My mother always told me that every since I learned how to walk and play I have had a basketball in my hands. As a single mother my mom had numerous of small time jobs that sufficed when it came to scraping up enough money to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of me and my slightly older sister. Now that I am older I realize the struggle that my mother endured trying to make ends meet all by herself along with two kids to take care of. In a world dominated by men they surely did a bad job of taking care of their precious women who needed their help. My mother eventually married for the first time to my stepfather who turned out to be a nightmare when we all moved from an apartment complex in the hood to a double wide deep in the countryside of town. It was here that I cultivated my love for basketball which was fueled by built up resentment and anger stemming from my current situation as a child. My stepfather soon developed a drinking problem and spent all hours of the day and night hanging out and running the streets, yet again leaving my mother to raise two kids all alone again. As Arlie Hochschild said in her book “The Second Shift” in Brigid Schulte’s blog ‘The Second Shift’ at 25: Q & A with Arlie Hochschild, “We know that – more alcoholism, more mental health problems, more second shift for women.” My mom was one of the women working this second shift. 6 days a week, 12 hour shifts now working as a nurse in a hospital my mother worked herself down to the bone and still came home exhausted to be a great mother. Seeing her work so hard drove me to want to get her out of this nightmare she called life. Basketball was the best way to provide for my mother and future family that I may have one day. Whenever things in my life weren’t going so well or whenever my drunken stepfather came home starting problems and arguing with my mother I would always go play basketball to clear my mind.
Basketball was always just fun to me I didn’t take it too much more serious than that. I have been playing basketball for 17 years now I have been on varsity in both 7th and 8th grade, varsity 9th-12th grade, my freshman year of college I played on scholarship at University of North Carolina, sophomore year I transferred to play on scholarship at Lee College in Houston, Texas and now I am on scholarship at Virginia Tech going into my 4th year of college. So you see that I have been around a lot of athletes and non-athletes both male and female from different places and have experienced many issues dealing with sports and gender differences. One thing that I noticed over the years is to never assume anything. While a lot of people look at athletes as fitness examples or assume that we workout so much that we must love our bodies, as if athletes aren’t human or sometimes have self esteem issues. I have noticed over the years that a lot of my teammates were not as confident in themselves as you would think. According to the Huffington Post in an article Be A Man: Macho Advertising Promotes Hyper-Masculine Behavior, Study Finds it says “In a 2008 study, male participants exposed to pictures of muscular men were more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own bodies.”. Thus happens with athletes too. We are around each other everyday and we train everyday trying to be better than we were the day before and trying to be better than each other and other guys at other schools. It is a well known fact that nobody is perfect and some people are just born naturally more gifted than others. You cannot always win every battle, while this is true, every competitor handles defeat differently. If you are not resilient it can conflict with your self esteem. You will start to question yourself and doubt your body when it is not necessary. As a male athlete I have felt the pressure to try to represent what it means to be a basketball player. Constantly working out to stay in shape and always stepping on the scale or routinely visiting the nutritionists for body fat percentage test. While it is a blessing to have in a health perspective but mentally it can be pressuring. According to Katy Kreitler who authored Why Men Need Feminism Too (Really, You Do!), men are harmed by traditional gender role systems in similar ways as women are. According to Katy Kreitler if you are a male and have ever been “insecure because your body wasn’t big enough, strong enough, or slim enough… Pressured to be tough, aggressive and competitive beyond your comfort zone… or ambivalent about what it means to be a “real man”” the system of traditional gender roles that we live in has harmed you.
There are numerous ways women are more marginalized than men and men have some adversity as well divulging from the same damaging system. However being a black male in the sports world only gives me perspective from a guy’s point of view and not only a guys point of view but a black male’s point of view. Being black can have it’s ups and downs. Of course I love who I am and the culture I was brought up in but I have dealt with stereotypical assumptions and prejudices. For example in A Look at How Media Writes Women of Color by Victoria Law she pointed out a picture comparing” two moms breastfeeding during their college graduation ceremony. Both were in cap and gown. Both were smiling. Both held their baby to their bared breast. But the photos were accompanied by very different headlines.” The headline of the colored mom suggested controversy while the white mom was said to be adorable. Just an example of the difficulty it can be being an athlete under a constant microscope whereas the slightest misstep can be blown out of proportion. Sometimes as a black male athlete you can be criticized for not doing anything wrong. My guy Cam Newton is a perfect example of this. Cam is having one of the best seasons of his career and having a lot of fun doing it but no matter what you do when you’re black it seems like you’re always guilty. Society makes you almost afraid to be black and confident almost as if our confidence is intimidating and fearsome to some people. The author of Newtonism: Notes on Cool Masculinity and the Fear of Black Genius said it best ”One of the most delicious aspects of how Cam performs cool masculinity is his unapologetic blackness, his disinterest in re-packaging himself to be tolerable to folk who don’t give a damn about black men who are not running up and down a football field and taking hits, or who would be terrified of him if he was just big and black (and not big, black, famous and rich).” . It doesn’t seem fair but that’s life. Being confident as a black male athlete is almost a defense mechanism when approached with a lose-lose situation no matter what, there will be a problem so why not be’ strong and wrong’.
In the world of sports or the world of being a male or even the world of being a black male, regardless it is a world with many flaws. While I express my accounts on how gender factors into my life negatively and positively I know such can be said for any one of any gender, race, religion or creed. The fact remains that there are boundaries that we are taught to stay within since the day we are born. Life should not be this way, Hari Ziyad said in his article Choosing Queer: I Was Not Born This Way, And That’s Ok, “Stepping back in bounds, to me, was stepping back into their rules. So I stay out.” I take those words of wisdom to mean live your life however you want and do not feel inclined to follow any rules.