A couple years ago, Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson wrote the book "Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race."
Yesterday, he and teammate Eric Weddle brought it to life at Boys' Latin School of Maryland.
Watson and Weddle had an open and in-depth conversation about the issues of race and use of language surrounding it with about 300 Upper School students and faculty members.
"[These boys], like everybody, are talking about diversity and ethnicity and those things. And those can be really, really hard conversations," Watson said.
"I want them to take away being willing to have empathy for the other side, understanding that we're in this thing together. And that, as brothers, as they called themselves, they have an opportunity, but also a responsibility, to understand each other's experiences."
The hour-long discussion began with opening statements from Watson and Weddle. The two come from different backgrounds and locations (Watson is from Norfolk, Va., and Weddle hails from Southern California) and, of course, have had different experiences.
Through their own conversations over the past year, along with their teammates, they have gained an even deeper understanding of each other, and formed a tighter bond.
Watson discussed the importance of talking about race and recognizing stereotypes and biases that are reinforced in the media Americans consume.
"Our country is largely based on race – how we look at each other, how we talk to each other," Watson said. "There is but one race, and that's human. You have to look at race as a human issue and not one of division."
Weddle talked about his diverse community and how he has taken it upon himself to learn about people that come from all walks of life.
"We're trying to get everyone in this world to look at everyone equally. How are we going to get that done?" Weddle asked. "It's about loving your brother, treating everyone with respect and having an understanding and willingness to listen and really care about their story. If you do that, you'll break down the barriers that separate us."
The two players invited students to the floor to share their experiences and perspective. The discussion was moderated by senior Carrington Scott, who is the leader of the school's diversity club and will head to Naval Academy Prep School next year.
"I thought it went great," Scott said. "Having two figures that everyone looks up to definitely drives the message home. I think we're going to see, if not big differences here, we're going to start chipping away at them."
The conversation came about because one of Ravens Director of Player Development Harry Swayne's two sons (and five children), Chris, attends Boys' Latin. Over the past year, the school has been focused on equity and inclusion.
"I really believe that if we want to be better as a community, we need to talk about these things," said Head of Upper School Brian Mitchell. "We can't just turn our back on it because it's not going to help us grow, and more importantly, it's not going to help the boys grow. We need to find ways to model this to them. There's power in having these guys sit in front of our boys."