Benjamin Watson Tackles the Racial Divide With Real Conversations

Baltimore Ravens tight end Benjamin Watson joined The Glenn Beck Program on Tuesday to talk about his ongoing efforts to heal racial divides and bring people together. In addition to his book Under Our Skin, Watson will be a featured speaker at Under Our Skin: A Forum on Race and Faith, taking place this weekend in Tampa.

"What we're hoping to foster is an honest conversation. We've had conversations before, but we want this one to be one where people can come in, truth can be proclaimed. People can let their guards down. Nobody is going to get offended by honest questions. But also, we want people to leave with tangible tools in their tool belt of ways that they can, in their own spheres of influence, attack this racial problem and also see where they stand," Watson said.

Learn more about the forum at underourskinforum.org, which also features esteemed broadcaster James Brown, Hall of Fame football coach Tony Dungy and former NFL Walter Payton Man-of-the-Year award winner Warren Dunn, among others.

Listen to this segment from The Glenn Beck Program:

GLENN: This weekend in Tampa Bay, there is something really cool happening. Tony Dungy is going to be there. Warrick Dunn, who I think was with the Bucks when we lived in Tampa. Tony was there.

STU: Yeah, it's weird. Yeah.

GLENN: And also Benjamin Watson is going to be there in a forum, getting real about race and getting free from the fears and frustrations that divide us.

Benjamin Watson is with us right now. Hey, Ben, how are you?

BENJAMIN: I'm doing well. How are you guys doing?

GLENN: Very good. Very good.

First of all, any thoughts on the Super Bowl?

BENJAMIN: Well, I tell you what, having played in New England for 6 years, it did not surprise me. I have a lot of Atlanta friends, including my in-laws who were crushed. I have never seen a comeback like that before. Especially didn't expect it in the Super Bowl. But, honestly, as I talked to the guys after the game, I was like, you know, if any team was going to come back, it would be New England. It was surprising.

GLENN: Yeah.

PAT: Uh-huh.

GLENN: Yeah. So, Ben, you've been on with us before. And you have one of the sane voices in America that is trying to bring people together and say, look, yeah, we have things that divide us, but let's have this conversation.

So tell me what you're trying to accomplish this weekend and what you think is going to happen.

BENJAMIN: Yes. Well, one of the things we talked about last time I was with you, was -- it was when my book Under Our Skin came out and just this whole issue that we have with race in America, ethnicity in America, that has been a part of our thread for a very, very long time, since the inception of our country. And it keeps on coming back in different ways, and each generation has to deal with it in their own way.

And so this weekend in Tampa, Florida, what we're hoping to foster is an honest conversation. We've had conversations before. But we want this one to be one where people can come in. Truth can be proclaimed. People can let their guards down. Nobody is going to get offended by honest questions. But also, we want people to lead with tangible tools in their tool belt of ways that they, can, in their own spheres of influence, attack this racial problem and also see where they stand.

And, you know, maybe people may come, and they may feel like, you know what, I have no racist bones in my body. I have no prejudice in my body. I'm forgiven. I'm protected. And all those things. And then they come and hear things. And they say, you know what, this is something that keeps rising up in me, and I need to deal with it first in myself. And then, how do I affect the people around me positively when these sorts of things happen on a television set or we encounter certain instances of racism in our community.

GLENN: I will tell you that Pat and I were on a plane once with Hutch, who was a Cowboys player.

BENJAMIN: Yeah.

GLENN: You know him.

BENJAMIN: Uh-huh.

GLENN: And we were on a plane coming home from Washington, DC, one time. And both Pat and I were from the Pacific northwest. We grew up. Became aware in the early '70s. And didn't feel like we had any problems, you know, with race relations or anything.

We got off that plane with him after he explained the things that he went through in life. And both of us realized, there is so much work to be done in America, that we just don't even know. But it's -- we're stopped sometimes because we don't want to open that up because, A, okay. So you're going to excuse me of being a racist.

BENJAMIN: Yeah.

GLENN: Are you going to say, oh, I have to pay extra money or I have to -- you know what I mean?

So nobody talks about it because it opens up a can of worms, where extremists can play.

