Racism is a funny thing – by funny I mean haha funny, as in, it’s funny when you’re not on the other end of it. In my experience, folks sometimes try to use their understanding of race to build bonds. Unfortunately, what comes across is race as a representation of difference that creates a chasm to be bridged through the awkward offering of stereotypes. As if snapping their fingers and saying ‘oh no he di-int’ in my face will endear them to me. From that statement alone, I’m sure you can guess my race. Such is life for people of color in America, however we want to deny it behind idealistic dreams of ‘post racial America’, race still matters, even for the model minority.
Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American Harvard alum who is taking the world by storm as the new point guard for the New York Knicks, has not been shielded from everyday experiences that POCs face. In a candid NPR interview he gave back in 2010 whilst playing for Harvard’s basketball team, he shared the racial slurs that fans would toss at him: Go back to China; Chinese import; Can you see the scoreboard?
Basketball fans are well-acquainted with stories about a local star who never got to show their skills outside the neighborhood courts.
And make no mistake, Tayshana Murphy was on her way to bigger things. As Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams wrote:
Mention a court in New York City — West 4th, Rucker, Orchard Beach — they don’t just know of Tayshana “Chicken” Murphy. They know her. She possessed that killer crossover and played “man strong,” as Taylonn, her father, likes to say. Tayshana loved contact. “Babies,” she called the girls who helplessly bounced off of her when she drove to the rim. She played taller than her 5-foot-7 and with a fierceness that contrasted against her gentle, hazel eyes.
Those eyes sized up Shannon Bobbitt of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever this summer.
Bobbitt conducts a clinic every year outside the Harlem projects where she grew up. The clinic is a way for children to see the footsteps she laid for them to follow. Bobbitt had heard of Tayshana and that she could ball. She probably had no idea that the high schooler was itching to test her skills against the professional.
“She’s fast as hell, Pops,” Tayshana told her father of Bobbitt. “But she’s so little. She can’t handle me. I’m too big for her.”
Murphy’s story came to a premature and violent end on Sept. 11, when she was shot and killed in the Grant Houses project where she lived. Initial reports said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity stemming from a feud between residents of the Grant Houses and the nearby Manhattanville Houses – a story her family refuted.
Like many college basketball players, Emily Tay’s quest to keep her career going led her to Europe. But her journey on the court is just a part of her story, and No Look Pass, which premiered this past weekend at Outfest in Los Angeles, captures the remarkable pressures Tay faces in her life, and not just as a basketball player.
The film chronicles Tay’s transition from starring at Harvard, where she was named the Ivy League’s Player of the Week three times as a senior and singed rival Yale with 34 points in her final game, to starting her professional career in Germany, a decision which puts her at odds with her parents, who expect Emily to enter an arranged marriage. What her parents don’t know, though, is that Emily is gay. Her romantic life faces another challenge in Germany, where she begins a relationship with a U.S. servicewoman.
Because the film’s July 9 premiere sold out, a second showing has been added:
When: July 17 Where: Directors Guild of America 7920 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood Tickets available here
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World