Quick link: Lessons about Tolerance from the only white kid on this high school step team

I had the enormous privilege of interviewing my nephew via Skype a few months ago to talk about his step competition team, race, and privilege. I had a lot to learn and this teen spoke articulately and humbly about the issues he and his generation face and what they can and are doing about it. Of course I’m slightly biased, but I think he’s a great kid and I absolutely love the vision and community of his HYPE team and leader, William Joyner.

My sister’s family has been folded into this community in real, authentic, and racially-reconciling ways and the story of these kids doing what they love, together, is so important and ever more relevant.

While I wouldn’t have chosen the word “Tolerance” to be in this title, I’m really happy with how this piece has been received by the HYPE community. Tolerance would imply that these young men sort of reluctantly put up with each other. That is not the case at all, these guys love each other and support each other. Some of them have walked through fire together and with their families and their relationships move far deeper than mere tolerance. But…such goes editing. Look beyond that and enjoy a piece of good news from the generation that will change our nation for the better.

Check out the HYPE Facebook page to read what they are saying about the interview and to see some photos and some videos of these talented kids.

White Chocolate and RaceAt a high school assembly in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, the HYPE step crew prepares to perform. They’ve performed for packed crowds before — on America’s Got Talent, at Walt Disney World, and in dozens of competitions. But today’s performance is especially nerve-wracking for one member.

The student body settles in to watch. They are 96% non-white and all eyes seem to be glued to the only white team member. Performing is always a rush, but today, in front of his peers, my nephew Emmaus doesn’t want to miss a single beat.

The dance begins. The boys stomp and clap and tumble and flip through the air in an intense and relentless rhythm. Within seconds, the students are on their feet, cheering. They focus on Emmaus and at the end of the performance — when the team points him out and calls him their nickname, “White Chocolate” — the students go nuts shouting and clapping for their classmate…


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