Three Short Essays About LeBron, Trayvon, Hoodies and Hope

The Miami Heat's hoodied-down team photo, and LeBron's tweeting thereof, was both a symbolic gesture and more than that.
Share |
Suspicious Males.

Image via @KingJames.

1. The starkest and most painful thing about the murder of Trayvon Martin, and a big part of the reason I’ve kept making my own masochistic returns and re-returns to the story, is what a perfect circle of horror it is. Every new detail and brutal bit of context—about Martin’s killer and the terrified, miserable, self-besieged community in which Martin was killed—serves both to deepen our knowledge of what happened and push a possible collective understanding of this terrible thing even further away. That our discourse is so unready for an engagement with an injustice both so viciously specific and so symbolically vast isn’t a surprise, really—much of the media seeks to fit all news into an airless partisan context, the worst of it struggles to diminish a story until it's small enough to fit into its viewership’s shrunken, selfish hearts, and they’ve done that again, here. And the comments sections, as they do, open a window onto a Hobbesian universe, someplace simpler and crueler than this one, where every ugly thought charges giddily into battle with the most outrageous and toxic ignorance at its back.

But that’s our discourse, that is broadly us, and also that is this particular terrible thing. There just isn’t anything to do about this, finally. There’s no solving it. There’s barely any engaging it, even. My every return starts with an attempt to find some undiscovered thing that might somehow prevent this from happening again, and every return ends at the bottom of the same hole—what happened in Sanford should never have happened, but there is no way it can un-happen, and so here we all are. You and me and all the basketball players we know.

This is the coldest and least significant of possible comforts, but the statements of solidarity that have issued from the NBA over the previous week—Carmelo and Amar’e on Twitter; the NBPA in a seriously pointed public statement; the entire Miami Heat in that strangely affecting hoodied-down team photo that LeBron (LeBron!) tweeted—do offer at least the faintest heartening sense that all those who can be bothered to care are all feeling something similar about all this. Twitpics and strongly worded statements—and protests and petitions, even—can’t undo the injustice itself, or the various ruptures and recessions that created the context for this injustice and the ones to come. But a simple consensus about the awfulness of this particular thing, and the other things that made it possible is, at least, something—a place on which to stand, with other people, and maybe get to work on this together.

I can’t presume to know LeBron James’s heart, or ever really understand anything he does. There’s a fundamental impenetrability to LeBron which says less about him, I think, than it does about the distance his combination of Olympian greatness and unimaginable privilege puts between him and everyone else; that’s true to varying degrees of all his peers in the NBA. I was heartened to see that the mundane horror of what happened to Trayvon Martin had reached LeBron and the rest in something like the way it reached all of us who have been left so impotently reading and talking about it. The horror of this story is so manifold, massive and complicated—and the response to it has been so backwards and baffled and otherwise disheartening—that it’s tough to imagine a way in which anyone could do much more with it, in terms of an immediate response, than simply to feel and say something about it. There’s nothing a basketball player or anyone else can really quite do about it; Florida’s laws and law enforcers are too rotten, the Escher-ian inversions and tangles in the discourse and law are too confounding, and of course the crime itself cannot be undone, even through the belated delivery of justice. And the conditions that made all this possible endure, and metastasize hungrily.

But, but: those conditions, the broader injustices that embrace and enfold these many smaller injustices, those conditions would seem to be the thing to talk about. And this is where the resonance of the NBA’s show of solidarity comes from: all these people saying simply that they are people, and so just as easy to misunderstand or caricature or kill as any other. It's identity, and it's politics, but it's way more urgent, engaged and emphatic than the parodic, individuated hufferies we associate with “identity politics.” It seems, maybe, like a start. — David Roth

 

2. My immediate response to LeBron’s tweet—and a lot of people’s, in fact—was that we should applaud James for, what else, taking what amounted to a political stand. After all, the kind of racist paranoia that seems to have been at the root of the shooting is, thanks to our un-American Muslim dark-skinned president, very much a component of right-wing discourse. The country must be protected against foreign influence and order restored; the impulsive vigilante is nothing new, but laws that get his back and justify this behavior have, in effect, criminalized the Other.

The World Trade Center was brought down by operatives doing everything they could to blend in, which is why Obama can be our nation’s worst enemy despite having been fairly elected its leader, and the most remote hint that someone is “one of those” is a sign that danger is imminent. The spotless must be hiding something; those blemished in the least, like Trayvon Martin was by his hoodie, are orange-alert monsters emerging from their cocoons. Simply mourning Martin, as James did on sneakers this past Friday, is one thing. The hoodie picture embraced the very symbol that cost Trayvon his life. LeBron James went on record as saying it’s okay to be a black teen, and dress that way, in America.

