was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could
accept. I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of
acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I
contributed. It was because of the way I looked." —Lena Horne
One evening last week I took Scout to the playground so she could climb on the monkey bars while I shot hoops. (What's worse: that, or pushing her on the swing while reading Harper's? What can I say? Playgrounds are dull.)
As I'm shooting around by myself, a gaggle of little kids runs up and asks if they can play too.
"All right," I bellow, pretending I'm the hero of some cool urban movie whose plot will reveal itself soon. "Everyone against me!"
I don't block their shots and take impossible shots myself, so the score is close. But they're all ball hogs and pretty soon they're fighting amongst themselves.
A light-skinned African-American kid turns to a dark-skinned African-American kid and says, "Pass the ball … Black."
The kid looks wounded.
I stop the game and ask them their ages.
"Eight," they say at the same time.
"Then show a better example for these younger boys," I say sternly, pointing to a four- and five year-old who are playing with us.
They take me seriously, to my surprise, and the rest of the game goes smoothly.
Later, I tell this story to my wife, who teaches in an elementary school in an all-black neighborhood on the West Side. She shrugs, like a paramedic you're trying to impress with a story about a heart attack.