cover image Full Dissidence: Notes from An Uneven Playing Field

Full Dissidence: Notes from An Uneven Playing Field

Howard Bryant. Beacon, $24.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8070-1955-9

Bryant (The Heritage), a writer for ESPN the Magazine, poses disquieting questions about the intersection of race, politics, history, and sports in this wide-ranging and sharp-edged essay collection. Contending that “black success... has always led to white retribution,” and that African-Americans’ grievances inevitably spark “white mainstream backlash,” Bryant discusses organized resistance to Supreme Court-mandated school desegregation, the creation of urban slums through white flight and redlining of real estate districts, the militarization of local policing in the wake of 9/11, and the election of Donald Trump following the Obama presidency. Autobiographical forays into Bryant’s youth in “the hostile white backdrop” of Plymouth, Mass., and experiences with racial prejudice while hunting for a Boston apartment enrich his arguments, though the book’s focus is on sport figures including Tiger Woods, Madison Keys, and Colin Kaepernick and their status at “the forefront of a certain type of trade: assimilation in exchange for money and star status affixed to serious considerations.” These and other black athletes, Bryant contends, must choose between leaving their home culture and never returning, or speaking out and “expect[ing] the full weight of their industry... to punish them.” Bryant’s informed analyses and righteous anger transform sports into a valuable lens and tool for examining and combatting racism. Progressive sports fans will heed this incisive cri de coeur. (Jan.)