I’ve been talking about the Cavs a lot lately, totally soaking in this wonderful feeling that is a victorious Cleveland. Growing up here, I have cheered on the Browns, the Indians, the Cavs, the Force (and once, the Gladiators). I’ve also watched many soccer games that my kids have played.
One of the things I like about sports is that it teaches us that race doesn’t matter. I know it wasn’t always that way, that breaking the race barrier was huge, and we can never forget the extraordinary difficulties (and the ugly prejudices that have not gone away in society), but the strides being made in sports and in fandom show us what is possible.
I have felt not-white growing up in Cleveland. Not horribly, not frequently, not often overtly. Others have definitely had it worse than me. Being of Asian Indian descent, the worst I have had to deal with are 1) being confused with “rain dance” Indians, 2) being presumed smart, and 3) having my name mispronounced. Annoying, but not life threatening. So I’m not going to claim to be an expert on the difficulties of being colored in America, but neither am I going to naively claim that we live in a post-racial society.
What I would like to point out is that this city is celebrating its first championship in 52 years thanks to an inter-racial team (I struggle to use the term diverse) led by a black coach. Our savior is a black man. We are so proud of “our Akron son.” Their talents and character are what matter, not the color of their skin. Which is just as it should be.
And the crowd of 1.3 million was diverse-—in terms of race, socio-economics, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age—-and we all got along. We spoke to strangers, lifted kids in the air to give them a better view, helped each other, shared vuvuzelas. With peace and celebration in mind, we demonstrated that none of these demographics needs to be divisive. For one day, there was no us versus them. We were all us.
In a few weeks, the Republican National Convention will be coming to town. And this time, I’m afraid, the focus is not on unity. By design, politics foster a feeling of us versus them. It’s a competition, after all. And I know being heard is important. I understand caring about the fate of this country and believing fervently that your candidate stands for that.
But whether you’re Republican or Democrat, supporter or protester, when we look at someone at the other side of the picket line, I hope we can remember that, over the past month, as we gathered at watch parties around town, at the games, outside the Q, or along the parade route during the Cavs Rally and Parade, we were all in. We were, and always should be, together.