Dear Little Leaguers, Thanks For Giving Hope To This Black Woman
Dear Taney Dragons and Jackie Robinson West,
Do me a favor -- enjoy every moment of this week at the Little League World Series. Because ... I'm not sure if you heard ... but things have been pretty rough out here for people who look like us.
These last few days, my social media feeds have been consumed with outrage and despair over the events of Aug. 9, when a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Ferguson Police let his body lie in the middle of the street for hours, according to reports, as tensions rose across the town -- and then across the country. Just last week, a black man in Ohio was shot while holding a BB/pellet rifle in Wal-Mart. Less than a month ago, an NYPD officer placed Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, in a chokehold and strangled him to death; at least two other unarmed black men died at the hands of a police officer in the last 30 days. With events like these constantly in the news, it is all too easy for me to feel that justice is an empty two-syllable word, and that the lives of black Americans aren't valued.
But then a Little League promo catches my attention, and it throws some sunshine across my bleak worldview.
For a black community in search of respite, you're it, Little Leaguers.
You, with your flailing arms prepping for a bear hug at home plate after a home run. You, rocking those crazy colorful batting gloves. You, with the giggles you share with each other during a slow inning. You give me life. These small moments -- they display an innocence that was never recognized in the black men who were killed by those police officers.
Your faces smiling from the dugout soothe me and help combat the images of black American citizens suffering in the Ferguson streets. With each at-bat, your presence is writing a different narrative for people who look like us.
Please know this: Seeing you flourish on the baseball diamond changes how the world sees us. It depicts us as more than just chalk outlines, threatening figures draped in hoodies, gold chains and baggy pants, or angry looters who ruin their town because they don't know any other way to express anger. For a change, we are seen as ambitious, relentless, upwardly mobile -- and just plain normal.
Your poise on the mound inspires me to stand taller. As the kids say, your teams make me feel like I'm the "ish" and no one can tell me different.
Yes, I know: You guys are busy trying to grab Little League World Series wins at this moment. But please know you've already won in my book.
Because when I heard about peaceful protests taking place in my Brooklyn neighborhood Thursday night in honor of Brown, my soul was weary. But then I opted to do something that brought a smile to my face. I watched highlights of Mo'ne Davis on the mound. I read about how Pierce Jones got busy with three home runs for Jackie Robinson West in a 12-2 win over Lynnwood, Washington.
And as the news played a shocking video of a nearly naked black grandmother being dragged out of her home for no legitimate reason, I was comforted, knowing that this isn't the only image of us on television right now. I can change the channel to your games to see black kids doing what statistics say they shouldn't be doing: succeeding in a pastime that wasn't built for them.
Similarly, that's what black Americans like me do every day. By just being in America, we're playing in a game that we were never invited to, that's designed for us to fail, and that we started nearly 200 years after the rest of the American public. Just like your teams, we're not asking for any handouts -- we just want our turn at the plate to show 'em what we got.
So if 13 black kids can beat the odds by emerging out of bullet-riddled Chicago, why can't we all defy whatever odds are stacked against us? That's the kind of hope you give me.
Friday's game is technically a first-round game for Taney. But I'm calling it something else. I'm calling your games a public service. Because for someone like me, who questions her safety as a black person in this country seemingly each time I step outside my door, watching you play is about so much more than the game.
For that brief pause from reality -- even if it's only six innings long -- I say, "Thank you."
Be kids and play ball.
Always your fan,