An Olympic medalist with Mid-Missouri roots challenged his Westminster College audience on Wednesday to take a stand and create a fairer world for all.
Olympic medalist and world wrestling champion J’den Cox spoke at the 16th Hancock Symposium at Westminster College in the Champ Auditorium.
Her talk, “Taking a Stand: Going Beyond BLM to Equity for All,” focused on her story while challenging guests to face the truth, accept and appreciate the difference and to find the courage to create a more equitable world for all.
Cox is originally from Colombia and has spent much of his life focusing on his wrestling career.
“Honestly, I have a slightly different story than a lot of others who look like me and also in the same situation as me when it comes to the sport of wrestling and being an athlete in general,” said Cox. “But as an athlete, athletics actually protected me from a lot of racial issues.”
He grew up in the countryside with his family, where he wrestled with his siblings.
“My grandmother is white,” Cox said. “I have a whole Caucasian side to my family, so I was kind of raised in a mixed family. I was able to bond with people of different races very early in my life. never really saw a problem, but on top of that my success really protected me from these problems because people treated me differently. “
As he continued his wrestling career, he found success in high school, Mizzou and his Olympic career.
Cox recalled a time in 2016 when Mizzou was embroiled in racial disputes that gained national attention. He remembers it well because he had Mizzou’s name on his back as an athlete.
“There was a lot going on, a lot of people were mad at each other, a lot of protests and things were happening,” Cox said. “I remember even that, for the most part I was protected. I think I only had to talk about problems once, then for the most part I was told to put it on. next to.
“But I talked about it within my team, and there were things within my team that I didn’t know were issues they had to deal with. Like how often they walked. in the street and someone would say an insult, or even the treatment of certain situations of people of color. I was even safe from that, and it was only then that my eyes went are really open to it. “
In 2018, Cox won a world title and spent that money on a house in Colorado, where he now lives. It wasn’t until living in Colorado that Cox realized what it really meant to be black.
“When I moved to Colorado, I first realized I was black,” Cox said.
While in Colorado, Cox encountered police three times. Each time, he was at home, on his lawn, mowing his lawn.
The first two times, police stopped by Cox’s house and asked him what he was doing there. Cox responded by saying he was mowing his lawn. Police told him they had received a call about a suspicious man at the address. Cox assured them that everything was fine and they left.
The third time around, two police officers went to his home and questioned Cox about what he was doing, if it was really his lawn, his house, and then asked for evidence.
Cox told them no.
Officers said they received a call regarding a suspicious African-American man in the neighborhood.
“I haven’t seen any,” Cox replied.
At this point, he wasn’t sure what the agents wanted him to do since he was on his own property.
Police asked for ID and proof that he owned the house.
Again, Cox said no.
As things started to heat up, one of the officers spoke to the other and before leaving one of them said, “Make sure you stay in your lane.”
“I didn’t know what that meant,” Cox said. “And that was my first fight with that, and you all have to understand that the neighborhood I live in is predominantly white. And that’s where it really shocked me. Lived now, because the success that I ‘ve had protected me from a lot of these things.’ “
As he became aware, heard more news, and joined the Black Wrestling Association, Cox said he began to fear not only for his life, but for those who are being subjected to the same abuse as him.
“For those of you who are of a different race, who are white, I’m not saying that to push you away,” Cox said. “I understand it can be uncomfortable, we’re talking about serious stuff, and there’s no way you can understand what some of us have been through – some of your classmates, some of your teammates.
“But that’s why it’s more important for you to hear their stories and to listen, not to respond but to really understand, to try to hear them.”
He pointed out that all the protests, all the noise, are not aimed at pushing people of different races back, that they are not supposed to bring them down, but they hope they will help us get up.
“The main thing I want to say here today that I want you all to understand,” said Cox, “is that there is no power in not using your voice at all. in fact, in this situation for those who are allies, your voice will unfortunately have a lot more weight than mine or any other African American for that matter.Your voice will actually be heard because you are looked at differently, you are seen differently.
“Think about it, some people go through their lives fearing for their lives just because their pigment is a little darker. It is a blessing that some of you are free from it, but I ask you to use this freedom. to fight with us so that we can have the same liveliness. “