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To Williams, education is paramount in equality

White Sox VP focuses on social, economic challenges faced by many in nation

CHICAGO -- White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams, one of the highest ranking African-Americans in executives in Baseball, will participate in the Baseball & Civil Rights Movement Roundtable Discussion on Friday at the Chicago Cultural Center. Williams, who believes sports and education go hand-in-hand, also participated in the Roundtable discussion in 2008 when the event was held in Memphis.

"I don't understand why we still have these prejudices that are, I guess, part of our humanity, or lack thereof," Williams said. "There are prejudices against people who are too thin or too heavy, who are too short or too tall ... prejudices against this culture or that.

"We just all need to get a grip. We all have differences. We all come from different places and different regions of the world. It saddens me when I think about it, and I don't know when it'll change. It's got to start changing at a more accelerated rate.

"If you look at history's timeline, you could argue the last 50-60 years there have been significant gains in this area, but you could also argue they were significant enough that we shouldn't be fighting some of the same battles, that we should be beyond certain things because of our awareness and our being educated on a worldwide basis. But it seems sometimes things are regressing."

Williams will be able to share his insights at Friday's roundtable discussion. He was on a similar panel held at Memphis' Civil Rights Museum during the White Sox first Civil Rights Game participation in 2008 and was asked at that time to discuss the decline in the number of African-Americans playing baseball.

Instead of following the topic he knew was on the table, Williams spoke of greater personal concern about the incarceration rate among African-Americans, the dropout rate in the city, the people losing their homes, fathers and mothers losing their jobs and struggling to provide for their families. He was focused upon numerous things deemed more paramount to youngsters than playing baseball.

And he still is.

"All the things that are talked about at the Civil Rights Games these days, they have to do with honoring the past, recognizing some of the contributions from people that have allowed us to be in the position we are today," Williams said. "At the same time, we are bringing light to some of the things, some of the roads that still need to be traveled.

"Of course my theme is always going to be the same. I'm in favor of kids going out and playing any sports because I think sports teaches you, No. 1, to show up for something on time. Then the responsibilities that follow, the disciplines that follow. So, I'm in favor of that as long as it comes with an educational component. Sports and education go hand-in-hand for me."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin.

Chicago White Sox