Jacob Blake was almost murdered by the police. And that same week, the Milwaukee Bucks decided they were not going to play their scheduled playoff game. And the team they were going to play against–the Orlando Magic–they decided not to play. The WNBA has held protests against police brutality and for other social justice measures. LeBron James is one of the most vocal professional athlete of a generation.
Think about that.
I am old enough to remember the original Dream Team, and how everyone wanted to be ‘Like Mike.’ I remember how expensive them damn shoes were! But the thing that is in stark contrast is how Michael Jordan and LeBron James are so different in the matter of social justice! Michael Jordan reigned in Chicago with the Bulls–but the kind of investment that Chicago needed? The kind of investment that LeBron is doing, was doing in Ohio? Nall. No. Nunca.
However, what I am seeing in this group of professional athletes? It is the realization of this dual consciousness that WEB DuBois talked about! With the tool and reach of social media, there is a responsibility to those in power, influence to be aware of the reach that power and influence brings! I know that Charles Barkley famously said “I am not a role model”. Oh, we are aware! There is a veneer between the generation of athletes Jordan played with and the generation that has come to the forefront now!
The issues we are fighting now as a community, were there when Jordan was playing. But that fire we see now? That drive for change? That fire that could have only be had with the tools available now? I can only imagine what would have happened if the generation before would have tapped in to that need to change the world African-American athletes in the 1960’s did! What is being seen in the realm of professional sports is this return of plantation politics: athletes are commodities to be used at the discretion and desire of owners.
Are athletes not people? Is it really what the consuming public wants them to do–perform? Yet, when they refuse to perform, now its a problem? It is a problem (STILL!) for Black people to being their experience of being Black in spaces controlled by non-Black people! It is Shakespearean really, something out of Hamlet.
There is a part in the play where Hamlet is being ousted from his position as rightful heir and King–and the King (whom killed his father) wanted Hamlet to accept his position as and heir and son. Yet, Hamlet will not and does not. After seeing the ghost of his father, he gets a plan for revenge–‘the play’s the thing…’
The same thing is present here! We protest in the street. We make murals. We ask for body cameras. We ask for voting reforms, clean water, health care and are ignored. Yet, the way to bring this nation to its knees…is to stop entertaining it. We–the activists from all spheres–stop entertaining the nation.
We stop hiding the fear, we stop hiding the distrust, stop pretending being Black with any prepositional phrase or attachment doesn’t erase any Blackness we have. We bring Black with us. It stays with us. It is us! Whether we are cleaning streets, nursing patients, getting degrees, or making touchdowns or threes–we take Black with us.
We are Black. We stay Black. We will not be erased, bulled or silenced. We still can’t breathe. So since, we can’t breathe? We will make no excuse or apology why or how we need to catch our breath.