Matt Taylor, the Interview

Matt Taylor on the Morehouse campus

I have wondered where or how to start this story for quite some time now. There are so many ways and places but none seem quite right, so I will just go straight forward.

Matt Taylor is about 6’2”, maybe a buck fifty. He is blonde, as is his equally tall and slim wife. He is twenty eight, I did not ask how old his wife is, and the two of them live in Atlanta.

They live in Atlanta because Matt is a sophomore on the Morehouse College basketball team.

If you know of Morehouse this is the place where you do a double take and I answer again, yes, that Morehouse.

Morehouse is a historically Black college, founded in 1867, when little to no educational opportunities were open to African-Americans. Harvard hadn’t graduated any Black students, nor had many other schools for that matter, and with those ivory doors closed a population’s desire for learning and opportunity had to be created elsewhere. That is how schools like Morehouse, Fisk, or Howard began.

It is a story in American lore that in context makes sense, it can be understood, it fits in the times and time-lines.

It doesn’t explain Matt.

Matt grew up in Idaho Falls. If you haven’t been there, the place is whiter than the Winter Olympics. After high school Matt got right to work, he never planned on college. It wasn’t that he didn’t care for learning, he just didn’t see the value in it. What he did see value in was basketball.

We didn’t talk about it then, nor do I know for sure, but I don’t think the NBA was in his sights then or even now, but that’s the great thing about basketball; you don’t have to get paid to play it. So he played some ball. At the same time, even without a degree, Matt was smart enough to know it takes money to pay bills so he also got to work. He did all kinds of things, mostly working for himself. At his core, even more than being a ball player, Matt is an entrepreneur.

These two loves are how Matt found himself living out of a suitcase managing and promoting an “And 1” style exhibition basketball team. It was Hot Sauce, High Octane, Sik Wit It, all those video game style players. He went everywhere with the guys, as far as Hong Kong, learning along the way. He picked up a little business sense, some basketball skills, and something else he could have never planned on; perspective. He got to know the guys. At times he found himself couching it at their homes, doing what they did, eating what they ate. They also got to know him.

But you can’t live on someone’s couch, or in a Motel 8 forever, and Matt decided to sit still for a while. He hadn’t lived anywhere more than three months since high school (having also traveled to Argentina as a Mormon missionary), and finally unpacked his bags in Provo Utah. That’s where he met his wife.

Nice story right? So what?

Benjamin E. Mays on the Morehouse campus.

In another part of the country, on another basketball court, is a coach who is wishing his college hoops squad had a little more “maturity”. He finds out about a 27 year old kid who has a lived on his own for years without getting in trouble, can ball, and hadn’t used up any eligibility. Who cares if he is white?

The school didn’t care and even more importantly, Matt didn’t care either. He and the Mrs. headed off to Morehouse.

He’s been there a little over a year now, I found myself in the area, so I took the opportunity meet up with him. We arranged a time and when I asked where on campus to look for him he said, “just ask anybody where the white boy is and they will tell you.” He was only partly joking.

It was obvious right from the start that he loves it there at school, and that he loves to talk. He really, really loves to talk. In fact he talks enough that though I have never sat in a class with him, I am willing to bet that after two sessions White is no longer his defining feature, but rather it is his mouth. Now I share this same condition, both conditions now that I think of it, and I have learned through sad experience that a willingness to speak is dangerous if your mouth isn’t backed up by a brain. He is fine, I am often in trouble. Back to him loving school.

He is not the only White guy on campus, there are seven, but he is the only Mormon. He is probably also the only married sophomore. I was possibly projecting a little but I would think that this would make for a lonely existence, or at least an isolating one, but he never expressed that, he is part of the team. “You don’t make it four years on this campus if your being here has anything to do with your being White… you either make it here and are a brother of Morehouse or you are not, bottom line. We are a family here on campus.” I believe he believes that. As I walked, sat, and talked with him I was listening to a guy who questions everything, has an opinion on most things, and has no fear at all in speaking his mind. He is also a guy who has no question as to whether he belongs at this school. Better yet, and possibly more surprising, is that he not only believes he belongs, but he has also felt welcome. He says his classmates make him feel that he belongs.

I think that is what would surprise most people. It isn’t just that there is a White boy playing ball at a school historically and traditionally meant for Black men, but that the school and Black males at that school welcome the White boy. There is more to the story, and more to the moral of the story than I will get to here, I’m sure Matt will write a book. When he does I will read it and I hope others will read it as well. He is learning things most people don’t ever learn in school but should. He is crossing lines most Americans do not, and so far its working out well.

13 thoughts on “Matt Taylor, the Interview

  1. The US is a country born to reinvent itself time and time again; that said, hopefully not in the mould of one of the current GOP factions.

  2. Uh, you might have wanted to start the interview by detailing that Morehouse has been a leading University in educating AA men and graduating men who go on to be leading professionals in their field, I could go on, and on, but I’ll let it go.

    1. @ Fansom, I could have talked of the unmatched acceptance rates of Morehouse grads to med school, but Morehouse deserves its own post. Another time perhaps. My posts are too long as it is. I’ll write another one about the internet’s erosion of modern attention spans.

  3. Dude, I was one of six Black males at a school where the other five were only there because of basketball scholarships.
    I did well socially with even the most racist Southern students because I just did what I did without regard for the views of others.
    My suburban So-Cal upbringing put me miles ahead as far as being ‘cool’ so people spoke to me more than I had to speak to them. (And that my girlfriends were a few of the hottest girls at school.).
    For the most part – “Race’ only matters if you make it matter.

  4. I served with Matty T in Argentina 7 years ago and played a lot of ball with him in Utah. I was laughing at the comment about him talking defining him more that him being white at an all black school, doesn’t surprise me at all. not many people could comfortably pull off what he is doing right now and I am sure he loves it. Well written post.

  5. I think this is great! Matthew is learning so much more than we could have ever anticipated. His experience at Morehouse and Atlanta will take him far and he will touch people for the better in many aspects. We are so proud of him. He loves it there and really loves the people!
    Matthews Mom

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