For the Love of Basketball (with Hanif Abdurraqib & Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein) | Crooked Media
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June 22, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
For the Love of Basketball (with Hanif Abdurraqib & Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein)

In This Episode

This week on Stuck with Damon Young, poet and author Hanif Abdurraqib joins Damon to give their takes on basketball fans’ relationship with NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, as well as to speak on their own personal relationships with the game and how they’ve changed over time. Then on Dear Damon, Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein returns to help Damon advise a listener on the nuances of antisemitism and its correlations to racism against black people.





Hanif Abdurraqib: I think basketball’s in some ways contributed to my cynicism, perhaps because I played point guard. And so I think there’s a requirement of seeing multiple things ahead of time. And at a very early age, that’s like wormed its way into my personality makeup. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: And so I think the engine of whatever cynicism I do have is rooted in this reality that I am looking at every potential possibility for what is coming and not necessarily all that interested in what is. And as someone who was just, like, wrecked by anxiety all the time, my relationship with what could be is never really a positive one. [music plays]


Damon Young: Welcome back, everyone to Stuck with Damon Young. The show where we’ve earned the right to not play defense anymore. My offense is my defense, so I need to conserve energy and my presence as a 44 year old still out there hooping, still out there, whipping young boys asses is a present. As basketball has been a vital part of my life for 35, shit, almost 40 years now. It was once just a way for me to have fun, to be myself, and also to assert my status amongst my peers. And there’s still some of that. Sure. But now it’s also a way of acknowledging and assessing my own mortality. So anyway, today I’m joined by MacArthur Genius, Hanif Abdurraqib. And we talk a bit about Nikola Jokić and the NBA Finals, but mostly we get into it about just how our relationships with the game of basketball have evolved as we’ve gotten older. And then for dear Damon, Chanda Prescod Weinstein joins us again to help me answer a question about antisemitism and the quote unquote “positive stereotype.” All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] So joining us today is author, essayist, poet, MacArthur Genius, Hanif Abdurraqib. Hanif, what’s going on man? 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yo, what’s up, man? Thanks for having me. 


Damon Young: Thanks for coming through. So we’re recording this the day, the night, the morning after, I guess, Game five in the NBA finals. Did you watch? 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. Yeah. I was pretty locked into the playoffs. I mean, I’ve been watching the playoffs every year, but I was very locked into the finals, in part because I was just fascinated by Denver. I’m fascinated by teams that have never won the championship in their quest to win their first championship. And so I was really tapped in. So I watched last night. I wished the games would start a little earlier. I feel like 8:30 is that almost unnecessary start time. But nonetheless, I watched. 


Damon Young: The part about NBA start times, that I’m annoyed with it that the start times are never when the game actually starts. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Right. 


Damon Young: One of the few advantages the NFL seems to have over the NBA is that NBA games never start when they say they’re actually going to start. The NFL will actually give you the kick off time. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: You know, if they say to kick offs at 1:12, the kick off is going to be at 1:12. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Right. [laughs]


Damon Young: NBA game starts at 8:30, could start at 8:30, could start at 8:37 could start at 8:42. You really have no idea. It’s one of those unique parts of, that’s very specific to basketball and also the NBA that even though it annoys me, it just I feel like it just adds more character to the game. [laughter] There’s just more variable, there’s more I don’t know. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: More nebulous shit happening during an NBA game. Even the MVP award, which no one have really been able to define. Does it mean most outstanding? Does it mean the best? Does it mean the person who had the best season, the best player on the best team. Again, we’re decades into this award and no one has a clear definition and we’re just fine with it. [laughter]


Hanif Abdurraqib: Right? Well, I mean, I think it’s much like all awards. I mean, I I’m pretty ambivalent about awards generally, and I’m pretty ambivalent about decoration generally and in part because so much of it is arbitrary. And I think the arbitrary nature of it is never more present than it is in sports, which is interesting to me because sports is a place where we should have real results based metrics that tell us who is the best or who is the, you know. But there are all these other variables that I that I agree are important. Team success is important, and how one gets their stats is important and how one perhaps plays on both ends of the floor can be important if it’s a close race, all these things. But I take this approach to awards where it’s like all you can control is you doing your best possible work. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: The rest is entirely out of your hands. You know, I like Nikola Jokić for a lot of reasons, but I feel like that’s how he kind of approaches the game where it’s like I’m going to do what I have to do and I’m going to do it the best I can possibly do it and that’s all I can control. 


