28 August 2020

The bubble didn't burst because there wasn't one in the first place

William C Rhoden, writing for theundefeated.com captured it well: 'Players were moved into a bubble to protect them from this deadly virus. Turns out that it will not be the coronavirus that possibly burst the NBA bubble, but the virulent, persistent virus of racism.’

He was writing about the premier basketball championship, currently at its (postponed) playoffs stage. He was writing about how the bubble burst or rather what shot it to shreds and made it impossible to play. Or live in the bubble, so to speak. He was writing about the players’ and teams’ reactions to the brutal shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake, a black man, was shot seven times in the back. He is reported to be paralyzed below the waist.

Almost all the players currently or rather formerly ‘bubbled’ in Bay Lake, Florida, have expressed their frustration and anger. Fear too. For that’s what has always been part of being black in the USA and is only now being recognized. The Milwaukee Bucks, scheduled to play Orlando Magic, decided to boycott. This was the first time ever that an entire team ‘walked out’ in protest in a major sporting encounter in the USA. The NBA then postponed the remaining playoff games scheduled for the day. The future of the playoffs is uncertain.

The Bubble. That was new. It was a Covid19 product. And yet, the true bubble was that rarified space insulated from the violence, the persistent violence in fact, of racism in the USA. It’s a bubble which allowed some people to pretend that such things didn’t happen or were random; they could not have been systemic, they convinced themselves or allowed themselves to be convinced.

Well, the truth is that for most if not all black people and other non-white minority communities in the USA, there was no bubble which they could crawl into and escape the horrors of this world. They were living the horror, day in and day out, 24/7 as they say.

The ‘war’ we referred to did not start a few months ago when a white police officer kneed and killed George Floyd. It’s been there for years, decades, centuries. They call it different names at different times.

Rhoden has heard all the words inspired by heinous acts of state sponsored violence. Well, right now it is not just the police but vigilante groups acting in concert with the police. The USA is in flames. It is at war with itself.

That’s one way of putting it. Rhoden, as mentioned, has heard the words. This is how he put it:

‘Billie Holiday painfully sang “Strange Fruit” in reaction to seeing the horrid aftermath of lynchings. There has been Don’t Shoot, I Can’t Breathe, Say Her Name and Black Lives Matter. Now there are angry sounds coming out of the protective bubble.’

The players have objected, one way or another. They’ve taken a knee. They’ve worn black armbands. They’ve tweeted. They’ve marched. They’ve objected with thousands and thousands of others.

And now what? Well, I can do no better than defer to Rhoden for perspective:

‘What do you say when words are not enough, when gestures are no longer sufficient? What happens when your actions are no longer seen, your words fall on deaf ears and all that is left is unsatisfied justice?’

What do you say? What would you say? What do you do? What would you do? What should the basketball players in Bay Lake, Florida do and say? What happens now?

‘Don’t play,’ Rhoden suggests. There’s a bigger battle out of the court in places that cannot be bubbled. If it’s a game, then you have to play it. Hard. And, ironically, the way to start playing THIS GAME is just that. You stop playing. And certainly not by the rules of the enemy at the gate.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer