Diversity is inevitable and good. Prejudice because of that diversity is a negative reality that has entangled itself through society. Instead of allowing such prejudice to affect her actions or reactions, Erika Bean, guard for the University of Utah women’s basketball team who is black, takes a different approach. She holds a particular set of values that gives her strength and humility when confronted with such challenges concerning the color of her skin.
“I’m aware of [racism], but I don’t let it hinder me or upset me,” Bean said.
Moving to Salt Lake City, a state low in racial and religious diversity, was a big change from Sacramento, California, something her parents contemplated before sending their daughter to college. As much as Bean’s father, Daniel Bean, hated to see her leave, he knew the change would help her grow as a person. Daniel said choosing the University of Utah was ultimately Bean’s decision, and as long as she stayed true to herself and remembered her faith, she would be ready to take on the world. He taught Bean that tough times are bound to happen, others should not dictate who she is based on how she dresses or where she is from.
“Always carry yourself with the highest level of respect,” Daniel said. “There are a lot of un-informed people in this world, but don’t allow them to garner a [negative] view of you.”
Daniel is originally from Detroit, Michigan, a predominately black city in Michigan, and he grew up during the civil rights era. He also served in the military. His background gives him an important perspective on what it means to know his and others’ worth. Perseverance and trusting in God are values he has learned that he hopes to pass on to all his children.
Erika has always been connected to the Christian church; it is a major aspect of her life. The fact many of her immediate and extended family members share the same faith makes it more special. Erika’s grandfather is the head pastor of her church, her brother plays a significant part in its music industry and her father was recently promoted to assistant pastor earlier this year. Religion has always been at the family’s core, which is one of the reasons why Erika loves it.
“It’s just a good community-base,” Erika said. “They support me in everything that I do. It’s just a great thing to fall back on.”
Now that Erika is off on her own in college, she has had to find her footing elsewhere. However, Daniel knows being around genuine friends, teammates and her coaching staff has allowed his daughter to continue with her faith, education and athletics to the best of her abilities.
The family-oriented support system at Utah has helped her gain confidence. Although Erika misses her home church now that she is living in Utah, she continues to let it guide her to be successful as a student-athlete.
Drawing from the morals passed down by her family and her faith, Erika understands things like diversity are “bigger than surface level,” and that differences can be strengths, rather than weaknesses. This is also the advice she would give to others who may be confronted with adversity.
“When we think of people who have gone before us, especially in sports, just to know that they were able to overcome such situations empowers us and inspires us to move forward despite adversity,” Erika said.