Relive This Memorable Moment: Do You Remember?

12:35 PM“I love my blackness. And yours.”

Those are the words that DeRay McKesson, the educator turned activist turned media personality, tweets regularly, a statement of self-affirmation that is as much an exercise of self-love as it is rebellion. Wednesday night at Staples Center, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors beat the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that could field a full starting five of biracial players if they so chose.

Two weeks before that, KD told the San Jose Mercury News‘ Logan Murdock that he had an epiphany. It had finally occurred to him what it meant to be black. It took moving to Oakland, California, to play for the Golden State Warriors, but he finally figured it out.

“If I find something that’s empowering to people that look like me, I just try to send a subtle message that I got your back and I hear you and I try to inspire you as much as I can from just being in this world as a black man coming up, even though I was looked at and viewed a little differently for it,” Durant told Murdock. “But I’m still a black man. I understand where you’re coming from.”

When Durant came into this world, the city he was born in was still three years away from becoming the murder capital of the U.S. The drug kingpin known as Rayful Edmond III was a little more than six months from being put in prison for being largely responsible for much of the drug culture that ravaged Washington, D.C., and Mayor Marion Barry was just over two years away from video of him smoking crack on an FBI video going viral. Those were in Durant’s distant surroundings.

“Because the streets is a short stop,” the Notorious B.I.G. rhymed on the 1993 classic “Things Done Changed,” on Bad Boy Records. “Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” Durant had the latter. But his immediate surroundings were different, although not necessarily a different world from the glaringly awful headlines of his youth in his hometown.

To most people, that’s what blackness is.

The question of when one wakes up is always fascinating. For some players, like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker, whom I met at The Undefeated’s Chicago summit, activism through voice came naturally. As a millennial from the South Side of Chicago, the notion of “speaking up” was never one that required an awakening. It’s not the same for everyone, though.

Some players use their blackness as their primary swag in their quest for success. And God bless them for it. For others, it’s a by-product of their existence, at least until they get into a world in which they are forced to confront it. Point being, it’s certainly not the same for every single black athlete. It varies from background to background, upbringing to upbringing, sport to sport, no matter how often fans and others try to lump them all into the same mindset or understanding.

Yet, still, that question — what is your blackness? — remains a fascinating one for both athletes and the rest of us alike.

Jay-Z, the rap mogul who once was a part of the ownership group of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and, in many minds, a large part of the reason that they moved to Brooklyn, had an eye-opening experience at the highest level of sports. Sure, his Negro status mattered, but so did his star status.

“When I was doing the Nets, I was definitely the only black guy in the room,” he said, speaking to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet in a must-see, wide-ranging interview about being a black man in President Donald Trump’s America. “It was um, it’s strange, but at the same time I think that … I think that in that room, my celebrity allowed me a voice that probably would have been awkward for someone [else] in my position being the only black person in the room to break through.”

Meghan Markle, the American actress who recently got engaged to British royal Prince Harry, has the media falling all over themselves to make sure we know she’s mixed-race. Her Wikipedia page has an extended portion about her ancestry. You could say that she learned just how black she was not while growing up in Los Angeles or attending Northwestern University but when she decided to join the most exclusive white club in the world.

For comedian Elon James White, creator of the web platform “This Week in Blackness,” he found exactly how black he was when his then-girlfriend, now-wife (who is white) went to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner without him, because he wasn’t invited, for two years in a row. After telling the world about how he leaned on black women during these times of sorrow, he got quickly canceled by Twitter for what some felt was duplicitous nonsense.

April Ryan, the White House correspondent whose relationship with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is icy at best, was reminded of just how black she is when she wasn’t invited to the White House Christmas party. Petty knows no color.

Personally, I get reminded every single time I appear on television and another black person is telling me to brush my hair. I politely remind them that I do it for the kids out there who need to believe that succumbing to European standards of beauty isn’t the only way to live your dreams and work in public spaces. I love my nappiness. And yours.

Point is, we all have our reminders.

For Kevin Durant, the Bay Area, Colin Kaepernick, Tupac and Rick James are his reminders. He’s got tattoos of the latter two. In talking to Murdock, author of the piece in which KD revealed his realization, he noted how ready the reigning NBA Finals MVP was to talk about his identity. ” ‘Hell, yeah,’ he said. Just like that,” Murdock noted, regarding when he asked Durant’s team about getting the exclusive interview.

Maybe all we’re really seeing is a return to form from Durant. After all, he was born in the blackest major city in America.

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