America is arguing over whether to have compassion for refugees seeking asylum. Currently, they are being charged as criminals for coming here. Their children are being taken from them with no system in place to return them. After several fitful days of back and forth on this via social media, I happened to get into my car… and what should be playing but NPR’s Only a Game on our local affiliate, WTJX-FM. What I heard healed my soul. It was NBA’s Ray Allen: Learning — And Teaching Others — About The Holocaust.
Imagine the plight of people who have risked everything, being trailed by gangs and human traffickers. They are holding out a thin hope that they might reach a country that will have mercy and consider a request for refuge. My feelings on behalf of these people whom I have never met has created quite a bit of measured but tense conversation. Turns out I know a lot of people who don’t care to imagine anyone’s plight when it comes to immigration. They are not unfeeling, it’s just that this topic does not register with them.
From Anne Frank’s Diary to Schindler’s List
Not being a sports person, I did not know who Ray Allen was before today. Apparently, he is some sort of superstar: one of the NBA’s most fabulous shooters and former player with the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle Supersonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. He is also a Black man who took it upon himself to honor the Holocaust.
As a child in a military family, he grew up in Europe. In middle school he read my favorite book “Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl” about two Jewish families being hidden during World War II. Tragically, they were found by Nazis and shipped to the concentration camps. He did not realize it was a true story until his college days when he saw the movie “Schindler’s List”… and this opened something within him.
One of his takeaways: just one good person can make a difference even in an environment that is awash with evil. He put himself in the shoes of the Jewish people who were under siege, as well as the many heroes who risked their livelihoods and the lives of themselves and their families because they could not sit by and allow their Jewish friends to be processed away into nothingness.
Caring beyond “the struggle”
As a Black woman, I know that showing concern for anyone other than Black people makes me suspect to certain other Black people. I guess it looks like I am forgetting “the struggle”. My attention on things taking place outside of the Diaspora is taken as a betrayal, as though my heart is not large enough to focus on more than one thing at a time. I found that Ray Allen has to deal with the same thing.
Allen visited Auschwitz, one of the most notorious death camps, in 2017 and penned an article, “Why I Went To Auschwitz” for The Player’s Tribune. He was questioned on why he, as a Black man, would make learning about the Holocaust and its survivors such a major part of his life. It was heartening to learn that rather than shutting people down, he opted to take on every objection, with a response as to why he felt that what he was doing was so important for everyone. Not just Jewish people. Everyone.
Allen does not view the Holocaust from a Black, White, Jewish or American perspective, but as a human being. He walks a mile in shoes that covered courageous ground and wonders if he would have been as brave if one of his own children was at stake. As a Black man – even a successful one – living in America, he realizes that racial hatred still exists. This makes him more determined than ever to share with the younger generation and stand up to Holocaust denial.
I have no idea where Allen would come out on the current immigration firestorm. It really does not matter. I discovered compassion beyond myself in Anne Frank’s diary. Allen’s delayed reaction led him back to that book and beyond. His journey of discovery has at its center the words “Never Again”… and somewhere in all of this, I find peace.