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

I’m happy Many thanks for the exciting blog posting! Simply put your blog post to my favorite blog list and will look forward for additional updates. child actor Los Angeles

splendid substance cloth and splendid layout. Your website online deserves most of the people of the effective enter it's been getting. glasgow city escorts agencies

I truly like your thoughts on the issue. I now have a reasonable thought on what this matter is about.. 4 AIRPORT TAXI MSP

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends.m2ufree

http://www.wikiweightwatcher.com/legal-anabolic-steroids/top-9-legal-steroids/
Be sure to visit and am utterly grateful for this helpful post

I was meeting people living alternative lifestyles, and, as I got to know them, the stereotypes that I had built up started to come apart. acompanhantes curitiba

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. sending a pr release

I wanted to leave a little comment to support you and wish you a good continuation. Wishing you the best of luck for all your blogging efforts. encryption

My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more! affiliate marketing site

A debt of gratitude is in order for sharing the information, keep doing awesome... I truly delighted in investigating your site. great asset... forex

Much obliged for a superb offer. Your article has demonstrated your diligent work and experience you must this field. Splendid .i cherish it perusing. 3d animation studios in vietnam

Much obliged for a superb offer. Your article has demonstrated your diligent work and experience you must this field. Splendid .i cherish it perusing. 3d animation studios in vietnam

Keep up the good work.
startup pr

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog! Best Cellular

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this.http://weheartit.com/donaldharris4400

Lisbon Free Tour is a great way to get to know Lisbon. To do Lisbon justice you really need more days but if you're tight on time this is the best thing. free tour stockholm

I feel pleasure to read the content that you are posting. voir heritiers

My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more! Modelagentur Schweiz

That's what makes you the best. You should keep publishing more articles and you will Such Become One of the best writers ever vintage clothes shop london

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. free press release

I like viewing web sites which comprehend the price of delivering the excellent useful resource free of charge. I truly adored reading your posting. Thank you! how tall is markiplier

Hey, great blog, but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me please?
Best file manager for rooted Android natural weightloss

buy instagram likes
What a good blog you have here. Please update it more often. This topics is my interest. Thank you. .

Lilly Collins and Sam Claflin are appealing, and they give it their all, but they're undone by Love, Rosie's silly, clichéd storyline. world4ufree

free press release
I like viewing web sites which comprehend the price of delivering the excellent useful resource free of charge.

You've really impressed me today. I hope you'll continue to do so!south florida pr agencies

Carpet Cleaning
I’ve been searching for some decent stuff on the subject and haven't had any luck up until this point, You just got a new biggest fan!..

Carpet Cleaning Danville IL
I am confident they will be benefited from this site.

wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated. Neuwied

http://estatetaxplanning.bravesites.com
I definitely really liked every part of it and i also have you saved to fav to look at new information in your site

Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”. Gold Coast

Your music is astounding. You have some extremely capable specialists. I wish you the best of accomplishment. college movers

Therefore, to abstain from sitting around idly, it is generally more viable to purchase shabby Instagram adherents from Gramistore. follower instagram | how to get more likes on instagram

This article gives the light in which we can watch the truth. This is exceptionally pleasant one and gives indepth data. Much obliged for this decent article. elderly care in southeast michigan

callus
I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site. futbol mexicano

Hey what a brilliant post I have come across and believe me I have been searching out for this similar kind of post for past a week and hardly came across this. Thank you very much and will look for more postings from you. 3d architectural animation company

I'm not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I'd post to let you know. The layout look great though! Hope you get the issue resolved soon. Thanks.. Gewürze

Mmm.. good to be here in your article or post, whatever, I think I should also work hard for my own website like I see some good and updated working in your site. download subway surfers for pc

landscaping richmond hill
Greenbay Northern landscaping is located in Richmond Hill we provide service anywhere from Newmarket to North York including ;Markham, Maple and Vaughn.

In fact, its magical world is sure to give you some of the most enthralling hours of your life. disneyland florida tours

I might want to thank you for the endeavors you have made in composing this article. I am trusting the same best work from you later on also. Much obliged... free movies online

new market landscaping
Greenbay Northern landscaping is located in Richmond Hill we provide service anywhere from Newmarket to North York including ;Markham, Maple and Vaughn.

lustige Geschichten
First You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics , i will be always checking your blog thanks.

eid
This text is an interesting wealth of informative knowledge that's attention-grabbing and well-written.

Kitchen Cabinet woodbridge
Mana Kitchen is proudly serving the Toronto, Woodbridge and the nearby areas since the last twelve years with the innovative and trained team of interior designers. Moreover, our installers and administrative teams share advice and compare ideas regarding every single project. We believe that the best teacher is experience and our team uses this to deliver the best kitchen design and custom cabinetry

mana kitchen design
Mana Kitchen is proudly serving the Toronto, Woodbridge and the nearby areas since the last twelve years with the innovative and trained team of interior designers. Moreover, our installers and administrative teams share advice and compare ideas regarding every single project. We believe that the best teacher is experience and our team uses this to deliver the best kitchen design and custom cabinetry

A debt of gratitude is in order for the significant data and experiences you have so given here... pool pump repair charleston sc

blogYour blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.

aurora landscaping
First You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics , i will be always checking your blog thanks.