re in school, pre-K through 12th grade, odds are we haven’t had an opportunity for our students to learn how to set goals. Set goals, write them out, put them on paper and then teach them how to accomplish them. We’ve had kids in school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and not only have they not had a class, odds are they didn’t even have anyone talking to them about goal setting. That’s the first part of the book. That’s one of the twelve things.
The next one is how to identify your gift. Your gift is a thing that you do best that requires the least amount of effort. We have kids that go through our schools, kindergarten through 12th grade, and they graduate, some are now going to college and some are opting not to. The ones that go to college still graduated and still don’t know what to do. It was breaking my heart and driving me crazy. Teaching our staff how to help our kids identify their gifts. When they start to think about what their gift is, they shouldn’t be attaching it to a job. They should be attaching it to a mission. As they start to create a mission, that leads a way for them to either get a job or to create a new business that doesn’t exist. Those are 2 of the 12 things that aren’t being taught in our schools that could be shared to our educators that they can impart on our kids.
I remember one time, Rob, when you and I were talking, I was fascinated by something that you said regarding the heart and education. Can you share that with the audience?
We’re just going to have kids in our class that need love. No matter what they’re going to need love. The little ones will grab your leg and sit on your lap. As they get older, we can get confused when some of these boys are 6’4” or 6’5,” they tower over their teachers. Some of them when they’re in 7th and 8th grade, but they still need love too. Unfortunately, too many are necessarily receiving it all at home. Some of them will settle for connection. That’s a piece of the heart that our educators have the ability to give.
Our administrators do as well. We know that we have these kids that come in. At the end of the day, they’re going to find significance, positive, negative or neutral way. There are kids that come in and they’re going to find significance from walking in late. They’re going to come in and they’re going to find significance by falling off a chair or doing cracking a funny joke, you make everybody laugh. Some of those things are disruptive and some of those things are funny.
Acknowledging the fact that we do have all of these needs and we have these needs structures that are documented and it works. When you understand how to apply those needs to yourself and education, you can identify those to the students that you’re teaching. It makes it that much fluent to form a connection. We teach anything that we like, but that’s an example of the heart and what I believe we do with our firm, Win by Design, in teaching and empowering our teachers. Even beyond what we do, it’s what our teachers are capable of doing. It’s why they got into it at the beginning.Goodwill always wins as long as we allow it to win in our heart and in our spirit. Click To Tweet
I don’t think anyone reading can say, “I disagree with what Rob is saying,” because what you’re saying seems so natural. It seems real and authentic. Yet, the tragedy about some of what you’re saying in my mind is, for example, you talked about love. Students need love. We need to understand why each student is significant because they need significance. The challenge as I see, and I used the word tragedy, is that in this very sensitive society where we live now, it feels like it’s so difficult to make those connections with students if I’m an adult.
In fact, even in the workplace, it’s difficult to make connections with your colleagues because it could be misinterpreted. If it’s misinterpreted, you could end up in the HR office that afternoon. I’m sure the same is true at a school. You can end up in the principal’s office or having unexpected parent-teacher conference because your good intent was misinterpreted. Am I overblowing this dilemma or is this a real dilemma that’s getting in the way of the kind of goals that you and Win by Design teach and train in?
You’re spot on with the challenges. At first, it goes back to the folks on the frontline, our educators. Our educators are under so much pressure that when they wake up in the morning and when they walk into the building, when they close out their day, so much of what they do at times doesn’t feel fulfilling. It doesn’t feel as though it’s even touching the surface of why they even got into it. You magnify that by a day or a decade, and you become dull. You become numb to what you’re even doing. The first step is reconnecting with our educators. Educational leaders and our community members have to. They should feel pressure, if not feel an obligation at a minimum to make sure that we are filling the gaps that we’re asking to do the most. In my humble opinion, we aren’t doing that. That’s where we need to start if you would. Our educators come first.
Let’s shift one more time. You and I have had candid conversations about this. It’s a very prickly subject in our country. It shouldn’t be but it is. A lot of what you’ve said comes from the lens of a black man who was not raised in the inner city, was raised in a fairly affluent area. You had opportunities. You have both parents at home, which I honestly believe lends a terrific advantage, to any of us, regardless of race or ethnicity. How has your race shaped your thinking towards education?
I appreciate the question. I appreciate the courage of the question. I had the unique opportunity to grow up in a beautiful town in New York, in Westchester County. A town that I hold near and dear to my heart and incredible friends, incredible opportunities and we overachieved, athletically. We are still super proud of it. I had the opportunity to also spend the mass majority of my life in the city. My grandparents, my nan and pop, were living in the city. My closest friend was in the South Bronx. I spent countless weekends with him. I felt as though I had a balance of seeing what my life was as a kid. I had the opportunity uniquely to see what life could have been had my parents not made specifically, my dad, made different decisions about what he wanted for his family to move himself and us with my mom out of the city.
It changed the course in the direction of my life. It was part of the reason why I have the privilege to be here with you. Rob, I did not get a free pass because of where I’m from. I didn’t get a free pass because of who my parents are. The reality is I have stories on how racism has impacted me. I’ve been the target of racists, I have been singled out because of my race. The reason why my story is that a tragedy is because certainly I’ll say faith for sure, but it’s also because my parents had the resources.
