Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 93 - The Race Spider Catches a Black Sheep in Her Web (Part 1)

Race in America is this little dirty secret.  When our foreign exchange students arrived, the first thing we did was teach them about the Civil War and how it has affected this country and its people. They first thought we were just making it up but as they attended high school they would tell  me stories when they got home about their day.  Occasionally they would be so anxious it was hard for them to get the words out.  There was an occasion in which Jula had witnessed prejudice and racism and knew it because she had been taught to be aware of these things.  She had seen a black student being called a the N word.  When the black student told the administrators his story, which didn't match the alleged perpetrator student's story, Jula did the right thing and corroborated the black students story. She confirmed his tale because she too had witnessed the event.  This was quite brave for a German foreign exchange student to do in America knowing its history and the depth of the web that has been woven by the race spider of America.  We can't always see its web but one can always feel when one is caught in it.

One time during AAU Nationals in Sacramento, California, we had arrived on the court to officiate a pool play game.  Our crew consisted of two Division 1 Womens Officials and myself.  My two male partners were big time veterans who were on TV all the time.  They joked about doing the younger division so that the Division 1 coaches wouldn't see them.  If they had volunteered for the older girls division, the D-1 coaches might see them when they attended these AAU tournaments to recruit and scout.  One official was a white male and the other was a Latino male, "TB."  TB was the crew chief of the game.  As we watched the teams warm up we made a mental note of race.  An all white team playing an all black team.  Most times it doesn't come into play, but if you aren't aware of it, you might not be ready for it when it DOES come in to play. 

As the play progressed, it was evident that the all-black team was very very physical.  It was also obvious that they were not used to officials calling fouls on their big post players.  We called over twenty-five fouls in the first half.  At the end of the half, the coach of the all-black team who happened to be African-American too, asked to speak to me.  My partners stood beside m as the coach singled me out saying that I was prejudice because I was calling most of the fouls.  Truth was I just was in Lead position on their end of the court most of the time and that was my area.  My partner stepped in and said, "Coach, may I just tell you what your players are doing so that you can make the adjustment at half-time?"  He was taking the heat off me and I appreciated it.  He told the coach that his big girls were lazy.  I was surprised that he used that word but as he went on, he supported his claim.  "Coach, your girls are big and they are standing behind the other teams players and trying to jump up to get the rebound.  I have not seen one of your girls box out the entire half."  With that we ran off the court.

As we came back, the second half was just as rough and fans from the black team started yelling claims of racism and prejudice on our part.  The irony of it all, we have a striped shirt on of black and white.  The white fans have accused us as favoring black teams and in this case the black fans were accusing us of favoring the white team. I chuckled to myself, maybe we just should wear reversible white and black jerseys. On the day we feel like favoring one team, we'll just flip the shirts that show the color of the team we are favoring that day.  The thought of favoring a team is ridiculous.  We don't care who wins. These fans were actually taking their cue from the coach.  This coach had told his team and fans that I particularly had it out for them because they were black.

The black team was getting beat by thirty-five points.  In National AAUs you don't have the luxury of having a running clock to shorten the time of humiliation for the losing team.  This team was going to have to take their whippin' like a man.  Including the coach.  He was acting out and wanted us to give him a second Technical to be ejected.  We weren't going to give him that luxury.  The right thing to do for any coach who is losing by a large margin is to realize that the officials don't shoot any baskets.  The officials don't box out, the officials don't design the offense or coach the defense, we just implement the rules that the coaches made to begin with.

Clearly losing, the coach decided to take all six of his timeouts in the last half just to stall the inevitable loss.  This was an embarrassment to the girls.  He had tried to approach me during the last time out with one minute left.  My partners and I moved across the court away from him.  TB said that as soon as the whistle blows, run off the court, don't look back and he'll catch up to us in the locker room. The whistle blew, we ran to the locker room and waited for TB.  Five minutes had passed and no sign of TB.  I was getting a little worried.

TB finally came in and asked me to come to a part of the locker room where we could talk alone.  He began to whisper, "BJ, you did a a great job with that game.  That was a very hard game to officiate.  That coach wanted to talk to you only to chew you out.  So I stopped him in the hallway to prevent him from coming in the locker room.  But I told him something and I wanted you to know.  I told him that it was impossible for you to be the racist he accused you of being because you have a black husband."  I looked at TB and laughed.  TB started laughing hysterically too. "TB, That's great because it's the truth!" I said.

I continued to laugh and TB stopped laughing.  I was now laughing at TB.  He was in shock and he was embarrassed.  He literally stood frozen in time staring at me.  I continued to laugh. His latino brown skin was turning red from his head and if I could have seen beneath his uniform, I could see the red slowly envelope his body to his feet. He quickly apologized.  I said, "TB what is there to apologize for? You told the truth."  I felt liberated as I don't go around announcing my family racial make up but I called that game just as I saw it.  The foul count was lopsided but so was the way the two teams played basketball.  One team was playing a slug fest offense with a full-court defense. The other team was just trying to stand up from a beat down with an outside game that didn't need offensive rebounding and a zone defense that created opportunities to box out for the defensive rebounds. Somehow TB hadn't seen this coming. This "dirty little secret" hit him like a MAC truck. (to be continued...)

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