ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — McQuaid senior Kobe Long thought racism had to do with NASCAR races as a child, until he encountered it in second grade.
He enrolled in Monroe County’s Urban-Suburban program, and was the only Black child in his grade. His teacher refused to let him drink from the water fountain in her classroom, forcing him to drink on an unsanitary one in the hall because he was “misbehaving” in her class.
When Long’s parents found out about the incident, they removed him from the school, and gave him a formal lesson in racism.
His experience with early discrimination is not uncommon for Black children in the Rochester community.
Isaiah Stewart, former University of Washington standout and McQuaid star, felt pressure to fit in with his white peers as well.
“Sometimes you feel like you have to dress a certain way or talk a certain way to fit in,” said Stewart. “I understand with a lot of young, Black African Americans and athletes were taught that growing up.”
One of the biggest avenues of change for equity in sports begins with white coaches.
“It’s one thing to listen, another thing to understand, but means the most to take action,” said Stewart, who has been frustrated seeing a lack of college coaches publicly standing in solidarity with their Black athletes.
“They sit in our living rooms and tell our parents they’ll take great care of us if they come to our school and now it’s a great opportunity for these kids being recruited by these schools to pay attention and see if they’re saying something.”
The idea being is if we’re so willing to watch these athletes thrive on the field, court, or in any athletic capacity, perhaps we can also listen to them.
“Black people are not only for entertainment and sports purposes, we are also human beings and there’s no reason why what we have to say should be shut up and dribble,” said Long. “There shouldn’t be an argument about why racism needs to be eradicated.”
Long uses his platform on a smaller scale, reaching his classmates at McQuaid who are about to enter the real world in a few short days. Stewart, likely a first round pick in this year’s NBA Draft, is using his new large platform to make sure the kids who look up to him know they are not alone.
“It’s definitely hard, but I’m proud to be a Black African American.”