Monday, October 8, 2012

Man Versus Boy Address

Please read my original post on Basketball and Race so as to avoid any hard feelings or confusion.

I once played pickup basketball in a game with a teenager who seemed to be pretty good and clearly had been coached previously. My experience playing with teenagers mostly showed that they had a lot of energy and they could jump and knife through the defense easily but like many teens they just didn't think. They would try to dribble their way out of double or triple team defense and fail to see team members who were wide open next to the basket. Un-coached teenagers didn't play defense or follow every shot taken in hopes of grabbing a rebound. (Many high school coaches tell their players to assume that every shot is off the mark and to go after the rebound before you see whether the shot was accurate or not).

But this one kid who I played with seemed to have been to basketball camp or played on his freshman high school team or something since he seemed to know what he was doing and where to stand, how to hold his hands on defense and a lot of other things that one doesn't often see in kids his age.

After one particularly sharp play from him, we ran back down the floor on defense and I turned to him and said, "Man, how old are you?" I was impressed at the skills of what appeared to be to be a 14 or 15 year old. I forgot what his answer was, but I quoted exactly what I because I want to point out that he was not a man but rather still a boy. I referred to him as, "Man" almost absent-mindedly like I do with a lot of ball players but he still had a ways to go before adulthood.

However later I thought about it and remembered that my culture and upbringing told me not to say for example, "Boy, how old are you?" I was taught all my life that a white man does not call a black man, "Boy." I suppose this particular kid didn't have any notion of the taboo with whites using that term to refer to black males, but still my instinct prevented me from saying it.

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, the use of such a term of endearment can be tricky when crossing racial lines.

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