It’s a funny thing, race in America. On the one hand, we urge all children to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. On the other, we completely ignore the fact that a lot of those kids don’t even have boots, let alone straps (as an aside: what the hell is a bootstrap, and how do I get one?)

The last few weeks have been interesting, in terms of race and sports in my country. On the one hand, we have the multi-billionaire owner of a major-league basketball team telling his mixed race mistress* that he doesn’t want her seen in public with black people (after that, he gets really racist); on the other, you have Boston Bruins fans hurling racial slurs at a black hockey player who’s team had just beaten them during Game 1 of a finals series.

It’s all shameful. We’ll ignore the Europeans tossing bananas at black soccer players because…. well, because the European version of me can blog on that particular little bit of stupidity.

So, here’s what I think (in case you’re still reading and haven’t nodded off). To the people that are wondering why basketball seems to have a lot of blacks, while hockey is almost all white: it comes down to equipment. At the early ages. What’s lacking is leveling. As a modern society, that has aspirations at moral leadership globally, we need all children to have the same level of access to opportunity. Hockey equipment is incredibly expensive; basketball equipment is not. When you start out in poverty, as a disproportionate number of black children do, you never even get the chance to get on the ice. 

Now, extend that to technology. Wonder why there are so many white kids who become computer whizzes and make careers as developers? Access. They had access at an early age to tech. Not just in school, but around the house. Around their lives. It’s normal and comfortable to them. Kids raised in poverty generally don’t get access like that outside of the classroom, if they’re even lucky enough to have that. Consider this: in a fascinating analysis of AP CS placement exams, the number of black students taking the exams, state after state, is 30% of what it _should_ be based on percents of the population (I’m pleased that in Massachusetts it’s 50% of what is should be – but, not really pleased… more like, less ashamed than if I was from Mississippi).

The color divide of hockey and basketball is actually a grim reflection back on the fact that we haven’t summoned the courage up to take a generation of black kids up to the _average_ level of prosperity/ opportunity of a concurrent generation of white kids. If we did that – if we really invested in them, a moonshot mission to equalize access to tech, sport, literature, etc – I think we’d break a number of cycles, not just sports. And, as a society, we’d finally become whole, with all the incredible benefits a truly united “United” States could achieve.

Thus endeth the ran.


*btw, if you’re not following: he’s 80, she’s 30 – he looks like the ugly brother of Gollum, she could probably get a gig at the Playboy Mansion: draw your own conclusions…

pps: If you’re wondering what a Sterling/ Gollum love-child would look like, here you go….