Damon Young: One thing I also want to talk to you about, since we’re here, is your own personal relationship with the game and not just watching the game, but actually playing. So how often do you play right now? 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Now, it’s funny, I play pretty regularly, so I played basketball in my youth a lot. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: And I played soccer in my youth a lot. And I played soccer in college because I was too small to play basketball in college and I wasn’t very good [laughter] where I’m like, good enough, but not, you know, significantly better at soccer. But now, I mean, you know this because you were a college athlete maybe, there’s a way that college grinds you down and makes the sport a little less pleasing. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: For me at least. So I play basketball now semi-regularly, but in two different modes. One, if it’s nice out, I’m a real creature of routine. And so I’m a runner in the mornings. If it’s nice out, I’ll do my runs. I run every day and sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors. But I’ll knock out my miles and then I’ll take a ball to the basketball court and I shoot jump shots until I hit 50. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: You know, 50 jump shots. And some days it’s easier than others. And one thing that it teaches me about the writing process, too, is that when people always ask, do you write every day? I was like, Well, no, of course not, because some days are just not your days. Some days you got nothing. 


Damon Young: Mm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: And this routine teaches me that, you know, if I go out to the court and I hit my first five shots and I think, okay, I’m in, I’m locked in, I’ll get to 50 in maybe 20 more minutes. But if I go out and I miss my first ten, then I’m just going home. Yeah, I’m just like, all right, well. 


Damon Young: It’s not your day. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: But I also find myself playing with younger players because there are young writers who I mentor in the community here and a lot of them hoop and. I always tell them every year, like, you know, high school seniors or someone come back for college and I tell them, like, let’s get it running, you know, like, y’all are back from college. Let’s get it running. So once a month of the summer, I play full court with these guys who are like 19, 20, 21. And it’s a real testament, you know, I always end up leaving Philly feeling pretty confident, like I still got, you know, I can still effectively play, but I’m a very bad defender now. When I was younger, there are coaches who was like, you know, would call me like an unwilling defender. [laughter] Now I’m just like that to the highest degree. Like, I just don’t I’ll get into defensive stance. 


Damon Young: And that’s it. [laughs]


Hanif Abdurraqib: But that’s about it. But it means, you know, basketball to me. Helps shape my relationship with communication in a way, because it’s a game where even more than soccer, and I love soccer deeply, but it’s such a talkative game. Always have to be communicating in a million different ways. Basketball, the pleasure I found in it is that there is a mode of silent communication that you can operate within. I have a brother who’s about 17 months older than me. We were so good for so many years playing like two on two or three on three because. I get call for a screen from him without even calling him for a screen. We usually make eye contact and that’s it. So basketball, especially being the youngest of four and playing with siblings, taught me at an early age that there’s so much that can be communicated with the eyes, with a small nod, with a wink. These kind of things. 


Damon Young: You know, basketball is a game where it’s communicated at these lower frequencies and it could be a nod, it could be a look, it could be eye contact, it could be just the way you’re dribbling the ball. You know what I mean? It could be the way you catch the ball. And again, if you play with someone on a regular basis, then you have these ways of communicating with each other because you know each other’s tendencies and you know that, okay, if I’ll come off a screen this way. And I’m looking to my right, that means that I know that help was coming and you might be able to squeeze in a for a pocket pass. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. There and that’s the sort of thing that, again, there are ways to develop that immediately, right? When you have guys who really know how to play and you’re playing pick up and that happens within a span of minutes. But usually that sort of communication and the sort of communication we see with Jokic and Bird. That takes years sometimes. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Where you just know each other’s tendencies, you know each other’s mind. And one of the things that has changed with me in terms of what I get from the game, it’s I’ve always been more of an introvert. Right. That’s just always been me. I’m an INTJ which I guess is the introvert’s introvert. [laughter] You know, just how coaches would tell you, you know, you need to actually play defense. You need to not just be in a stand, you need to actually play defense. Coaches would tell me, you need to talk, Damon. You need to talk. You’re quiet out there. You need to talk. You need to communicate with people. And it’s something that I didn’t really start doing on a regular basis on a basketball court until I was like in my twenties and now I’m loud. Now I am calling out screens, I’m talking shit, I’m calling out plays. I am telling people to move. I’m Chris Paul. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Out there basically because, you know, once you get 44 and you’re still playing with younger guys that you need to beat, but it also kind of taught me the value of communicating in real life. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yep. 


Damon Young: Too, because that has always been a thing for me where people I’ve been in relationships with this could be romantic, relationships, could be friendships, this could be even my parents who’ve been like Damon. You don’t talk enough. You don’t let people know what’s happening. You don’t communicate well. And I think basketball, just seeing the impact that communication has on a basketball court has helped me accept that everyone else is right. [laughs] You know what I mean, and I need to actually open my mouth and let people know what I’m going to do, what I have planned, because it’s helpful for the entire team. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. Yeah. I think basketball’s in some ways contributed to my cynicism, perhaps because yup, I played point guard. And so I think there’s a requirement of seeing multiple things ahead of time. There’s a requirement and seeing every possible potential for what could be coming. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: And at a very early age, that that’s like wormed its way into my [laughs] into my personality makeup. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: And so I think the engine of whatever cynicism I do have is rooted in this reality that I am looking at every potential possibility for what is coming and not necessarily all that interested in what is. I’m very interested in what could be. And as someone who was just like wrecked by anxiety all the time, my relationship with what could be is never really a positive one [laughter] you know, or it’s rarely a positive one. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: But that, I think, was worked into my brain as a young basketball player who played point guard who yes, coming off the screen would need to see at least three possibilities almost immediately. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: You know, in soccer, too. I mean, like, you know, I played in defense and in the midfield. And so the way that sports works for me now, I see how it impacted my brain at a young age, because I’ve always been someone who was saying, I’m not that interested in this play. If I’m holding a ball, I’m not that interested in me holding ball. I’m interested in what will come of the next movement that will get the ball out of my hands. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. As we’re talking, I kind of just realized that the connection, I guess, between my lack of communication and shame, right? 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Because when I was younger, I was much more self-conscious about my teeth. My teeth were big. I had a big gap between my front teeth. And so me not communicating as much while on the basketball court was also because I wanted to keep my mouth shut as much as I could. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Oh, that’s wild. 


Damon Young: Yeah. You know, and not open it unless I absolutely, positively needed to. And I guess as I felt less shame about that and became less self-conscious, that also had an effect on how I act on basketball court. So it’s like the in real life evolution where I felt less shame affected my basketball playing and then me communicating more on the basketball court affected me in real life where you just had this I guess, this beautifully symbiotic relationship. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Where I was able to and I’m still working through, you know, some of that shame, but I was able to extract quite a bit of it, at least, you know, from what I experienced when I was in my teens and early twenties. And it’s funny because that’s when I was in my prime. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Right. Right. [laughs]


Damon Young: For me, my basketball prime was when I was like between like 18 to 22. And again, I look back at that and it’s like, you know what? I did not get the most I could possibly get out of those experiences because of the shame that I felt. And it’s like basketball is such a naked sport. Too.


Hanif Abdurraqib: It is. 


Damon Young: Where of the major sports it’s the one where the crowd is closest to the court. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. You could reach out and touch people. You’re not wearing a helmet or any other obscuring equipment. You’re basically out there with your underwear on [laughter] and everyone’s right on top of you. So if you’re a person who is experiencing any sort of self-consciousness or shame, this is not the sport for you at all. And I think I’ve always tried to understand how someone who experienced that sort of self-consciousness was able to feel comfortable on a basketball court, but that comfortable ness was conditional because again, I was comfortable playing and letting everyone see me play. But once people like saw my face, which again makes no sense because you can’t divorce that from the actual game. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. But again, that’s like the chaotic mess that was existing in my head back then. And again, that’s one of the reasons probably why I just wish that the 19 year old me would have been able to be more comfortable in in all aspects because I think it would have helped tremendously. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Sports are revelatory in a way because to be good at them is to kind of detach oneself, at least temporarily, at least in my case, was to detach myself from any insecurities that I had in the moment of being good, in the moment of succeeding. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: But what that meant for me often was the return to those insecurities post success [laughs] is daunting. I mean, I find that now is with writing in a way where whenever I get to the end of a book or even the end of an individual poem, for example, I’m always so steeped in gratitude and I don’t necessarily with books especially, I just had to turn in, you know, I turned in my newest book recently and I’m morn that. I morn the sting of, I lived in this container wherein it was only me, it was me, and this worked in this dream that I had built that I’m pursuing. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm.


