Not long ago I attended a high school basketball game between local DC rivals. I was absolutely amazed at the level of intensity in which these young men played. Both teams, made up of all young black males, possessed a strong desire to win and the level at which they competed demonstrated that it was this desire to be victorious that pushed them all to respect and learn the game. Both teams ran complicated plays, perfectly executed the directions of the coach and never seemed to tire. When one of the young men made a bad decision, he was immediately admonished by the coach who exclaimed: "you are better than that!" Nodding his head, as if to show he agreed with the coach's statement, the young man refocused and played flawless basketball for the rest of the game.
I left this game not only impressed, but full of hope. Here were 24 young black men competing at an incredibly high level; a group that is often stigmatized as being lazy, unmanageable, slow learners and undisciplined. Many people wonder how a group that has so many problems succeeding in the classroom could excel at a sport that requires one to use the same qualities possessed by a great student. The answer is simply: expectations. Black men are expected to be exceptional athletes. Such expectations push them at a very early age to cultivate and perfect their skills on the field or court. In the eyes of many it's almost a sin for a young black man to be a poor athlete. He would face belittlement not only from his peers but society as whole.