The ball is in your court
By JASON McFARLEY
Maybe it's a mistake on my part to assume that my three white roommates are unconcerned with race and race issues. It's just that of all the issues for them to take an interest in, race doesn't come to mind as one of the most likely.
Even if it were a worry of theirs, I can hardly envision the four of us engaged in any sort of meaningful discussion of the topic. Our differences are, perhaps, as simple as black and white, and it's almost unimaginable to think that any dialogue among us would be little more than strained, trivial utterances.
Last weekend might have been our chance to get past all that.
Picture my roomates— Bill, Joe, Mike and I seated in front of the television in our dorm room on a Friday afternoon. We're watching the semifinal round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, and I'm entranced by a match between Venus Williams and Martina Hingis. I'm screaming throughout each point, cringing at every missed shot, and desperately cheering for Williams' victory.
"I've never seen anyone so excited about a tennis match," Joe said. "Do you know her [Venus] or something?"
I gave him the kind of look that says, "You just don't understand and probably never will," and resumed my cheering.
But following Williams' win, and after some deep reflection, I wished I would have talked to Joe. I don't know, though, that he — or even I — would have been prepared for the nasty turns that our conversation might have taken. But I, nevertheless, felt the need to explain some things to my roommate.
I wanted to tell him that perhaps we weren't watching the same match. He likely saw two teen stars doing battle in a premiere tennis tournament. I, on the other hand, witnessed the fiercest of racial battles.
True, there were no slurs or degradations exchanged between the black Williams and the white Hingis, but those kinds of negative feelings often go without saying. And my rallying behind Williams has everything to do with that.
I wish I had the presence of mind to tell Joe that even though Williams is one of the world's top players, she has a number of factors working against her, most notably her race. Her win, then, was a victory for all blacks discounted in their endeavors merely because of their skin color. It was a victory, too, for each and every underdog who fights the "you can'ts" and the "you're not good enoughs."
If applauding Williams' efforts or, for that matter, the efforts of any and all blacks, makes me a part of the racist institution that I proclaim to combat, I can't — and won't — apologize.
My life might be simpler if I were prone to beliefs like "an athlete is an athlete"or "a person is a person." Instead, I look for and find inspiration in the achievements of others like me, and I'm grateful to walk through the doors that their accomplishments open for me.
It's not that I feel this deeply-rooted sense of obligation to my fellow African Americans, but rather that I often find it so difficult to justify these feelings to others — even the friends and roommates I have to face and live with each day.
All Inside Stories for Tuesday, September 12, 2000