The System Is Broken Re-post (Day 3)
Welcome to Day 3 of The Anion Sports 25 Days of Christmas Sports blog. Today, I have decided to share one of the more powerful posts I wrote for my Sport and Gender class. This class was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my educational career. This particular post was in response to one of the articles my professor gave us. I thought it was worth sharing again. I hope you all enjoy it and remember to spread love, laughter, kindness and joy every day despite the injustice that occurs.
The system is broken. Well that would imply that it was ever whole enough to be shattered into pieces. After reading Cool Pose, an interesting thought came into my head. As a black male, how do we be great? The phrase be great has taken on a larger meaning in my life recently, but I’m being serious, how do black males be great? The article touches on the problems facing African American men in America. The “institutional decimation of black males” is how they described it. The way it was worded, stating that these are the problems facing us today makes it seem like something has changed. Granted, a lot of progress has been made in how minorities are treated, but that can be so misleading. Thanks America, it’s no longer socially acceptable to call me N***** to my face or lynch me in the front yard. But if we’re being serious, what has really changed? The article states, “Many black males have accepted the definitions, standards, and norms of dominant social definitions of masculinity. However, American society has prevented black males from achieving many aspects of this masculinity by restricting their access to education, jobs, and institutional power.” (Majors, 1990) How do you live like this? Life as an African American male is a wonderful paradox. Without equal access to education, the cycle starts early. Education leads to greater opportunity to employment. Better job opportunities creates more financial security which can be passed down to offspring to help them have better access to education, jobs, money.
One of the avenues that has presented itself is sport. But is this a victory or controlled suppression of a group? The article says that sport is not some fantasy land where everything that is wrong in society is somehow fixed once you step onto that court. No sport is a microcosm of our very real lives. Yes, we have made progress as a society, but the problems still persist. African American people are seen as less than adequate to their Caucasian counterparts. And does sport perpetuate any different thinking? Surprisingly, sport might be closer to that fantasy land than I first thought. More and more, black athletes are being put into “thinking” positions in football (QB, MLB, Center). But “A mere five CEOs are black at the nation's 500 largest companies,” according to an article by Gregory Wallace (para. 2, 2015). Surely the NBA, where 75% of the players are African American, would display more leadership roles. Nope. According to an article by Marc Spears, “The NBA has one African-American president in Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers, two African-American GMs in the New Orleans Pelicans’ Dell Demps and the New York Knicks’ Steve Mills, and one native African GM in the Toronto Raptors’ Masai Ujiri. Since 2010, 30 NBA positions for president of basketball operations or general manager have been filled with six African-Americans hired.”(para. 5, 2016) Not owners, mind you, general managers. And if you think leadership positions don’t matter, go read up on how LeBron James still feels about Dan Gilbert’s 2010 letter that made it seem like he actually had some control over James. (Feldman, 2017)
This article stirred up very strong emotions in me for a multitude of reasons. One of them is stereotyping. One of the most successful athletes of all time is Michael Jordan. The other article we were assigned to read detailed how much money he actually is/was worth to the NBA and Nike. Think about this for a second. This man became the face of the NBA at a pretty opportune time, but also now has a giant division of the biggest shoe company on the planet. Does he get there without playing basketball? Does he ever receive the opportunity to showcase his business acumen and intelligence without basketball? Sport has provided false hope to millions of minorities. Dreams of becoming the next Jordan or LeBron or Kobe are plentiful but none are promised. Every season, football and basketball players decide to leave the NCAA system that has kept their earnings away from them in order to go pro. And what happens if they fail to become the best player ever? What education do they fall back on? What skills have they developed? If I remember correctly, Andrew Luck graduated from Stanford with a degree in Architectural design. It’s safe to say he would have a solid career if football didn’t exist. Could LeBron have become a doctor if he didn’t play basketball? It’s about the opportunity though. The systemic expectations are just so much lower for people of color when we are smart, creative, and strive to be excellent too. When you see a tall, Black male, how many think he could be a doctor or a lawyer? Rapper J. Cole illustrates this in his song, “Chris Tucker”. He raps, “Only n**** up in first class, old lady tryna be friendly, ayy, She think I'm in the NBA, why a n**** can't have his MBA? Next time I'ma flip the script, you know, kick some sh*t that's gon' shock her. "You're so tall, what team do you play for?" No b****, I'm a doctor.” (Chainz & Cole, 2013) The irony in this is that the rapper is just that. A rapper. The lady assumed he was a basketball player, but what would her second choice likely have been? Probably not a doctor. But Cole is a part of an industry that progresses the idea that blacks can only do so much from an intellectual standpoint, but also what choice do they have? They have to put food in their families’ mouths just like everyone else and this is one way they can.
Back to the question I proposed in the first paragraph. As a young African American male, how do I truly be great? The Cool Pose is a great example of athletes expressing themselves and coping with the stresses that come from a system never intended to benefit them. But what about the people like me? What’s my cool pose? I don’t play sports I only talk about them. Here’s an even more interesting thought, what about the people who are even less fortunate than myself? To the kids from poor economic backgrounds who everyday turn to the streets, music or sport when they have the capacity to be so much more. To be so much greater, but they lack the opportunity, the support in place to nurture their ability. Not everyone is Dr. Dre or LeBron. Can society stop treating African Americans as if they are only good at being athletes or musicians. What if a child wants to be something else? How can we help our children be great?
Chainz, 2., & Cole, J. (2017, Apr. 30). Chris Tucker. Rap Genius.
Retrieved from https://genius.com/J-cole-chris-tucker-lyrics
Feldman, D. (2017, Oct. 17). LeBron James: I think Dan Gilbert’s letter was racial.
ProBasketballTalk. Retrieved from http://nba.nbcsports.com/2017/10/17/lebron-james-i-think-dan-gilberts-letter-was-racial/
Spears, M.J. (2016, June 16). The distressing lack of Black leadership in the NBA.
The Undefeated. Retrieved from http://theundefeated.com/features/the-distressing-lack-of-black-leadership-in-the-nba/
Majors, R. (1990). Cool pose: Black masculinity and sports.
In M.A. Messner, & D.F. Sabo (Eds.), Sport, men, and the gender order: Critical feminist perspectives (pp. 109-114). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Wallace, G. (2015, Jan. 29). Only 5 Black CEOs at 500 biggest companies.
CNNMoney. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2015/01/29/news/economy/mcdonalds-ceo-diversity/index.html