Hanif Abdurraqib: And because it is only me and only me in pursuit of something that I imagined, the degree of failure, I can’t really fail, at least in my eyes. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Once the book reaches the public or reaches an editor, there are many ways that it can be not what we dreamed of. But in this kind of container, I cannot fail. And then when you detach yourself from that, it is like kind of being in the groove on a basketball court where you hitting several shots in a row and you feel like nothing could touch you. But once you remove yourself from that, once the game is over, once the book is turned in, once it’s all wrapped, to return to the world in which you are fallible and self-conscious and occasionally insecure and capable of both being harmed and doing harm, that is a hard journey to endure, one that I haven’t really figured out yet that I kind of hope I don’t figure out, because I think you don’t figure it out once you figure it out kind of perpetually. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: You know, you allow yourself an opportunity to continually get to the brink of something great where you feel unkillable, and then you pull yourself back from that brink and you get back in touch with your flaw of humanity again. But there’s a bridge between those two extremes. And in traversing that bridge is sometimes treacherous. 


Damon Young: I think what’s underneath what you’re speaking to, and even what I’m speaking to also is our relationship with our own mortality. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: When you’re in that zone, you feel bodyless, weightless. You feel untouchable. Right? And then when you’re snapped back to reality, you realize, like, no what, oh, shit, I’m human. I experience pain. I will die at some point. But I’m thinking of this, like in a basketball context. You know, playing basketball for me also has been like, a measure of my health. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Where I’m able to tell how good or not good I’m feeling by how I respond on the basketball court, but how my body responds and also how effective I am on the court. And it’s not effective in the sense of, oh, I’m hot today. And I made some shots and I’m feeling it today, but am I able to get past this guy? Am I able to get this rebound? Am I able to that third or fourth game? Is my back given out or am I still able to play? And I also play with younger guys, right. And it’s funny because there are a few of them who I feel like are getting better, which they should be because, you know, they’re going from like 19 to 20 to 22, but it’s like or they getting better or am I getting worse? [laughter] Right. And I can’t really tell. I know I’m getting worse, too, but I really can’t objectively assess how much to progressing because it’s happening in concert with my degression, whatever. And so basketball has been a form of catharsis. It also has been a way of fulfilling my ego. There’s this meme that’s been going around the Internet of D’Angelo Russell taking up shots after every game. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. Because he, you know, he played very poorly against the Denver Nuggets and he would always go and shoot some extra shots after the game. And now you’re saying he’s doing that even after games where the Lakers aren’t playing. [laughter] He’s out on the course, shooting extra shots. But that was me because I didn’t have like the greatest college basketball career, the most successful college basketball career. And sometimes after practice, after I allow basketball to flat me out, I would go and I would hoop. I would play pickup with like just the regular students. And I would do that directly after practice just to feel like how I’m used to feeling around the game, just to feel like shit. I matter. Because to me, at that point, if I wasn’t good at basketball, if I wasn’t one of the best in my area at basketball, then I didn’t matter. And obviously I don’t feel that way anymore. And now it’s more of like, it’s a cathartic thing. It’s a thing that helps me think it’s cardio. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. So it’s a thing that helped me survive, but it’s also a way of a real time way of measuring. Okay, how, how much of my aging and how is this age affecting my physical capabilities. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Physically, at least perhaps mentally for some, too. There is a point where we all just gradually get worse. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: At something or at many things. And I think the way I make peace with that is by hopefully becoming better at more sustainable things outside of the physical realm. Yeah, I mean, I’m a runner and so, I mean, I take running pretty seriously and I’m immensely aware that running is one of those things that people people go pretty deep into their age and are still active runners. I don’t know if that will be the case for me. I do it now because it feels good to me now. It might not feel good to me in a year and I’ll just stop. [laughs] You know, I’m not really in the pursuit of things that don’t feel good to me, but I’m saying that to say I’m aware. I’m deeply aware of the fact that at some point a start, a stark physical decline will be something that I’ll have to confront. And I pray that it happens in small doses and not one large wave. But the way that I really have as I’ve gotten older and I do want to be tender with the world older too like I’m not 40 yet. So, you know, my older is relative like my pops is in his mid seventies now, you know and it’s still. Lord willing [?] has more life left. But I say all this to say that I’ve gotten to watch elders, Black elders specifically who I’m in community with often age so gracefully. And we we talk about aging gracefully. Sometimes people affix it to the physical. This person is aging well because they look a certain way. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: But I think when I invoke that, I’m wondering how people age into a kind of generosity or an enduring kindness. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: The way you are with your peers, you know, and I know that she’s not an elder like Jackie Woodson is not an elder of ours. But last month, I was with Jackie Woodson for a bit. She’s not an elder in terms of age but she’s been in the game writing shit for a long time. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: And I was just so amazed by how she remains generous and curious and just like, eager to read writers who are not her, who are younger than her. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: That is aging gracefully and aging generously to me. Which, I mean, like, you know, Jackie also is beautiful, so she’s aging well in every way possible. [laughter] But, you know, when I think about aging gracefully, to detach it from the physical nature of things has been really useful for me because it has enlivened this desire I have to live well, to treat my mind well, to treat my heart well, and in doing so, to treat others well in the process. 