BENJAMIN: I agree. I agree. And it's easy to point our finger at white supremacy or at, you know, maybe the black power movement or whatever it may be and say that those are the epitomes of racism and prejudice. But really, it's those of us that are in the middle -- like I said before, some of us that don't really realize -- some of us that don't -- because of our situation, don't have to engage and have to learn about someone else's experience.

A lot of what we don't see -- you know, experiencing somebody else's life. For the white guy who is a coworker in wherever, in West Virginia, who has lost his job and he thinks that, you know what, it's not fair that his perception is that black people get X, Y, and Z. And to the black teenager or the black young man who sees his employment drop and sees the educational opportunities he has, and he thinks he's the only one who is experiencing some of those things. And for those types of people that say, you know what, I may not have your experience. But let me listen to yours, and let me validate what you feel. And let me not disregard what you feel.

And then for you -- you know, for some people who are born in the Northwest or maybe the West and they have a different view of it, to hear some of these stories that are very, very real. That's how we show how we care about each other.

What we do have now is a lot of people being scared to even mention or broach the topic because they're going to be labeled a bigot or a racist. And that's a very real fear that I acknowledge as well.

GLENN: So, Ben, help me out on -- we're talking to Ben Watson, author of Under My Skin. Or Under Our Skin. He has UnderOurSkinForum.com. That's where you can go find out all the information of what's happening. Really important this weekend in Tampa Bay. UnderOurSkinForum.com.

Here's -- here's where I think people live. I came out against Black Lives Matter years ago, when it first started because I read their -- I read their manifesto.

BENJAMIN: Uh-huh.

GLENN: And it is -- it's crazy. Have you read it?

BENJAMIN: Yeah. I've gone to their website. And I can say that probably 75 percent or maybe 65 percent of the things that they stand for, I don't agree with. But then there are some things that I do.

GLENN: Correct. Right. Right. But there's a lot of stuff on there that is just anti-capitalism and has nothing to do with race.

BENJAMIN: Exactly.

GLENN: And so that's what I first saw. Then I met some people who were not part of the founding members. Didn't know about the charter or anything else. But were involved in the Black Lives Matter march here that ended tragically with the shooting of cops here in Dallas.

BENJAMIN: Yeah.

GLENN: And they were good, decent people and I listened to them.

So I wrote a deal about Black Lives Matter for the New York Times, and I said, "Hey, we have to listen to each other."

Immediately, everything in my world flipped. And now people were against me on the other side.

And what happens is -- for instance, up in Toronto -- I don't know if you saw this, the cofounder of the Black Lives Matter Toronto said white people have recessive genetic defects that need to be wiped out.

Justin Trudeau is a white supremacist terrorist. That we need to rise up and fight back. Quote, please, Allah give me strength not to cuss and kill these white folks out here today.

BENJAMIN: Uh-huh.

GLENN: How do we get -- how can we get to a place where we can have a real conversation when there are voices on one side that are absolutely racist, voices on the other side absolutely racist, and our politicians are using those people to stir -- to stir us up?

BENJAMIN: Well, one of the things you do is ask why and what and where. And so I think that's what you did. I remember reading your article. And I remember seeing the backlash that you received. But what you did was you went and you did some research. So you said, "You know what, these people -- for example, the gentleman in Toronto, he's obviously angry. Why do you think he feels this way?" And then you went on. And you looked at the charter. You learned about him. For him, learning about the history of blacks in this country. Blacks on this continent. Maybe some of the things that might have happened in his family. Whatever -- there's a reason why. Now, the way he's lashing out is not an appropriate one. But when we first see why people act the way they act, then we can address them from a human standpoint and we can see why there's upset. And maybe there's some valid reasons why they are. But what we don't have now is, you know, we see the headline, and immediately, like you said, you shut off and you label someone. And maybe they deserve to be labeled. But no one is willing to kind of be in the middle.

So the way -- people ask me all the time, what do I do, Benjamin? How do I change this thing?

And I say, "The first thing you do is you start in your living room. You start in your dining room with your family."

How do you talk about people that aren't like you in your living room at bedtime, when you're praying at night with your kids? What are you teaching them? Are you teaching them that they are no better than anyone else because of their color, or because of their economics, or because of their education, or because of their athletic ability, whatever it may be? Are you teaching them that they need the same forgiveness by the same guys -- the person across the railroad tracks need? Are you giving them a proper sense of self in the home?

