WALPOLE — In Duron Harmon’s utopia, these talks would never need to happen.
He wouldn’t have to sit down his 6-year-old son, Christopher, and tell him about injustice in the world. Christopher wouldn’t have to grasp that he’ll be treated differently simply because of the color of his skin.
“The more we educate our children, the better,” the Patriots safety said. “You would think he was too young, but when we have laws that could charge a 7-year-old, he’s about to be [that age]. I just want to let him know that whether you’re in school or out, you have to act a certain way. The way this world is, you won’t be treated like a white male. I just try to teach it to him in a watered-down way.”
Sometimes Christopher acts out, as children do, and Harmon lives in fear that his son will be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Harmon’s mother was a special education teacher, and she taught him about compassion and appropriate fear. Even with the life he’s worked to provide his son with, Harmon has learned to prepare for the worst.
Harmon and teammate Devin McCourty spoke as members of the Players Coalition on a panel in front of dozens of young journalists Wednesday night at Walpole High School. Patriots owner Robert Kraft and team president Jonathan Kraft joined them.
“There are still things to fix,” McCourty said.
The panel addressed the importance and urgency of prioritizing proper training and the screening of teachers to alleviate some of the racial tension in classrooms across the nation.
“As people, if we get more comfortable in that uncomfortable state, we have a chance to do that.”
Moderator Daniel Medwed said African-American students are four times more likely than white students to be suspended from school — a statistic that struck, but didn’t surprise, the players.
As African-American professional athletes, McCourty and Harmon believe it’s their duty to speak out on such issues and they appreciate that the Krafts encourage them to voice their opinions.
“This is something I have to be passionate about,” Harmon told the audience. “Not everybody has the platform I have.”
McCourty remembers getting questioned by a police officer at age 10, even though he and his friends hadn’t done anything wrong. To this day, he said he’s still scrutinized by officers when he walks into a store in a place he’s not well-known.
If he’s wearing sweats and a hoodie, the glares become uncomfortable. The unsettling reality, in his eyes, is that he’s used to it at this point.
“Sometimes there’s going to be a bad officer, but to me, when you look at the bigger picture, it’s just the relationships,” McCourty said. “If we can help build that relationship where there’s not fear from both sides, now we can work toward something.”
The Krafts pointed out that Massachusetts has an alarming number of people of color in prison.
And Robert Kraft detailed his encounter with rapper Meek Mill this month, noting he visited him in jail and came away frustrated. He said it’s unfair that someone such as Meek Mill was locked behind bars.
The Krafts published an opinion editorial in The Globe Feb. 4, the day of Super Bowl LII, addressing the importance of raising the legal age to invoke criminal sanctions in Massachusetts’ juvenile justice system from 7 to 12.
“It comes back to racial disparity and injustice,” he said.
Jonathan Kraft noted he wouldn’t be where he is had he grown up in a different situation, adding that the Patriots would never inhibit social activism.
“That would never be something that we would say is a bad thing,” Jonathan said. “We don’t feel that way at all. I think people that do are close-minded.”