In honor of Martin Luther King on his birthday, I thought I’d share this little anecdote that led me to ask the above question. Read it, and then you can decide for yourself.
My son has played basketball for the city junior league for several years. Before the season begins, each kid tries out so that the coaches can score them and create balanced teams.
At least that’s the pretense. The reality is that most coaches already know the kids and the parents and create the strongest teams they can. If you are not part of this clique, your kid ends up on the shitty team. Guess who’s not part of this clique?
So, we begin each season on a positive note, hoping that our team will win at least a couple of games. About half way through the season, however, I end up driving a dejected kid to the game while he sighs, “We’re just gonna lose anyway.”
At the first practice session, we get to size up each team member, and hope springs eternal that there will be at least a couple of standout players.
Last year, for the first time, there was an African-American kid on my son’s team. My immediate thought was, “All right! Maybe we’ll have a chance now!”
Well, it turned out that this kid was by far the worst player on the team. How bad was he? I barely know anything about basketball, and it was even obvious to me that this kid was terrible.
I was confused. Just because this kid was black, I expected him to be a great basketball player, and then when it turned out he wasn’t, I just couldn’t comprehend it. What a rip-off!
On top of that, the best player on the team was actually a skinny, short Asian kid. I was dumbfounded. “Wait a minute—The black kid is the worst player and the little Asian kid is the best player? What the hell is going on here?”
Then I began asking myself, why would I automatically assume that a black kid would be good at basketball?
What if I was black and had no interest in basketball? Would people always want to talk basketball with me, and then be disappointed when they found out I had no interest in the game at all?
Or what if I was an Asian kid and really loved basketball? Would everyone just ridicule me because there aren’t many Asian basketball players and I should really be focusing on math?
Or what if I was Jewish? Would gentiles always ask me about Mideast politics, or the meaning of certain Jewish holidays, figuring that I’m expected to know everything about them just because they’re Jewish topics?
Wait a minute…I am Jewish and gentiles do ask me that stuff!
Do their questions make them racist? Do my assumptions about the basketball players make me a racist? You be the judge.
Sayonara and Shalom.