Because that's where this all starts, in the home. Whether you're on the white supremacist side, whether you're like the guy in Toronto, wherever it may be. That stuff starts in the home.

And so we as parents have a responsibility to figure it out for ourselves, but also to teach our children. And then from there, you had children who are going to be change agents.

You know, when we look back over the course of our history in this country, and you look at civil rights. And you look at Jim Crow. And you look at neo-slavery, after slavery was abolished. And you look all the way up to the '70s and everything, there were people of all shades of brown, all shades of melanin count, that were -- who stood for justice.

And some of them were maligned, like you were, when you stepped out and you said, "You know, I see some of the reasons why they say what they say."

And sometimes it's going to take you getting out of your groupthink, whatever that groupthink is, black or white or in between, and be willing to stand for what's right.

GLENN: Ben, can I ask you a real honest question that I'm sure you've reflected on: You don't need this. You know, there's nothing to gain here, to, you know, sell a book. You could sell a book a million different ways. And that's already in the past.

Now, you're going to do these forums. You're going to get backlash from both sides. Why? Why are you doing this?

BENJAMIN: Well, honestly, a part of it is a groupthink. A positive groupthink. And it's the number of people who I consider to be friends, Tony Dungy, you mentioned one of them. We have pastors there. We'll have authors there. We'll have my publishing group, which Tyndale Publishers, is a big part of this, that care about this issue.

And alone, honestly, sometimes I want to throw my hands up and say, "You know what, we're just never going to like each other on a large-scale. It is what it is."

I get frustrated just like everybody else. I get backlash when I say certain things from the black community. I get backlash from the white community. You know, from non-Christians. From Christians.

GLENN: I know.

BENJAMIN: You know, it's frustrating. But when you have a group of people who say, "You know what, we're committed to this. And my job is to stand for kindness. For love and kindness. For justice. For truth. For righteousness."

Those are things that I committed my life to. And so whatever realm I can influence someone, even if it's one or two people, I'm committed to take that chance. And this is just one example. And we hope that people will join and then come to livestream.com. Obviously, if they're not in Tampa, they can tune in on livestream.com.

And we've got some good feedback. Hopefully, this thing goes well, and some people's hearts are changed. Their minds are changed. They're encouraged when it comes to this topic. And we go and do it somewhere else. Or maybe we don't. Maybe someone else does it.

GLENN: Speak specifically to someone who you want to come. Who are they? And why should they come Saturday?

BENJAMIN: Well, I want everyone to join in. People who hate blacks of everything they've done to black people in this country and their parents. People who hate blacks because they feel like, you know, they whine and complain and they're lazy. Those things they say about us. I want people to join in. I want the person that you're sitting there and you think that there's really not an issue of race, at least in your neighborhood, and everybody gets along. At our church we all hang out each other. I can't imagine anybody having problems. I want you to join too. I want the people to join that sit there and say, "I've been working over and over and over, and I've never seen any fruit from my labor when it comes to this topic. It seems like I'm getting nowhere, like I'm in quicksand." I want you to come and be encouraged.

And so it's for everyone. No matter if you're not black, if you're not white. If you're just curious. Whether you're a believer or not -- it's being held in a church. But you know what, we believe that our faith is a huge proponent and the reason why we do what we do. But we also understand that you know -- whether you're a person of faith or not, this topic is important because we all have to deal with it at some point.

GLENN: It is always good to talk to you. And I hope we get a chance to work together on something, Ben. Because I think you're an amazing man. Benjamin Watson.

BENJAMIN: I appreciate you having me.

GLENN: You bet. And go to UnderOurSkinForum.com, if you're anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. It's happening, I guess, not this weekend. It's happening on Thursday.

Tony Dungy is going to be there. Warrick Dunn will be there. Other celebrities. It will be Thursday at the Crossing Church, which is a great, great church in Tampa.

STU: He downplays how brave that is to do. I mean, to take stances that are, you know -- that disagree with kind of the way things go in the media and certainly in athletics. It's not easy to do. He's really strong-willed to do that. And he's an impressive guy.

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

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On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

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Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.