BEAUFORT — There are 53 high school varsity head coaching positions in the county.
One black man holds two of them.
B.J. Frazier is the East Carteret football and track and field coach.
His distinctive position as the county’s lone black varsity head coach gives him a unique perspective when it comes to racial justice events of recent weeks.
On May 25, Minneapolis, Minn. police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 and told the police that Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill.
Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until Floyd was unconscious and showed no signs of life. The act that led to Floyd’s death was caught on video and shook the nation.
“I had some anger when he was killed,” Frazier said. “It’s been mindboggling. It’s taken a lot out of me. This seems to be repetitive, and often nobody gets charged or convicted for these killings.”
On May 29, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
On June 3, prosecutors added a more serious second-degree murder charge against Chauvin and also charged each of the three other former officers who were involved in the arrest — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
In the last few years there have been several nationally publicized incidents of fatal force by law enforcement involving white officers and black victims, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement.
Those include the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and the death of Eric Garner in New York City, N.Y. in 2014, the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Md. in 2015, the 2016 shooting of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn., the March shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. and the shooting this month of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Ga.
“I think this is different because the video puts a lot of perspective on it,” Frazier said. “It was traumatic to watch. I had to manage my emotions. Mentally, it’s exhausting.”
Frazier, 31, said he’s internalized the calls for justice because he’s been a victim of racism at the hands of law enforcement.
“It hurts,” he said. “I’ve been pulled out of my car on several occasions and searched for no reason, in my opinion, except for being black.”
He gave three such examples.
In high school, wearing baggy clothes and driving a car with subwoofers, he was pulled over and searched. The day he graduated from Appalachian State University, he was driving a new car purchased for him as a present from his parents. He had shoeboxes in his car and was pulled over and searched. After buying a new car when he was the general manager of a gym, he was pulled over and searched.
“And all these happened at home, in our county,” he said. “It’s because I was black. It’s something that some people don’t know that black people go through.”
Frazier is also in a unique position as the father of two black children. He has two sons, Arian, 6, and Ky, 8. He’s had challenging discussions with both of them over the past month.
“They know something is going on,” he said. “I don’t go into depth with them. They just know something is going on. For the youth today, they don’t have a choice but to know what is going on.”
Driving through a Black Lives Matter protest one day in Morehead City generated questions and a talk with his kids.
“My youngest said, ‘You always have to treat others the way you want to be treated,’” Frazier said. “It’s crazy that a 6-year-old can say that. He said, ‘Ms. Kimberly (Wade) tells me that all the time.’ That’s his teacher at Tiller School. They know something is wrong, that people have been mean.”
Protests like those in Morehead City and Beaufort have carried on throughout the country and the world everyday for nearly a month. Like many watching from afar, the fourth-year East coach has marveled at the turnouts of those demonstrations.
“It’s really taken off,” he said. “We needed something like this to bring us together. We’re the strongest country in the world – the only thing that can break us is us. We can only break from within. If we’re not united, then it’s going to fall apart. We have to unify.”
In addition to conversations with his children, talking to young people also comes with Frazier’s day job at his alma mater. He reported it’s been important for black student-athletes at East to see someone in a leadership position who looks like them, who shares their experiences.
“There have been some tough conversations,” he said. “Some have been in similar situations that I’ve been in. I’ve talked to some, telling them to stay levelheaded. Even if they’ve been wronged, at the end of the day, right is right and wrong is wrong. We have to operate on the right side of things.”
While striking, his distinctive position as the lone black varsity coach in the county isn’t radically different than the diversity teacher gap throughout the state.
A WRAL News investigative piece analyzing data showing the race and gender of nearly 100,000 teachers and 1.4 million students in North Carolina's 115 public school systems showed that 80 percent of teachers during the 2017-2018 school year were white, equaling the percentage nationwide.
In North Carolina, minority students made up 52 percent of the traditional public school body.
In Carteret County, there were 31 black students for every black teacher. Statewide, there were 25 black students for every black teacher.
In Carteret County, there were 11 white students for every white teacher. Statewide, there were nine white students for every white teacher.
Frazier said he doesn’t think too much about his standing as the only black varsity head coach in the county.
“I just focus on my job. I try not to harp on it,” he said. “We have a great school system. There are probably not a lot of black people applying. But I know for our black kids, it’s important for them to see someone they can talk to about everyday life.”
In-depth discussions with white friends have also been more common after Floyd’s death and subsequent reaction. Frazier said being involved in those talks are necessary to take steps forward.
“A lot of friends have called me, talked to me,” he said. “They maybe understood, but they understand it better now. People don’t know what they don’t know. As a black man, they don’t know what I go through.”
Frazier believes education and awareness will need to be included in the important weeks and months ahead to ensure real change.
“It took a long time to get here, so we can’t expect it to change overnight,” he said. “It’s going to take a while. There is going to be a lot of work involved. I think we can do it, but it’s going to take some hard conversations. Some are going to need to be humble, put pride to the side. We have to make sure we can bring everyone to the table.”