I am Black History: A Reflection
By the NFHCA’s Black Coaches Council
Forgotten. Twenty-two months ago, I thought the world was ending. Twenty months ago, I watched a police officer willfully murder a Black man in public. Twenty months ago, it became national news, that a young Black man was shot and killed by white men because he was running “suspiciously” through a neighborhood. Twelve months ago, supporters of former President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol with the intent to disrupt Congress assembled to count electoral votes for the 2020 election. Oh…and COVID-19 happened. And just like that, field hockey ended abruptly.
As I reflect on these incidents, it is undeniable they shaped the history of so many people, so many Black people. These events are etched in our minds for reasons that cannot always be articulated. My world was forever changed and the way I saw myself in the world would never be the same.
But I live two lives: one as a Black person and the other as a Black person who coaches field hockey.
As a Black person, I saw white people and companies speak out against the public, and now seemingly normalized, racism against Black people. White people cried with and for Black people. The world protested together. The. Whole. World. People were publicly called out, companies and people were canceled, diversity, equity, and inclusion training and cultural competency were the new “thing.” There was a collective mission to change the world and to finally see Black people and acknowledge our experience.
As a Black person who coaches field hockey, I saw colleagues and players look at me with sadness in their eyes, wanting to say something, but not sure what to say. I thought of every single racist and stupid remark I’ve heard over the years. “I am almost as dark as you.” “Can I touch your hair?” “Why do you have to put on sunblock?” “No, but what are you really?” I was angry, and I questioned if I had the capacity to continue living in the all-white world of field hockey. For so many years, I was invisible and obsolete, but now I was being told that my Black life mattered. People wanted to hear about my experiences as a Black coach.
As a Black person who coaches field hockey, I wondered if I would lose my job if I publicly called out racism on social media platforms and showed my support at local and national protests. I firmly and proudly support those athletes who choose to kneel for the anthem, but would I have the courage to do the same when we returned to play? Would I be judged? Will my school support my decision? What would my players think?
Today, I feel forgotten. Conversations have stopped, phones are not buzzing, emails are no longer overflowing, protests and rallies have diminished, field hockey play has returned to normal.
When someone dies, the family is inundated with calls, food, flowers, love. Everyone wants to know what they can do to help and offers condolences. Within a month or so, the calls, food, flowers, and the love stops. The family still must learn to navigate a new life without their loved one, but the people on the periphery move on.
That’s what this feels like, everyone has moved on. Black people and Black coaches still have conversations about racism. We still compare stories of the ignorant things people say to us. We talk about the trauma that now lives in us after watching and hearing of so many Black people wrongfully killed. We can’t watch the news. We talk about the unlikely friendships that emerged through such trying times. We talk about unmet expectations and broken promises. We talk about the guilt we feel because we did not speak up when a white person said or did something that was racist and hurtful. We discuss ways we can impact our communities, how to make the sport more diverse, and inclusive. We wonder if we are being too sensitive. We still seek out allies. We support young athletes and help them navigate racists events that happen at school or on the field. We counsel each other. We cry together.
On this day, I wish white people understood that social justice cannot happen without them. Equity requires constant attention and conversation. Change requires action, leadership, and disruption. I wish white people understood that Black people live in a constant state of high alert — it has become instinct to prepare for the possibility of the worst. I wish people understood the weight of feeling forgotten, unworthy, and overlooked. I wish Congress would pass an Anti-Black Hate Crime Bill.
I am Black first. I am a field hockey coach second. The two do not always easily coexist. This skin is what others see first — it is ever present. I chose field hockey — it can be left behind. I did not choose this skin — it is with me always. But the pain, the struggle, the judgment, and confusion of how to show up in the world and be my authentic self often exist in both lives.
I wish the pomp and circumstance and the passion that many felt twenty months ago, remained. I wish those conversations and push for change was the norm. I wish the discussion of racism and Black pain did not move in cycles. I wish my Black life mattered every day.
About the Authors
The NFHCA Black Coaches Council (BCC) was created in August 2020. The mission of the BCC is to expand the visibility of Black coaches in field hockey communities and increase opportunities for Black coaches to teach and be educated. The BCC exists to provide a space for Black coaches to convene, connect, provide support, and fellowship both professionally and personally over shared experiences.
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The National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) is a nonprofit organization serving field hockey coaches and supporters of the game from across the United States. The mission of the association is to champion, strengthen, and celebrate field hockey coaches and the game. The NFHCA strives to be the organization that every field hockey coach looks to for the resources to grow in the game and the inspiration to stay in the game.