Damon Young: The first time I met Jackie was a Well-Read Black Girl book fest in 2018. Right. And I came up to ger, introduced myself. And you would have thought that I was Jacqueline Woodson. Right. [laughter] And she was just some random writer. The way that she responded, like, oh, my God, Damon. Like. And it was genuine. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Right. 


Damon Young: And that sort of energy. And, you know, to your point, I do think when we look at someone who is older and again, Jackie’s I don’t even know how old Jackie is, but she still looks very youthful. But when we talk about people who are like in their seventies or whatever eighties, who still look youthful and we consider that to be a sign of living well, and sometimes it is. But mostly that’s a sign of having good genetics of having good genes. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. But, you know, to your point, living well really should mean, okay, this person’s politics has evolved. This person is still kind. This person is still generous, this person is still curious. And in a basketball context, and I think this manifests where now you have some people who are getting older, right. And they’re not able to accept it and they still try to play like they’re 21 years old. Where yeah, maybe when you were 21, you know, you could take that shot [laughter] you know what I mean, because you would make that shot. [laughs] You know what I mean? You could dominate the ball because, you know, you were you were the best guy and that was the best way to win. But now you’re 42. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: You can’t play that way anymore and still have the same results. You’re not going to win. And so the people who have adjusted their games, it’s like, you know what? Although I’m decreasing physically, what can I do? How can I just mentally, in order to still be effective, in order to still be someone who people want to play with? Right. And again, that sort of perspective feels like it’s rare, but it shouldn’t be because I feel like it is so like. Almost easy to see. Even though, you know, our egos and our relationships will retaliate, I think that some people maybe feel that adjusting that acknowledging that mortality is a thing. 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Is them succumbing to to old age them basically signing a death certificate. But I look at it as extending your life more than anything else. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: The only requirement of our lives is that they will one day end and through our living, we’re not really required to do anything other than kind of march towards the certainty of the end of our lives. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: But many of us, many people who I love, admire, take on the responsibility of higher and heavier requirements they feel called to love people as well, to love themselves as well as they can to perhaps leave some small corner of the world a little bit better or more useful for anyone who might come after them and want to make some good use of their time here. But all of that, I think, has to come with first the understanding that our time here is not infinite. I have no interest in living forever. I have truly no interest in living forever. I don’t really dream of eternal life, at least not here. If there is perhaps somewhere else, there is like a heaven where I can be surrounded by people I miss dearly and loved then sure, like we could negotiate that I suppose. But in terms of my time here, I have no interest in being here forever. But I do have an interest in not simply shrugging away at the inevitability of my time here being finite. 


