Emmanuel Acho’s parents emigrated from Nigeria and raised their four children in Dallas, Texas. From a young age, they instilled in him a responsibility to perform community service and work for social justice. Deeply religious, the entire family made frequent missionary trips back to Nigeria to provide medical services to underserved communities. Also instilled was a passion for sports. By the time Acho graduated high school in 2008, he had lettered in football, basketball and track and field. He played football at the University of Texas, where he earned numerous awards, trophies and a degree in sports management.
From 2012 through 2015, Acho played for the Cleveland Browns, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants. He saw most of his playing time as a reserve linebacker, with injuries limiting his career. Although it’s an accomplishment to reach the NFL at all, his football career is not what earned Emmanual Acho a profile for Black History Month.
Instead, it’s what he did after leaving the NFL that merits attention. Acho began his second career as a sports analyst for ESPN and Fox Sports. But then in 2020 he found himself in a position of conflict. The pandemic had isolated everyone, forcing us onto Zoom and social media for a sense of connection. Then George Floyd was murdered and thousands found themselves torn between wanting to stay safe in isolation and needing to join together to express grief and outrage. Acho was no different, with one exception. His careers made him comfortable in front of a camera and his missionary experiences made him skilled at marshaling resources for a cause. Using the tools dictated by the times, he placed himself in front of his camera and launched his first video in a series he calls “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” The video went viral, gathering millions of views and coverage from major media outlets.
In his series of videos, posted on his website www.uncomfortableconvos.com and on YouTube, Acho often addresses a White audience, leaning into topics that are uncomfortable and difficult to dissect. He answers questions about systemic racism, how to discuss racism with kids, interracial relationships, reverse racism, the issues facing Black kids adopted by White families and kneeling during the national anthem. In one conversation, he joins a room of White police officers and candidly asks them about their fears and perceptions. His purpose, as he explains on his website:
Our Nation and world have again been confronted with its greatest ongoing pandemic, Racism.
Racism is not a virus of the body; it is a virus of the mind, and unfortunately, it can be lethal.
But you cannot fix a problem that you do not know you have. And if “ignorance is bliss”, in this case, bliss has caused bondage and pain for others. But there is a fix. We can all access the life-saving medicine that will cure the world’s most ailing, long-lasting pandemic. But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, is a safe place to have the uncomfortable conversations about race that many white people have never been able to have. But enough is enough- I want to remove the barriers for why we’ve never had these conversations. I want to provide a free space for curious white people to answer the questions they’ve always had but have been too nervous to ask. Like, “How can I have white privilege if I’m not wealthy?”, or “is racial profiling ok if black people tend to commit more crimes”, or my personal favorite from a 19-year-old girl from rural Alabama named Amy who asked, “if black people can say the ‘N’ word, why can’t I?” And many, many more.
Many have thought these questions without realizing the key to mending the racial divide in our world lie within the answers, and that white people DO have the power to affect sweeping change, and short circuit racism within their own lives and communities. The cure for what ails us – all of us — lies within these, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.
One man candidly and respectfully addresses issues that touch every aspect of American life. Acho answers questions that people need answered but often don’t know how to ask. He does so in a way that’s approachable. He’s expanded on his conversations in two books: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man and Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy for younger readers. He recently published a third book, Illogical: Saying Yes to a Life Without Limits to encourage people to become change makers.
One man, one camera, leaving an impact felt by millions. If you have questions about racism and you have fifteen minutes, we urge you to check out any of Acho’s posts. They may just answer some questions you were too uncomfortable to ask.
Note: Granby Racial Reconciliation holds Courageous Conversations several times during the year and invites everyone to participate in similarly respectful but sometimes uncomfortable conversations. To learn more, please visit GranbyRR.com
To learn more about Emmanuel Acho, we recommend Uncomfortableconvos.com