I’ve had my fair of challenges in life. But I’ve never experienced racism or hatred because of my skin color. To better understand the long-standing racial divide in our country I reached out to Jack Brewer, a man who is known for his candor and convictions.
This story appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
From resisting bigotry in Grapevine, Texas, to earning recognition in the NFL and accolades from the United Nations, wherever he is, whatever he has his hand in, Jack Brewer is driven to make his mark.
Brewer was born in 1979 and raised in Grapevine. Slavery, sharecropping, and segregated schools mark his ancestry. Only his mother graduated from high school. He has relatives who cannot read or write.
He was raised in a blue-collar family with two working parents whose work ethic set an example he embraced.
His parents reminded him daily he could be the best by outworking everyone else. They ensured he had everything he needed to be successful. With his mother initiating education at a very young age and his father introducing him to and coaching him in sports, he excelled academically and athletically.
But it wasn’t all rosy. He learned about hate and bigotry from older teenagers with shaved heads who wore white shoelaces and drew swastikas in the overwhelmingly white community. As a teenager he offered character testimony at the trial of a friend charged with attempted murder for shooting a “skinhead” who broke into his home. “Phillip” was acquitted but moved out of town.
He learned about defending himself and courage from his father, who attended a Ku Klux Klan rally to take photos and collect literature.
Football and track offered an exit from the town in which his parents still reside. In 1998, Brewer arrived in Minnesota to make his mark as a Golden Gopher.
It was a culture shock. He discovered people with different skin colors dated and married. He embraced the practice but never forgot about the fathers in Grapevine who wielded weapons against him when he dated their white daughters.
When he graduated from the University of Minnesota at age 22 he’d earned an undergraduate degree and a masters degree and started a business.
He played five seasons in the NFL, two with the Minnesota Vikings, where he assumed leadership roles and took advantage of NFL financial incentives to earn master’s degrees from Wharton and Harvard.
New York City beckoned. There he found others who “love the grind” as much as he does, people who also survive on four to five hours sleep, earn big money, and make a name for themselves. He honed his skills in the investment arena with top firms before starting The Brewer Group in 2011.
Just 38 now, he’s both an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. Using volunteers, athletes, and employees from his business, The Jack Brewer Foundation (JBF Worldwide) forms partnerships and leverages relationships to bring aid to countries like Haiti and Malawi.
Domestically, he mentors youth and provides aid where he feels he can make an impact. In July he was appointed the national spokesperson for National PALS (Police Athletics League).
Whether he is speaking to youth groups or offering commentary on national TV shows, Brewer does not mince words.
“Our people, our neighborhoods, are sick. We kill each other a lot more than other people kill us. We have fatherless children; we have mothers who aren’t doing the right things. We have kids who can’t read and write. We have high unemployment rates, we have low literacy rates.”
“We’re living in a place where if you are an African American male and you apply yourself, if you have the ability to apply yourself, you literally can go to college for free. You can get your masters degree for free.”
“The problem is we have so many people who don’t ever get there because they weren’t raised properly or have other issues or they have things that deflected them away from that. We make too many excuses. We’ve lost our bite in the way that people don’t attack things. …”
“I’m more worried about that than I am about a police officer shooting us. Until we have that mentality as a people there’s no hope. It’s going to continue to be bad. That’s the unfortunate reality.”
These problems don’t come from nowhere. “When you’ve got a population of people you enslaved for 450 years,” he says, “and all of a sudden you decide you’re going to let them go to school with everybody else but their parents are still uneducated and that same population of people are still poor and you put welfare systems on them that don’t incentivize them to work, just incentivize them to take from the government, so they’re really not empowering themselves as a group, there’s a reason why unemployment rates for African American people are twice as high as everyone else. It all stems from that. It’s not because people are not competent.”
He’s a charter-school supporter who blames the public school system for failing to hold people accountable, for usurping the family’s role in teaching about social issues, and for neglecting core skills.
He wants to restore prayer to schools and to teach the kids how to read and write and give them the tools they need to be successful.
“Some people live with a crutch and they are OK with that, “ he says. “I don’t want you to give me a crutch. I don’t need one. If I needed a crutch I would ask for one.”