Damon Young: It’s funny. So I did a book event with that with Joseph Earl Thomas back in February or March. He came to Pittsburgh at the City of Asylum and we did a thing. So the day of or the day before, the thing we’re we’re texting or emailing or whatever, and he asks about want to go hoop before the event. And I’m like, okay, sure, let’s go hoop. And so two hours before the event, there’s a YMCA about three or four blocks away, and we played one on one. We played two on two with some guys in there. We shot around and I feel like I want to make that a regular practice. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: If it’s possible to hoop with the people that I’m about to do a book talk with. I want that to be a thing. Granted, I recognize that I’m good at basketball [laughter] right? So I’m not even going to pretend like I’m not. So this might be kind of like a, I don’t know, like an unfair sort of proposition, but I still feel like that’s something that could just enhance this journey of conversations that we’re on. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Absolutely. I think at some point it doesn’t matter how good you are or aren’t because you’re just kind of in it for the I mean, if you’re in it for it, just kind of enhancing of of community and conversation, that that that goal can be achieved no matter what talent levels exist. 


Damon Young: I say that to say that we got to hoop. We have to find some some time. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah we should hoop. 


Damon Young: Yeah. I mean we’re not we’re not that far from each other. You’re in Columbus. I’m in Pittsburgh. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: Yeah. 


Damon Young: We should be able to find some time you know in the near future to play basketball together. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: I would love that fam. 


Damon Young: Hanif Abdurraqib. Thank you for coming through. Appreciate your time. 


Hanif Abdurraqib: No doubt, man. It’s good to talk. 


Damon Young: So up next is Dear Damon with the homie Chanda Prescod Weinstein. But first Damon hates. [music plays] So I’m a just come out with it. I hate that patriarchy has made us and by us I mean men and by men I mean me. Reject things that are pleasurable because we are trying to fit a certain construct and also maybe shoehorn ourselves in trying try to do things that are unpleasurable. And this is a long winded way of saying that I enjoy sitting down to pee. Okay, now, not always. Like if I’m in public, if I’m at a public restroom, I’m not sitting on no fucking dirty ass Chipotle toilet to pee, right? I’m standing up. I’m using the urinal or whatever. But there are times when I’m home right and I have to pee and it’s like, you know what I’m a take this time. I’m just gonna take a little break, I’m gonna pee I’m gonna sit here. I’m gonna respond to this tweet. You know, what I mean, I’m going to collect my thoughts and then when I’m ready, I’m going to return to the world and I shouldn’t feel bad about that. I shouldn’t feel like that is like some unmasculine thing that do whatever. I should just go ahead and do it. And I have convinced myself that it’s not that there is no feminine or masculine way of going to the bathroom and even if there were. Who gives a fucking shit because there’s no such thing as, like, gender constructs around fucking urination. Right. But I think more of us, I think more men, more cisgender men should accept that it’s comfortable [laughs] to do that and not feel that way about doing it. Because again, there are times when you know you want to escape from the world. You had that time in the bathroom, you got your magazine, maybe you got your phone. If you’re ambitious, you got your laptop, which I don’t recommend, because then you’re going to have to clean the laptop off and you’re going to have like all types of, you know, shit, literally shit sometimes, you know, on the laptop. But anyway, I think that more of us should embrace the fact that it is comfortable to do things like this. And I think that one of the worst parts, of patriarchy, worst parts of this construct that we all seem to have investments in, is that it prevents us from doing things that we want to do, it prevents us from being comfortable. It prevents us from saying things like, you know what, I like what you’re wearing. Male friend. I like how you look. I think you’re handsome. That doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you. Maybe it does mean I want to sleep with you. Who cares who gives a fuck? I think we should give less fucks. And I think the best way to exhibit this general fuckless ness is to sit down and pee. [music plays] This week on dear Damon. We’re joined again by the homie Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein. Welcome back. to Stuck with Damon Young. Good to see you. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Good to see you, too. 


Damon Young: Are you a Dodgers fan? 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Yes, I’m wearing a Dodgers jacket right now. I only have like Black button down shirts and like Dodgers jackets, basically for when I want to, like, look nice. [laughs]


Damon Young: Okay, so you’re a Crip, basically. [laughs]


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Just a I’m a multi-generational Dodgers fan. Like my grandfather, who was from Brooklyn, was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: He eventually bought a house in East L.A. that you could see Dodger Stadium from. 


Damon Young: Okay. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: So I’m like multigenerational East L.A. Dodger fan. 


Damon Young: Okay. Well, I’m happy for you. I live close enough to PNC Park, which is where the Pirates Pittsburgh Pirates play, where I could walk to it. But I don’t own any Pirate’s apparel, whatsoever. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Where’s your sense of pride in your city, man? 


