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Matthew McConaughey joins ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’ show, talks unrecognized bias 

Matthew McConaughey joins ‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’ show, talks unrecognized bias 

Matthew McConaughey sits down with Emmanuel Acho to have an uncomfortable conversation with a black man, June 10, 2020 | Screenshot: YoutTube/ Emmanuel Acho

Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey joined former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who's now an ESPN analyst, for episode two of his “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”

Acho started the online show, which went viral after episode one, in response to the many questions he was receiving from his white friends following the national protests against systemic racism.  

In the latest episode, McConaughey and Acho discuss how white people can educate themselves further by learning some of their unrecognized prejudices. 

“I’m here to learn, share, listen, understand. I’m here to discuss some common grounds between us but also expose some differences between us,” the actor told Acho, who asked why he wanted to be part of the show. “I’m here to have a conversation and hopefully promote more conversations with the end goal being that we take the time we’re in now and constructively turn a page in history through some righteous and justifiable change.”

McConaughey asked what he as a white man can "do better."

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“You have to acknowledge that there is a problem so that you can take more ownership for the problem,” Acho responded.

“Individually, you have to acknowledge implicit bias. You have to acknowledge that you’ll see a black man and, for whatever reason, you will view them more of a threat than you will a white man. Probably because society told you to.”

He also offered the example of employment opportunities, noting that studies show that the person with the "white sounding name" is twice as likely to get a call back than the person with the "black sounding name" despite having equal resumes.

Noting that McConaughey is a very successful man, Acho posed, "Are you a part of that statistical problem? Are you looking at a resume saying, 'Ah man, nah, they sound a little too hood for me.'"

McConaughey brought up a term he heard called “white allergies,” which he described as something white people may have and not realize when it comes to prejudices against black people. 

The “Dallas Buyers Club” star admitted that despite having "non-white” friends and an “immigrant" wife, he too may be guilty of having "white allergies."

“I’m diving deeper into how I’m looking at things and how I'm looking at myself,” he explained. “How I can learn more, see things from your side more, see things from the black side more so I can get a four-dimensional view here because, inherently, maybe I had, to some extent … I‘ve been living in a way where I didn’t see all sides as clear as I could have,” the Texas native said. 

"What prejudices may I have that I may not even be aware of?"

Acho responded, "The greatest white allergy that we see played out as black people, practically, [is] backhanded compliments.”  

He said comments such as, “You don't even talk like you're black” or “dress like you're black” are “offensive.” 

"It wasn't until I realized, ‘Wait a second, you're assuming that black people don't sound educated. You were assuming that to be black, I have to wear a do-rag or a wave cap and be sagging my pants, you were assuming something about black people and I contradict that assumption. And as a result, I am not black,” he said about what white people used to tell him in high school.

The actor also asked about the "black lives matter" movement: "Is it a banner that is a bridge … to take us to … when we see 'black lives matter' and we understand that and it’s all agreed on, then we can wave the flag of 'all lives matter' but not until?"

Acho answered, "I think it’s not until."

He offered the example of COVID-19. Currently, the world is facing the greatest pandemic since 1918 and thus the world is currently "focused on finding the right remedy for that." 

"That’s not to say that cancer doesn’t matter, it's not to say that HIV doesn't matter, it's not to say that ALS doesn't matter. All those things still matter but right now the coronavirus is killing people," Acho said.

"So on the same token, that’s what I propose is that once we get these black lives that are being ended unjustly, handled by the grace of God, if we can get those handled through conversations like these … then we can be at a point to focus on everything else."

The new show has garnered millions of views on social media. Many of Acho’s ESPN colleagues, such as Jim Mora Jr. and Dan Orlovsky, along with Indy Car driver Pippa Mann and Kansas City Chiefs Defensive End Alex Okafor, retweeted his first episode.

In the first episode, he addresses such commonly asked questions as why people are rioting, why blacks believe white privilege exists, and why black people care more about white on black crime than black on black crime.

The outspoken Christian athlete said he hopes the show is the first of many other “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.” 

“The only way we can solve this issue,” Acho maintained, “is by exposure, education, compassion and empathy.” 

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