I’m writing this on the eve of Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
The game has been going on for about 2 hours.
I am not watching – I have no TV – but I can hear the energy spilling out from neighbouring windows. My 7-year-old daughter has taken to basketball in the last few weeks, and I’m sure she will be talking about the tooth on the court in Game 4 for a few more weeks to come. It’s an exciting time in basketball in Toronto. And I wonder what the result will be for our Black boys…
Here’s what I mean:
We live in a world where Black boys (and Black men) are still seen through a narrow lens. Systemic racism has helped to shape that lens over time, and keeps it focused. The results for boys include low graduation rates and high drop-out rates – that some school boards are now finally using words like anti-Black racism to explain.
I see this manifesting early in my daughter’s school where the “behavioural” class consists of most of the Black boys in the school past Grade 3.
Basketball and Music…
And in that mix, still, in 2019, sports and music are often the tickets that Black boys think will get them a better life.
Think about this for a moment. With the variety of potential careers, why are Black boys still stuck on basketball and music?
Maybe because these are the role models that are paraded in front of us.
Maybe as a result it’s what they are asked about when folks ask them about their dreams.
Maybe it’s due to the lack of Black representation in positions of leadership in schools, post-secondary, businesses, other professions. These factors don’t make it easy to have a wide variety of dreams.
And those dreams can include basketball, of course. But given the odds, it can’t be the dream. Or else we are setting these kids up for more failure. What happens when the hoop dream doesn’t happen?
The Back-up Plan
Two of my friends and colleagues spoke to the same school group of Black boys in Grade 5 in the last few months, and both of them had similar messages: enjoy basketball, but have a back-up plan.
Those messages landed for at least some of the boys. And in order for that back up plan to stick, you need role models and mentors to show you that you can do it, and help you navigate your way through. More than basketball stars: People in real time who can support you either through inspiration or perspiration.
It doesn’t mean you leave your NBA dreams behind.
What it means is that you are not left behind if that dream doesn’t carry you.
I’m thrilled the Raptors are in the finals.
I hope they win.
And I hope that if they do, the back-up plan isn’t thrown out the window because the NBA dream just got a little closer.