Damon Young: I mean, I. Okay, I’m not a jersey person. Right. And it always feels weird to see people rocking the jersey of a team when you live in that city. It’s kind of like putting an American flag outside my house. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Woah. 


Damon Young: It’s like everyone knows I live in America. [laughs]


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Woah. Okay so first of all. You know, to be clear, I’m like, rocking my Dodgers stuff, like in New Hampshire. 


Damon Young: Exactly. So it’s different. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Which, coincidentally, the first ever integrated professional baseball team was actually a Dodgers farm team here in New Hampshire. It was the Nashua Dodgers. This is something that I learned recently. 


Damon Young: Okay. Well, that is good. Like Black history, I think. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Yes. [laughs] Look, there are Black people in New Hampshire. We’ve been here the whole time. It’s only been a few of us for a minute, but we are here. 


Damon Young: You know what? That’s good news to know. If I’m ever in New Hampshire, I know that if I can’t connect with you, there are at least, like, six other people that I might [laughs] be able to, you know, get a drink with or go to brunch with or, you know, whatever. So Morgan the producer what we got going this week? 


Morgan Moody: Dear Damon, I’ve always been a bit confused about what constitutes antisemitism. I mean, of course, Holocaust denial and things like that, but suggesting that Jewish people are uniquely good with money. How is that a bad thing? 


Damon Young: Okay. I feel like if there’s anyone who is maybe qualified to answer this question, Chanda, it is you someone who is Black and also Jewish. Before we even get to that question, I’m curious, you know, what your relationship with antisemitism, is like when was the first time in your life that you experienced a situation that you recognized in the moment is like, holy shit, this was anti-Semitic? 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: I always hate telling this story because I always hate that it was Black people. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Really like, my first experiences with it were when I was 17 years old. I went off to college when I was 17, and I was sitting with a group of fellow Black students, and people started saying stuff about the Jews. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: And it was not good stuff. And there was one person in the group there who I knew was best friends with a white Jewish person. And he just sat there and didn’t say anything to, like, shut it down. We’re good on that point because we talked about it. He apologized. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: But that was the first time. And then actually, the second time was just a few months later. I was walking down the street in Chicago where I was spending the summer doing research in particle physics. And a member of the Nation of Islam saw my Star of David, my pennant on my chest and started following me and was like, sister, why are you betraying your people? 


Damon Young: Oh, wow. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: I was a 17 year old. You probably looked like 15 at that point. I was just trying to go to a restaurant. It was basically my first day in the city. And this, like, older man is following me around, accusing me of betraying my people. And he followed me into the restaurant. That was really my first experience with it being scary, right? Like when I was in college, I wasn’t afraid that I was going to get hurt. But that was a situation where I was actually scared. 


Damon Young: That’s legitimately terrifying. I’m sorry that those things happened to you, particularly a man following you in Chicago, the situations that you brought up both of those, you know, I feel like those are more kind of obvious examples of a bias of hate where people are actually making these, you know, statements about Jewish people. And then you have a man who harasses you, follows you, intimidates you based on him seeing you with the Star of David. So those things I think most people would recognize, like, okay, I get why that is anti-Semitic. But the question is mostly about, I guess, the quote unquote “positive stereotype” of like Jewish people being good with money. And this is something that I’ve heard as long as I’ve been aware of, like culture and race, like this is something that this existed. Quote unquote, “Jewish people run Hollywood Jewish people run the banks.” These are assertions that are like repeated without any sort of pushback is just it was almost like saying, oh, yeah, the sky is blue. Water is wet. Jewish people run Hollywood. Right. And I can see why someone who is maybe not steeped in antisemitism would have trouble understanding why that would be a bad thing. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: I think a few things come to mind. Right. So we could talk about like positive so-called air quote “positive” stereotypes about Black people. Like we’re all good athletes. We’re all good at basketball.


