A Tale of Twisted Racism
24th March 2014
life, memories, rant, thoughts | 3 comments

First of all, I don’t know why I’m deciding to bring this memory up.   I guess after my last post, 10 Significant Events of my life, this was one memory that came to mind that I had suppressed for a long time. It was a hurtful memory but I think this story needs to be heard because I’m sure at some point in everyone’s lives, they have come across the pressures and hurt of racism and prejudice. This is a bit of a twist though because I was on the other side of the fence. The fingers were pointed at me and at the age of 11, it was something that opened up to me and hit me in the face. My emotions surely bled confusingly at this age.

Like I said, I was 11 years old. I moved to this city a year before and was finally coming on my own socially by making some friends in the 6th grade, getting used to the North American life and I was pretty happy. I’ve always wanted to be in sports and was happy to make the girls basketball team in my elementary school. It was a shared grade basketball team, combining 6th graders and 7th graders. Everyone seemed really nice and I thought I got along with everyone pretty well. I had good support from my best friend at the time because she was the shining star of the team, a 5 foot 8inch beautiful girl with a golden heart. She was always one of the sweetest girls I will ever know. She convinced me to join the basketball team regardless of the fact that I am very short because she wanted another familiar face on the team and she knew I got some drive in me when it came to sports. That comforted me.

I went to every practice, got comfortable with most of the team members and I never felt judged for my height and for my age. I always felt a little intimidated by the 7th graders just because they were the “seniors” of the elementary school age but for the most part they were nice. Now, it just so happens there was one girl in 7th grade that I remember very clearly and you will soon know why. I VAGUELY remember her name though, but for the sake of this post, let’s call her Sarah because that’s the closest name I can think of that sounded similiar. She was a pretty Black girl and she seemed shy but nice. I never really got to talk to her much. She mostly stuck with the girls she knew, same with me I guess. I always stuck by my friend when I was feeling a little shy. I never had any ill feelings towards her and I didn’t think she did either. We were just teammates, trying to do our best on the basketball team.

Let me tell you, I’m an aggressive player. I watched the NBA my whole life and my favourite team of all time is the Chicago Bulls. When I first came to Canada, my family’s first home was a small apartment. We barely had any furniture but we had one old tv that lacked in channels (there were only 5). One of the main channels we had (and the only one I really watched) was the WGN, Chicago channel. Because of that channel, I got to watch every single Chicago Bulls game that I can ever remember watching. I looked up to Scottie Pipen, Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson and my goodness did I ever LOVE Michael Jordan. I watched 3 of the most memorable championships of all time that Jordan pushed the team through and that was it … I loved NBA basketball. That is why I FREAKING LOVE BASKETBALL. Watching every basketball game, I watched how some of the players played, their tactics, their drive and their aggressiveness. Turns out, I was that type of player. I was aggressive. I wasn’t afraid to go after the ball and I didn’t mind a lot of contact. I’ve gotten a few elbows to the face and the body in my basketball school career. It can be a contact sport. That is what it is. That is why I was always the lead ball stealer of the team for many years and the top in causing turnovers for the opposing team. When the coach was desperate to get ball back to up the lead, I was called. I was proud of it. It gave me an identity in the world of basketball and it helped me in my identity as a basketball player.

That being said, I was like that all the time whether it be in a game or in practice. Everyone knew I was that kind of player. They appreciated it. It turned out Sarah didn’t. One day, the whole team was called in for a meeting during recess by the coach. My friend and I were one of the last ones to get there and as soon I stepped into that library, I had a bad feeling in my gut. I felt the tension and I didn’t like it. As we all got settled into our seats, the coach looked very grim and was slow to speak.

“Sorry to cut into your recess time but I brought you all here for a serious matter. Sarah has decided to quit the basketball team,” she said and everyone was quiet. I think I was the only one that gasped. I was surprised. She was a good player. She was fast, she handled the ball very well and to quit the team was such a shame. She would have been an amazing part of the team.

“She could not be here because she felt very uncomfortable. Actually, she was very uncomfortable for a while now. She quit because she said that someone on this team was racist towards her and she no longer wanted to be a part of a team where someone would be mean to her,” she said with a sigh looking into the ceiling. As soon as she finished, I automatically felt eyes on me. The 7th grade girls turned their head so fast at me and gave me the death stare. I was so confused at the time, I really didn’t know if they were really thinking that it was because of me Sarah left. If it was … I found it ironic that I am wearing a Michael Jordan sweatband on my wrist right at that moment.

“I am not accusing anyone of being racist on this team because I can’t. Sarah would not tell me who it is that she is uncomfortable with and I am not going to pressure her if it makes her even more uncomfortable. Just remember, we are all here for one thing, basketball. We are not here to judge other people, be prejudice and make anyone uncomfortable or angry in any way. If you are going to be this kind of person, then I will not tolerate it and you can leave the team. That is all I have to say,” the coach walked away, clearly upset.