Still, the outrage we’re hearing over Trayvon Martin’s death is less about the way politics have taken on a racial tinge (ahem), and more the way that racism has been obscured by policy. On the most visceral level, though, this is about the perils of being young, black and male in America, something that plenty of athletes can relate to; many of them are parents, too, which certainly factors into things. Obama’s comment about his own hypothetical son was meant to remove the issue from the current political climate. Even if Newt promptly found a way to use the line against the president, this response was meant to be so personal that it was self-evident.

It’s not risky, or even profound, for James, Wade and the rest to assert their right to survive. Attempts to legislate racism out of existence never quite did the job, and the persistence of raw bigotry is what has allowed for its current uses. It’s stunning, in a way, that it took time for this meme to catch on (maybe it took the Heat’s ingenious photo to set it off conceptually), since for black athletes to voice their anger over a modern-day lynching is the least they can do. It’s almost unavoidable.

Again, though, it’s telling that the Heat photo—identified closely with LeBron—got so much attention, since it allied itself with the hoodie in its most sinister-looking form. The group also added to this ambiguity: was it a mock gang, or just some dudes with the same fashion sense? Given the NBA’s issues with players “dressing black” and concerns on the part of the league office that the sport was regarded as “too black,” the Heat photo was itself transgressive, as well as a throwback. Here, players don hoodies—one of the articles of clothing absolutely forbidden by the dress code—to say, in effect, this is our right, and the right of everyone like us.

Of course, NBA stars are now more likely to dress preppy or as entry-level blipsters than be photographed with baggy, sagging jeans and Champion hoodies. Amar’e, with his knit hoodie, and Melo, who chose an especially close-fitting sweatshirt for his, are more in line with contemporary NBA style. Maybe fashion moved on; maybe the dress code pushed it there. Part of what makes these photos surprising, in the end, is that we find players once again taking up the mantle of identity politics within the league that seemed to have disintegrated when Allen Iverson left the building. — Bethlehem Shoals

3. In the context of major professional sports, NBA players stood out for wearing hoodies and showing solidarity in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. With brand management defining career decisions increasingly often, any statement that might conceivably give a Santorum child pause before buying sneakers becomes an instant outlier. It was a sign that, for once, an event or issue was so obviously worth commenting on that we could cut through all the bullshit and make a simple and important statement about their basic existence.

Yet, while David’s right to note that the Heat team photo and similar images are heartening because they broadcast a humanity we all felt in reaction to what happened to Martin, the relevant issue for them is personal in a way that three Jewish writers can never understand. The connection isn’t just that Martin and these athletes are African-American, but that they’re all black men who at some point in their lives have been discussed as threats to a particular way of life simply for how they dress or look. No one has ever tried to shoot LeBron James, but he has been vilified in scenarios inflected by his race. I don’t wish to equate the two experiences—one obviously had a more horrific outcome than the other. Still, people can connect to another’s experience even with a difference in degree.

This is all to say that, while race increasingly becomes a thinly veiled aspect of so much public policy, these athletes’ responses are more cultural than political, acting as statements of community rather than advocating direct action. That eventually came in the NBPA’s statement about the issue, in which they called for the arrest of George Zimmerman and the permanent resignation of Police Chief Bill Lee, but it’s important to note that never would have happened without so many players first voicing their personal feelings in a public forum. After that, it was only natural for that opinion to become a coherent, organizationally sanctioned statement calling for specific social justice.

That doesn’t mean that players made a political statement by accident. Instead, what this process suggests is that an athlete, like most Americans, has a political consciousness defined primarily by his personal experiences and values. In the past, LeBron has balked at speaking out against China’s involvement in the Sudanese genocide, in part because his involvement with Nike makes his global brand’s success dependent on Chinese factory labor. But how different is that experience, really, from that of the liberal engineer who earns a living working for a defense contractor? How many people compromise their stated political beliefs when personal benefit brushes up a vague and far-off affront to personal belief?

I don’t seek to excuse any lack of political action from athletes in the future—personally, I wish these same players would speak out on foreign wars or domestic tax policy. But it’s worth remembering that the Trayvon Martin case elicited such an overwhelming response from NBA athletes because they’re uniquely well-suited to identify with what happened to him. Their responses disregarded their personal brands because, on some level, this story cuts to the core of who they are. — Eric Freeman


Share |

Comments

Thank you for another great article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information. frame adhesive iphone 7

But the cause why the Destroya pocket pussy is the high-quality pocket pussy is because all of these precise functions come together in an absurdly stimulating way, makes the enjoy less of a masturbation than of a simulation of actual sex! .. pocket pussy launch

This banking Internet option has been very popular not only for customers who want to have some control over their account without having to go to the bank but for banks as well whose man hours have been freed up from performing simple tasks like balance inquiries, account transfers, and the like because the customer does it himself with banking Internet. bob net banking

I don t have the time at the moment to fully read your site but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site. Sabun Marine Essence

Pleasant to peruse your article! I am anticipating sharing your enterprises and encounters. fly fishing

