It takes a generous foot to walk a mile in John Henson’s shoes.
You’d have to wear a size 15 and have a record-setting wing span.
You’d have to have been raised right, in a tight-knit family, with two parents who are business executives and a sister who plays college basketball at Duke.
You’d have to have shot 90.9% from the floor in a game your rookie season with the Bucks, and double double in which you scored 17 points, pulled down 25 rebounds and blocked seven shots.
And, in a perfect storm of circumstances and honest mistakes, at 24-years old, you’d have to have experienced the first crushing blow of racism you’ve ever known.
Though he has since taken down his Instagram post, you can read about the incident in this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article, or by looking through the extensive police report.
Mr. Henson tried to celebrate a four-year, $45 million contract extension he signed with the Bucks by buying himself a Rolex watch. Through a series of unfortunate incidents, he was denied entry to the jewelry store twice. During the second instance, he had come directly from practice, which means the store employees looked at a 6-11 man, wearing his Bucks practice uniform, and refused him service. Even after a police officer identified him as Milwaukee forward John Henson, the store employer asked for police to stay and observe the transaction, an insulting request on many levels.
Mr. Henson did not buy the watch, but he did offer a lesson in empathy and grace. His Instagram post went viral based on its honest though impressively tempered outrage. The next day, he accepted jewelry store owner Tim Dixon’s apology which, to his credit, Mr. Dixon made promptly and in person.
“I appreciated the opportunity to personally meet with John Henson this morning to look him in the eye, shake hands, and apologize,” Dixon said. “No one should ever have to experience what he experienced.”
If you walked a mile in John Henson’s shoes, you’d have to lace them up extra tight and you’d still probably trip. But you’d learn a lesson or two about the reality of racial profiling, and the giant steps forward a community can take if members acknowledge its existence and pledge to make it right.