They had the knowledge and they also had the heart to make sure that I was taken care of when those things hit our family. They had the knowledge and the resources in place to make sure that none of those things impacted me into my adult life. They also had the heart to make sure that negativity and racism didn’t impact me and impact my mind on white people and on white people in authority. My dad had every perspective as a police officer. He was an award-winning police officer. I come from a long line of law enforcement.
Knowing the background, any pure intelligence that my dad had and then unfortunately having to see his son, be targeted and then at the same exact time, my parents didn’t allow negativity to harden my heart. I was quite the opposite. They made it very clear that there are bad people and there are people that are just going to be racist. There are people that will consistently target you because of who you are and because of the way that you look. To make sure that none of those things and events shape what they believe, which are people are good, and by and large good will always win as long as we allow it to win in our heart and in our spirit. I’m a product of them and that’s shaped my reality to this day, Rob. It doesn’t blind me but it’s helped shape it.
This would be a good time to end our conversation because I feel like what you said is very uplifting, but there are also a lot of lessons to learn hearing a black man raised in America, raised in New York, hearing your story. We could learn a little bit more if you’ll allow us to, from you here in this regard. I’m Caucasian, you’re black. What is one example of something that I might do that is unintentional, but that in your mind would be racist? I recalled something you told me one time. I don’t know if this is the way you’d want to say, but I’m going to lead you to one answer and then you can add another one. Rob Anderson doesn’t have a lot of hair. He shaved his head. I remember though you telling me one time about someone touching your hair. I don’t want to finish the story. I’d like to hear anything else that we could learn from.
I’ll give two examples, but I’ll start with that one. I grew up in a beautiful area in a place that I hold in the highest regard, in New York, in Westchester County. Growing up, it was quite common to have people, teachers, want to touch my hair because at that point. I had a big fro, not too big. I grew it out in college. I let it lock up against my dad’s best wishes. He didn’t love my locked-up hair. He didn’t like the fact that it was the color of the Texas Jersey. That drove him crazy, Rob. Growing up, it was very common that people will come up and want to touch my hair because I was so different. Not just because of my skin color because they haven’t seen hair texture in that way, and I couldn’t stand it.
At first, I didn’t understand it. As I got older into middle school, I became extremely fierce over it. My parents are very caring and very loving, but they would not ever allow me to get a free pass ever. I had a nice balance. My mom is the aggressor of the two. My dad is a massive man. His hands are so big, he couldn’t fit gloves. Having the opportunity to know that I needed to put my foot down and be more aggressive. I’ll never forget moments like that. It was gross. I had to use a simplistic metaphor that someone wanted to touch me because I just was different.
It’s a turnoff, but it was quite common. It was amongst the adults as well. Until I finally stood my ground and stood firm in that, I did not share that with my parents. That might have set my mom off. It’s why I didn’t share it with her. Until I set my ground with that, that’s when it finally stopped. To your question, Rob, I could probably answer your question with an example better than an action on your part. I was on the phone with a friend of mine. She’s white, and it’s relevant for this conversation.
I was getting ready to walk into a store. I had my Gator on. It was raining. I had a hooded sweatshirt, so I put my hood on. I have an earpiece in. I put my hood on and then I pulled my gator up. I’m walking. I said to her, “Anne, a few months ago, if I walked into the store like this, odds are I might get shot. I should be concerned that I may. Now if I don’t wear my gator or a mask, I have concerned that I’ll be singled out once again.” I took my hood off and my Gator. I walked in. I make sure, when I walk into stores, that my hands are out of my pockets so any cameras that see me, see that I’m not caring physically anything in.
When I walk out of stores, I always make sure that my hands are out my pockets and that my receipt is in my hands. It’s on camera that I’m not stealing anything. It’s very clear that I’m not walking out with anything that isn’t mine. I would share that as an example to say that when I walk into a store or when you see me walk into a store, don’t assume that I am something that I’m not. I’m a data for a married guy that loves people and has built a career around building and creating the best for kids, don’t assume.
Thank you for sharing that. Something as simple as keeping your hands out of your pocket is something that you have to think about in public as a black man. That’s what I was hoping or looking for that you would instruct us on what has to go through your mind in society. I don’t want to even get into the right or wrong of that impression that you have, the fact that you feel that way, should concern all of us. I do appreciate that. I’m sorry that you feel that way. Rob, I tip my hat to you for the influence that you have on other people. That influence is only growing. I would encourage my audience to check out what you do and how you do it on WinByDesign.com. You’ll also learn more about a subject that we didn’t have a chance to cover about the A3 Learner, which is proprietary information that Rob’s developed. Thank you very much. You’re an inspiration. I wish you continued success. I look forward to continued learning from you as we continue our association, Rob.
Rob, you’re beautiful. I appreciate your time. I appreciate the opportunity and your platform. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you so much.
About Robert Anderson Jr.
Rob began his career as an athletic performance coach helping athletes improve their physical and mental health.
Over the years, Rob has expanded his efforts and has developed a series of training modules, courses, and programs that help students, school administrators, teachers and faculty members define ‘why’ an inclusive community can alter the focus of the student body, there town, and ultimately the nation.
Rob’s premier program The 12 Things Summit… focuses on how to create personal empowerment by learning how to create an atmosphere of love and inclusion to overcome racism and injustice, overcoming anxiety, foster relationships, create confidence in yourself, how to create a nutritional program to maximize your health.