As a seo visitant sworn to moral search engine optimization services, all our approaches are colorless hat. We aver our line relationships earnestly and aim to bypass lasting lineament.. Cheap SEO prices

I am exceptionally delighted in for this web journal. Its an instructive theme. It help me all that much to take care of a few issues. Its chance are so phenomenal and working style so fast. sbi net banking

I am exceptionally delighted in for this web journal. Its an instructive theme. It help me all that much to take care of a few issues. Its chance are so phenomenal and working style so fast. sbi net banking

I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing. losing weight

Extraordinary articles and incredible format. Your blog entry merits the greater part of the positive input it's been getting. drink sati

A debt of gratitude is in order for the blog entry mate! Keep them coming... yoga classes melbourne

I Love your articles guys keep it up. porn cccam server

Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. my review here

Running out of blogging ideas? You just need to spruce up a few things regularly, and you'll never run out of blogging ideas. ottenere il corpo desiderato

Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work. the original source

Hi I found your site by mistake when i was searching yahoo for this acne issue, I must say your site is really helpful I also love the design, its amazing!. Lee mas

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. Check it out

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. geriatric care specialist

Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. I wanted to thank you for this websites! Thanks for sharing. Great websites! maytag washer repair

Hey guys see it we are provide you high pr quality and professional seo , backlinks......visit here.... voyance amour gratuite

You have a real ability for writing unique content. I like how you think and the way you represent your views in this article. I agree with your way of thinking. Thank you for sharing. atelier

This is truly a decent and useful, containing all data furthermore greatly affects the new innovation. A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing it special info

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work! painful toe

دانلود فیلم لاک قرمز​, دانلود رایگان فیلم لاک قرمز, دانلود فیلم جدید, دانلود فیلم و سریال با لینک مستقیم, دانلود فیلم های جدید و برتر, دانلود رایگان فیلم و سریال با لینک مستقیم

دانلود فیلم لاک قرمز

If the movie is out there, Popcorn Time will find the best version possible and start streaming it right away. movies

A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a one Legitimate Paid Surveys

Great post! I am actually getting ready to across this information, is very helpful my friend. Also great blog here with all of the valuable information you have. Keep up the good work you are doing here. Raouzgoldie Remove Habit Release

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. easymd generic online pharmacy

Nokia Suite drops the Lotus Notes customer match up bolster which is available in Nokia PC Suite, rather requiring the client to utilize Lotus Notes' Traveler software. download keygens

Nokia Suite drops the Lotus Notes customer match up bolster which is available in Nokia PC Suite, rather requiring the client to utilize Lotus Notes' Traveler software. download keygens

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. major appliance service

I must say you, this blog is awesome. I am addicted to it now. Please also have a look on my blog posts. major appliance service

I recently found many useful information in your website especially this blog page. Among the lots of comments on your articles. Thanks for sharing. http://alyans-km.com.ua/

i am surprisingly here. I discovered this board and I in discovering It really accommodating and it helped me out a great deal. I would like to present something back and help other people, for example, you helped me. varicose veins

For all readers here, this should be flawlessly clean already! You should look at a backlink for your website as a “Vote” from out of doors websites. seo package costs

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have. House for sale

It is a fantastic in addition to beneficial merchandise connected with particulars. I will be happy which you sent out this type of information the following. Best GPT

I touch really precise version these articles I stingy there are writers that can create moral stuff. uterus is anteverted

Fable Casino offer a three part welcome package, that kicks off with a 100% deposit match bonus, up to £200. Whilst we can’t say this is an extraordinary deal, it does give you some extra funds to test out the casino with and you do only need to deposit £10 to be eligible. New Fable Casino

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. bedriftsguiden

I havent any word to welcome this post.....Really i am inspired from this post....the individual who make this post it was an extraordinary human..thanks for imparted this to us. review and bonus

Who does your music appeal to? If you have Google Analytics set up, a ReverbNation page, or a Facebook page, you should be able to identify the age, sex, and gender of the people who visit your pages. free advertising

King and Skinner are joined this week by Alex Tapscott, co-author of Blockchain Revolution, as well as by Moneytripping’s Bailey Reutzel. read this article

The information you have posted is very useful. The sites you have referred was good. Thanks for sharing.. Dentists in Lewisham

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page The best trading strategy 2017

Intriguing and astonishing how your post is! It Is Useful and accommodating for me That I like it all that much, and I am anticipating Hearing from your next.. หนัง AV

Would you like to spend some entertaining and informative moments ? Discover the secrets of the capital of Norway with our Free Tour Oslo. free tour Stockholm

Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. http://starlt.kiev.ua

This is such a great information for me, because i do an online job thats why i need fast Internet connection, i search how to bost internet speed then ireach at a right place. http://www.doctorcopperusa.com

This need to be hooked up and maintained at the Lotus Notes server; synchronization the usage of laptop Suite works from the cellphone to the man or woman's computer, even as synchronization on a phone which has Nokia Suite must use 1/3 party software program. download warez