Two different players. Two different teams. Same test of blackness in America.
Golden State Warrior Draymond Green and Cleveland Cavalier superstar Lebron James may be opponents on the basketball, as their teams face off in this year’s NBA Finals. But two viral moments over the Internets have unified them as black men.
First, consider Exhibit A with Draymond Greene:
Secondly, I present Lebron James with Exhibit B:
What happened to these two gentlemen has undoubtedly happened at one point or another to every single black person in this country. You start off minding your own business, handling your affairs with your usual level of courteousness and civility. But then suddenly something happens creating an internal schism between your courteous self and the person from the hood you tried to leave behind. This emotional imbalance pushes you all-too-comfortably close to the brink of having what Aaron McGruder called a “n**ga moment”; a period during which even the slightest hint of aggression escalates into a massive conflict. Look it up: it’s a highly researched phenomenon:
In the clips above, Draymond and Lebron were wrapping up their day. They were set to pack it up, grab a shower, head home, and enjoy the rest of the evening with their families. You know, what your average and decent person does after a hard day’s work. But deliberate assaults on their civility almost made them invoke the scary part of their blackness. For that moment, their status as professional basketball players didn’t matter. Being household names (Lebron mostly, by Dray’s making a mark for himself in some respects) didn’t matter. For the briefest of moment’s, their eyes told a much different story. They were right back in the hood.
This has happened to all of us at one point or another. We’ve been faced with situations that have almost dared us to channel our inner hood. Hearing a racist joke being told too casually. Being cut off in traffic. Being told you speak so well. People asking why it’s OK for you to say the ‘n-word’, while they can’t. People assuming watermelon and fried chicken are your favorite foods. A person bumping into you without offering so much as an “Excuse me.” The non-stop game invitations on Facebook (you know who you are). Folks trolling you in a comment thread. The list goes on and on. For a moment, your education doesn’t matter, your career becomes insignificant, and all of your accomplishments take a backseat to the n**ga that’s aching to come out. But just before it does, you have a prophetic moment. You remember that education, that career, those accomplishments. You remind yourself that in a moment’s notice, everything you’ve so hard worked for can be gone. You remind yourself that all it takes for the police to shoot you is one word of opposition. You think about all the people (known and unknown) who have paved the way for you to be where you are and all the black folks who will follow in the path you’re laying. You remember that people are scrutinizing you far more than your white contemporaries and are looking for any reason they can find to justify their prejudices about you. You factor all that in as you’re reeling yourself back in.
Draymond and Lebron could have justifiably gone hood. But they didn’t. Instead, they made a conscious decision to reign that mess in and to keep it moving. Do you?