Pastor Lorenzo Neal

I recently decided to research the stock market to learn more about how it works. I discovered that the most invested items are commodities.  Being the curious person that I am, I wanted to know what defined a commodity and went to the best place to find out anything about anything: Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines a commodity as a good for which there is demand, but which is supplied without qualitative differentiation across a market. It is fungible, i.e. the same no matter who produces it... its price is determined as a function of its market as a whole…Well-established physical commodities have actively traded spot and derivative markets. I also learned that commodities can be traded as futures. In other words, a person can pay a specific price and should the price of the commodity increase or decrease; said person would make or lose money.  This is only possible as the demand of the commodity in the market fluctuates.

These last couple of months saw hype surrounding one of America’s most valued commodities-the black athlete. Lebron James, who recently became a free agent, made big news as he was being courted by NBA franchises to become a part of their team. It was even speculated that President Obama had hopes that James would join the Chicago Bulls. During a live hour long television special on ESPN, James made the announcement that he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and joining fellow NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh as part of the 2010 Miami Heat team roster. Because of his decision, people burned his jersey, stock in some NBA franchises dropped, and a city and region mourned as if they had lost a very dear loved one. It even prompted majority team owner Dan Gilbert, to write an open letter to Cavalier fans where he described James’ decision as “bitterly disappointing, and this kind of cowardly betrayal.” You can read more by following this link to the AP article.

I remember reading about slave trading and auctions during the 18th and 19th centuries. In the United States, slaves were a valuable commodity. Black families were bred to be traded and used as barter to meet the labor demands of the growing country both in the North and the South. Black males were the most prized commodity a slave-owning family could possess. They produced the quality products that were necessary and even worth fighting over.  Slaves were kept in pens, paraded before potential buyers, and had to endure being poked, pricked and mocked. It was a highly degrading process and also caused many families to be torn apart never to be reunited or repaired to this day.

In a sense, the new commodity is the black athlete. Less than sixty years ago, black athletes were limited to playing in their own segregated athletic leagues. They were perceived as not having the ability to perform on the level of white players. As teams began to integrate in the mid to late 20th century, this myth was proven to be very wrong. Not only did black players perform on the level of white players, but in most cases, they outperformed them. Now, with the exception of sports such as soccer, rugby, lacrosse, and professional ping pong, blacks dominate every facet of American sports. Recruiters begin spotting good talent as early as junior high school. Parents, especially single parents, put forth much effort to have their children attend camps and summer sports to enhance their child’s chance of making it. College recruiters shower star athlete’s parents and families with extravagant gifts in order to draw their star to their team. Black players have become such a valuable commodity that athletes such as James can command media attention just to announce his future intentions.

What does this say about the worth of black athletes, the black mind, and black people altogether? Does it showcase natural talent that is being exploited by parents, coaches, universities and professional leagues? Does it mean that young black men are only as valuable as their athletic abilities of other gifting make them? It is surely a reflection on the past in that we as blacks are still limiting ourselves to being promoted and valued only as a commodity that can be marketed, traded and exploited once again to meet the demands of a fan base for a particular team or city. I would consider such thing a mockery to the great efforts put in by civil rights advocates of the 20th century who demanded equality but have reaped something far less than expected.

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