As some of you may know, I recently decided to acknowledge the fact I've a body again. This has involved refitting, body work, and some engine rebuilding. Basketball was always going to be a part of that.
It's the only team sport I've ever enjoyed (even though I only started playing because my mother made me)—and the only one I've ever been good at. I also grew up with it. My brother was a serious player, as were my mom's friends in med school—some of them even played college ball. Watching them play, occasionally playing with them, was incredible—a living testimony to what a human body can do. (And very occasionally, exhilarating as hell. Making a shot past a 6'4" guy who played forward for LSU? It's happened only once in my entire life, but I will remember it forever.)
That was the hoop in our driveway, though. We've lived in East Nashville pretty much since I was 13 years old, but my mom lives in the swanky "historic" section now—moved in quite a while ago, thank you, before the yuppies discovered it—and there're no driveways here. (A carriageway—literally—every once in a while, but otherwise no.) So when I asked Sunil to come play basketball with me while I was at home, I expected we'd go down to East Park—less than 2 blocks from our house—and play there. Or, for old times' sake, go down and play at the Community Center in Shelby Park. Simple.
Only one thing I hadn't considered: the "swanky" part of the Edgefield address.
So when Sunil told me this morning, after I asked about playing ball with him, that there were no more outdoor hoops in East Nashville, my response was a bewildered, "What the—huh?" (Granted, I hadn't yet had any coffee.)
And then I parsed it. Outdoor hoops mean kids can play ball. Any kids, from anywhere—there's no way to control who uses a hoop on public property. And that means that the kids down the way—the kids from the 'hood six blocks over—could come over and play.
Apparently, this prospect is unacceptable.
I'm not a race conspiracy theorist—meaning, racism doesn't occur to me as the first explanation for most things that make me lift my brows. I do, however, have a very good understanding of the concept of hegemony—the dynamic which makes institutionalized "cultural dominance" (read: "racism") practically a political inevitability (though it can, in most democratic systems, be combated to some degree). I also, as an accompaniment to my studies in international humanitarian law, study psychology—both cognitive and evolutionary.
There's also the part where I pay attention to the people around me.
And the part where I grew up in the South.
I could dismiss the decision as merely aesthetic—hoops take upkeep—if there weren't, now, elaborate playground equipment in East Park that takes a lot more. If there weren't hoops inside the state-of-the-art and and rather snazzy-looking East Community Center just off the park. And if that community center didn't charge a buck a pop for each and every kid walking through its doors.
That doesn't sound like a lot to you. Even I, notoriously broke student that I am, could spend a buck a day to play ball and never miss it.
But for a kid? Especially a kid from a low-income family? A buck a day for a month pays for a pro ball, and all the free ball she can play with it at the neighborhood hoops for at least a year and a half.
But not in the place that taught me about basketball. Not here.
5/30/2010 at 19:19
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