So, I Took My White Friend to Play Basketball Last Night . . .
I met Mike in high school when I was 13. We bonded over soccer, basketball and a simple minded curiosity in the stock market. The 1987 version of Wall Street was both of our favorite movies at the time and we both dreamt of working in finance and making tons of cash. We then went to college and we both graduated with degrees in finance.
Here is where things changed:
My junior year in college I launched my first startup with some friends and I fell in love with the idea of building products. This was in 2009, a year after the recession, when I realized the 1987 version of Wall Street was not only a movie, but it was real life. Finance people can be evil, man! I was over finance but it was too late for me to switch majors. I took a year off after graduation to work on my startup, it failed. I then went to graduate school at Dartmouth. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life at this point, so I journeyed back to what I knew best, and started studying financial theories while in graduate school. But my love for building products still remained and I got together with a group of friends from China and launched a second startup, it also failed. I then decided to try to build something by myself and I am currently the founder of Blastchat. After college Mike took an entry level private equity job at one of the big banks in Manhattan. He worked in the same position for a couple of years, then got promoted in year two, again in year three and was recruited by everyone for a VP role in year five. He now makes six figures and is engaged.
So here we are, me the struggling and hopeless entrepreneur and Mike the successful financier and family man. I listen to his stories about the hundreds of millions of dollars that he’s in contact with on a daily basis and he listens to my stories about the struggles of being a black person in tech. The only difference is this, I am infatuated by his career stories. Millions of dollars will always be an interesting topic of discussion. But he does not care too much to understand my “complaints” as he calls them. He listens to what I am saying but he usually tells me things like “just work harder, your opportunity will come”, just like most white people. I do not think Mike or other white people are racist, but they just don’t get it!
So I Took Mike to Play Basketball Last Night
A friend of mine contacted me and asked if I wanted to meet him at a gym for pick up/open run (5 on 5 basketball). I agreed and I sent a blast to 17 friends on Blastchat saying “Anyone want to come play pick up with me in a couple of hours?”, a few minutes later Mike was one of the few people that responded. (That’s how Blastchat works, you can send one message to a group of friends or your followers and they can responded individually a second later)
Mike agreed to play! We were set! I had never been to this gym and the only person I knew that was going to be there is my buddy that invited me but he cancelled at the very last minute. But we decided to go anyway, despite not knowing anyone. We walked in the gym and it wasn’t surprising that everyone in the gym was black and Mike was the only white one there.
Pick up was supposed to start at 7:30 and if anyone knows anything about black people, they know we are always late to social functions. But I was ten minutes early because I was with my boy White Mike. There were only nine players there and they needed one more. A guy came over to Mike and I and yelled “Yo, you want to play?” I didn’t have my sneakers on at the moment, so I told Mike he can go play. Mike got up and started walking to the court and the guy moved around Mike and yelled again, this time looking at me “Yo, you want to play?”. I didn’t think much of it. I put my sneakers on and started playing.
As the game went on, new players started walking in the gym. One guy walked in the gym with about five other people and screamed, “Who has next?” meaning who is the captain of the team that is playing next. Mike didn’t say anything, so the guy said “Aight, cool. We are next!”. Then he looked to his buddy and said, “You can get next, after me!”
Game 1 was over, my team won, so we stayed on to face the new challengers.
The new team were up and it is obvious that the captain of this team picked his friends to play with him, even though Mike was waiting to play. But he wasn’t able to play because he didn’t call “next”. As game 2 went on, two more players walked in the gym and called “next”.
My team lost that game, so I was basically a free agent like Mike waiting to either get picked up or to be a captain of my own team.
The captain of the upcoming team came up to me and asked me if I wanted to play again. He had the choice of Mike and I and he chose me. I was going to offer my spot to Mike but I had just lost and I was eager to play again to get a win.
My team lost again!
Mike wasn’t the captain of this game either and just like last game the captain of the team came up to me and asked me if I wanted to play again. I felt bad because I had just lost two games in a row but what hurt more was the fact that my friend wasn’t getting the opportunity to play. So I said no and I called “next”, not for the next game but the game that followed.
Again, the captain asked me if I wanted to play and I said no because I was waiting to be a captain and chose Mike. He didn’t ask Mike.
I am the captain and I pick Mike to be on my team. We won! Mike played very well! But unfortunately everyone else was tired and they decides to call it quits!
Pick up was over and Mike had only played one game!
When we got in the car Mike was ranting and hollering about how no one had chosen him to play on their team, how he only played one game and how much better of a player he was than them. I just sat back and laughed because it was clear what had happened. Mike wasn’t given the opportunity to play because he didn’t look like the rest of the players nor was he friends with anyone there besides me. And he had the right to be upset because he was better than the majority of the players there but was never given the opportunity to prove himself.
He continued to holler and he was really upset. I could have been a douchebag and gave him the same advice he had given me when I complained about the racism in tech and not getting any opportunities to prove how great my company can be but the only thing I said was
“Welcome to my world, buddy”
He stopped hollering and started texting his fiancé.