The 7th graders left and stared at me up and down as walked away from me. I wanted to cry because I was so confused. How could they think that it was me who was racist? My friend stayed with me in the library and she told me that Sarah left because of me because apparently I kept hurting her during practice. She said that I elbowed her in the stomach a few times and she thought that I intentionally did it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She said she tried to defend me with the 7th graders but of course, Sarah was their friend and they were siding with her.

I started crying of course. It was ridiculous. I am not in any way racist. I’m freaking Asian for goodness sake, I am part of the minority enough as it is and I AM RACIST?! I grew up in a country with dark skinned people for my whole life. My very first best friend, whom I called my brother was dark skinned and I loved him so much. At that point though, there was no point in explaining any of that. Nobody would believe me and they would not care. I was so angry but I felt hopeless. As I think about this now, to experience this kind of hate at such a young age is disgusting. To just point fingers at a person without knowing them is uncalled for and unfair.

I still did not quit the team though. I kept playing. I was not going to give up my love of the game because of one person. I was not guilty. I was not a racist, am not a racist and will never be a racist. If Sarah wanted to leave because of one person without even giving a thought of talking to the person, then that’s her decision. She was the coward in my eyes at the age of 11. It still hurts to this day though. I’ve always been the open-minded person regardless of where I am and who I am with. I’ve always been the friendliest, kindest and it was this very memorable moment that guided me throughout the rest of my life so far in being the nicest person I can be because no person should ever have to be accused of such a thing and on the flipside, no one should ever ever have to feel like they are not liked by the color of their skin or ethnicity. I’ve always been surrounded by diversity and that is all I know and I like it that way. My best friends are white, asian, brown, hispanic … and I would die for them.

Let this be a lesson to everyone out there that racism and prejudice is nothing to be proud of. All it does is hurt people on all angles of life. I am an example of that.  I am not anywhere close to these things yet I was a part of it at the age of 11; A little Asian girl who just wanted to make some friends in a new city and play some basketball. If you are racist or prejudice, know that we are all the same. We all bleed the same way, put on clothes everyday to live our lives and go through the same everyday problems. If you are the one pointing the fingers, think hard first about the person you are pointing the fingers at. Are you pointing those fingers because they are genuinely a disgrace to the human race or are you just thinking of the easy way out and just calling someone racist/prejudice because that’s the easiest excuse? There’s a fine line there. Don’t use it as a weapon. Honestly, it can be as bad as a weapon if used the wrong way.  We already live in a world of turmoil and hatred, why bring even more weapons to this world?

3 Responses to “A Tale of Twisted Racism”

  1. Kelly says:

    Wow this is heartbreaking for both sides. I’m not sure why the coach didn’t have the two of you get together to discuss and clarify the problem (I think the coach knew..). Middle school is a rough age as it is, so I know this didn’t help any. You know in your heart that you’re not (nor were) a racist and that’s all that matters. You were playing the game like any die hard basketball player would have. She let this ruin her love of the game, but I’m glad it didn’t ruin yours!

  2. Cat says:

    I was a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls back then too! The good ol’ Jordan days 🙂

    I think that’s terrible that Sarah immediately jumped to racism as an excuse. If she didn’t like you elbowing her, she could have brought that up as an issue and talked it over with you or the coach. You didn’t say anything racist and you weren’t targeting her. It’s ridiculous that she automatically assumed it was because of race.

    You definitely weren’t guilty. I’m glad you didn’t quit the team and kept doing what you loved!

  3. Agent Q says:

    I can go on a rant about race relations here, but I’ll cut it short, but not without siding with you as well as playing the devil’s advocate first.

    Devil’s advocate: she’s black. As you grow up in a society where racism is still rampant, you’re conditioned to detect racism. Some have a more balanced judgement of if something is indeed racially charged. Others, such as Sarah, not so much. You get better at it as you get older. Given that this took place during early teenage years, the overall relationship could get rather…unpredictable. I don’t blame her if suddenly getting elbowed like that may condition her to conclude in such a manner. Rash as it may sound, I can empathize with her position. In fact, her fear of perceived [potential] backlash from you may have deterred her from asking you directly.

    On the other hand, that is not to say that she should not have clarified a few things beforehand. I think you two share athletes’ bonds that [in theory] helps you two clarify a few things or two. Y’all were teammates after all, and solidarity trumps all. Passive aggressive ways of handling misunderstandings aren’t healthy for either party, so she should’ve handled this a bit better [and more privately too].

    It’s okay for you to feel pain. It’s understandable. And the way you had to take those undue stares were cruel on others’ parts. You handled it very well. Stay strong. 🙂

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