An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

I’ve never been a fan of professional hoops, but at age 58 I finally attended an NBA basketball game. While in Cramerton for a church engagement, a friend was given a pair of tickets to Saturday night’s Charlotte Bobcats – Memphis Grizzlies game, so we took it in. After a sloppy first half, it even turned into an exciting contest, with the home team pulling out an 89-87 victory with a tip-in at the final buzzer.

The seats were good: about 15 rows from the floor, near the foul line. I couldn’t help but notice that it was loud — no, I should say — it was LOUD. Pounding beats on the sound system before the game and at every time out, along with an exuberant announcer who rattled the rafters, kept the noise level high. The amplified sound and assorted entertainments during time outs are apparently designed to compensate for the lack of excitement from the fans, which fell far short of a typical college game.

As more of an observer than a supporter, I couldn’t help but notice several jarring disparities: of the 27 players on the two teams, 26 of them were black, and the one white guy was from Spain. The coaches and other staff on the bench, on the other hand, were almost uniformly Anglo. So were the dancing girls a.k.a. cheerleaders: there were 18 of them, with only three or four being women of color. I quibble on the number because the girls who weren’t white were all still relatively light-skinned. The fans in attendance were mixed, though the majority appeared to be white, especially in the higher-priced seats.

I don’t claim to understand all the social and cultural factors behind the various racial stratifications so evident at the game — I could guess at some of them, but so could anyone else.

Whether one finds this disturbing or not, it’s another reminder that racial divides still run deep. In Wake County, where I live, a newly-elected school board majority is promoting policies that will almost certainly result in the near re-segregation of some schools. Across the nation, many Americans show disturbing disrespect for the president, at least in part because of his racial heritage.

The Martin Luther King holiday is coming up in a week or so, but every day, on every hand, we see sharp reminders that we still have a long way to go.

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