By Tim Turner, For TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
I really thought I’d be writing about something along the lines of, “y’all need to shut up over Golden State signing Boogie Cousins because not one of your sorry, playoff-missing again teams made him an offer.” About how this pre-emptive strike against the LeBron James-fortified Los Angeles Lakers (and Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder) just might be the move that puts next season’s NBA championship in the bag.
That is until a recent conversation in the gym made me think of another bag. A paper one. While walking through the locker room post-workout, I overheard one fair-skinned brother say to another one, “Looks like Team Light-Skinned solidified their dynasty!”
I stopped dead in my tracks, backed up a couple of steps and just stared at them. And it wasn’t because I was about to — for the millionth time — tell somebody when speaking of a team, it is an “its” not a “their.” No, it was that color-struck foolishness that fell out of his mouth. Really? Team Light-Skinned? Who says that? Evidently a lot of folks, and I am so very late to this intraracial foolishness.
Perhaps I was so fixated on the rapidly metastasizing racism that is spreading across our nation, that I totally missed the self-hatred going on within my own community. But clearly, I had. When researching to see if what those guys were talking about, Team Light-Skinned was a thing, I found out it most surely is. Or at least was.
The things I found relative to this colorism were from 2016 — and there were a lot of them — and they dealt mostly with contrasting views of the “Golden Skinned Warriors” and Cleveland Cavaliers. How the teams were viewed differently based on the pigment levels of their superstars. Michael Eric Dyson notes this similarly in his The Color Line piece from The Undefeated when speaking of a recent Most Valuable Player race between the unbelievably talented Steph Curry and James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
“James Harden doesn’t stand a chance to win the MVP,” a college professor on the West Coast proclaimed in his class when (Dyson) visited his school in 2015, referring to Curry’s closest competitor for the award. “He’s too dark and ‘too black.’ ”
Later in the piece, Dyson adds, “But let’s be honest: Often, one needs to do no more than be light-skinned to reap the rewards of light privilege in a culture that remains profoundly color-struck.”
Which took me back to an episode of Frank’s Place, which is set in New Orleans. There was this episode that centered around the paper bag test where if you were darker than the bag, you were considered less than. And this was among other black folks who essentially were fighting the same fight for basic humanity here in the land of the free and home of the brave.
The Roosevelt Institute addressed how the narrative for Curry and James diverge via colorism where Curry is described as a workaholic and that James essentially was just born with the talent he has — both characterizations unbelievably off base and untrue of both.
Those are just a few examples from 2016 relative to colorism that has bled over from our own cultural issues into sports. It’s a particularly sickening strain of racism as it demeans oneself when you think about it more broadly. I am sure the Warriors love Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala as much as they do Curry, Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston, skin color be damned. This was a move about wins and losses and championships, and free of wrongheadedly assigned intracultural implications tethered to them.
Put away the bag, unless it is filled with popcorn. Then mark your days until the start of the next NBA season. It should be an interesting one.