“Tell me what democracy looks like,” said a young black man. His words, amplified through a megaphone, carried across the intersection to where we stood. “This is what democracy looks like,” came the response from the crowd that had flooded each of the four corners of our city’s small downtown. We wore masks and stood well back from the crowd because my wife is pregnant and immunocompromised but, goddamn, it felt good to be there, to see the signs held, to hear the car horns honking, to feel the people of my community demanding change.
Let’s say it again: This is what democracy looks like.
Professional athletics and the associated media apparatus are among the few career paths where black Americans are well represented at the highest levels. Of course, that success has rarely come with the same benefits as those afforded to their white colleagues. All too often black athletes are told to “shut up and dribble” when they attempt to use their success and platform to effect social change, if they’re not ostracized outright for their efforts. So today, let’s turn our gaze in that direction and consider a few worthy pieces by black sports writers.
Hockey was the sport of my youth but it is not a community built on inclusion or diversity. Sportsnet’s Donnovan Bennett does an excellent job of breaking down how problematic that culture is and how important it is for white athletes to speak up on behalf of the disenfranchised. It’s a piece made all the more powerful for linking to Akim Aliu’s recent piece on The Player’s Tribune which reports his experiences as a person of color in hockey, a set of experiences that are abjectly horrifying.
The next two articles I’m going to recommend are behind The Athletic‘s paywall but they’re both so excellent that I’m compelled to discuss them. First is Troy Vincent, Sr.’s op-ed about having “the talk” with his children and the justifiable anger that comes with having to have such a talk and having to receive one. As previously discussed, I’m a privileged white guy and the slow-dawning realization that “the talk” for black families isn’t about sex but rather about how to make sure you’re not needlessly murdered by a police officer is appalling to a degree that I struggle to articulate. But Vincent, Sr. is up to the task and you should read his words if you can.
Lastly, Marcus Thompson II expands on that aforementioned rage and how, for black Americans, it is constant and inescapable. Invoking the words of James Baldwin, Thompson explores the need to handle complex issues complexly, to infuse nuance where we want to simplify, to let the world become a part of writing even as the life of black writers often suggests that separating those two things is the easier, more broadly appealing course of action. It is a powerful piece and his rage, palpable and controlled, is deserving of your attention.