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Right. And that’s when we’re like, we might joke amongst ourselves about that, right? And be like, oh, yeah, I’m the one who’s not good at basketball, but everybody else is good at it. Right. And that’s a joke where we understand amongst ourselves like, yeah, we’re fucking excellent at a lot of stuff. And sports can be one of them. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: But we understand in context that it’s like we know we’re excellent at a lot of stuff, but it’s a whole different ballgame. Literally, when, like, some white person you don’t know is talking to you and you’re like, and they’re like, yeah, you people. You’re like, really good at basketball, right? [laughter] Like, so I don’t want to say structurally that anti-Blackness and antisemitism function the same because I don’t think that they do in an American context. But I think like in terms of an individual level, like how is that working discursively? It’s a you people comment. It’s a stereotype that characterizes everybody is being kind of identical. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: And removes people’s individualism and I think also doesn’t properly situate in context people should ask themselves where that stereotype comes from and the extent to which Jewish people are involved with money. There’s actually a history there. There is a point in time in Western Europe in particular, when Christians weren’t supposed to be handling money, and so Jews handled money because Jews weren’t allowed to do a bunch of other stuff. And so actually some of that relationship with money is a product of antisemitism.


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: In the same way that we can look at some of the ways that Black people in the United States are more likely to get rich in certain ways because those were avenues that were more available to Black people. Like. People understand that Black people can be successful athletes. They don’t understand Black people as successful physicists. And you see more Black athletes than Black physicists, right? It has nothing to do with Black people being bad at physics and being really excellent at athleticism. It’s a totally like social constructed thing. So I think that that’s a piece of it is that there is an actual historical context to it. And I think a lot of times, particularly when I hear antisemitism coming from Black Americans, that people need to unpack how much of that is shit they’ve been taught by white people and you don’t want to be walking around parroting stuff that white Christians have taught you to say. You want to think for yourself. 


Damon Young: Of course. Yeah, I appreciate you saying that it’s not quite a 1 to 1 comparison between anti-Blackness and antisemitism, but there are a lot of parallels. There are a lot of similarities. And also, you know, with the quote unquote “positive stereotype,” like even if you get, you know, very kind of esoteric and get within like the good at basketball thing, it’s not just that Black people are good at basketball is that Black people are naturally gifted at leaping. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Yes. 


Damon Young: That is the one thing like even more to speed, strength, agility. But it’s like leaping ability is the thing that Black athletes particularly are known for. And so there is like this expectation of if you are a Black athlete and you have a decent vertical leap, there’s entire movie and now TV show built around the stereotype of white people not being able to jump. [laughter] Right. And again, this is the sort of thing where it’s a quote unquote “positive stereotype” because, of course, on the surface level, like, okay, yes, sure, it’s a good thing to be known for leaping ability. Who wouldn’t want to have a great leaping ability if you’re an athlete. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: [laughs] Right. 


Damon Young: It’s a part of like the entire ecosystem of comments of suggestions or beliefs that Black people are inherently stronger, bigger, faster, athletically. And the thing is again, you can think to yourself, okay, what’s the problem with that? But then you start thinking, okay, well, if they’re this way, then that means they have a higher tolerance for pain. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Right. 


Damon Young: Than everyone else. That also means that if they’re so advanced physically, maybe they’re not as advanced intellectually. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Right. You think about like maybe they have a higher tolerance for pain, that this has real medical implications for how we get treated in hospitals. Studies show that doctors like medical students. So this isn’t just like an old people they’re going to die off and it’s not going to be an issue anymore. There are medical students who believe that Black people have a higher tolerance for pain, and it affects when a birthing person is talking about, I’m having this kind of issue, whether they get sent home. There’s literally a news item right now about a well-known Black athlete who died in childbirth and seem to have high blood pressure that was untreated, right? 


Damon Young: Yeah. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: So it’s a continuum. And I just want to name it, you know, what we would call this in academic terms is that it’s biological essentialism. So it does turn melanin into something that has biological meaning about our brains as opposed to this is just about skin color, this is just about heritage, etc.


Damon Young: The example that I always think back on there’s my mom, I wrote about my mom in my book and how I felt like she just wasn’t given the same sort of care before she was diagnosed with cancer. Stage four lung cancer. And perhaps if doctors would have taken her pain more seriously, maybe they would have discovered the cancer sooner. Maybe. So there is that. And then there’s also Serena motherfucking Williams, who almost died when I think either her first or second child. The first child and she was in a hospital and she was telling them like, you know, there’s something wrong with me. I don’t feel right. Something’s off. And they were ready to send her home. And she was like, I’m Serena Williams. I know my body [laughter] my body is worth millions of dollars. My body’s a finely tuned instrument, right? I know what the fuck I’m talking about. They finally took whatever test they needed to take. Like, holy shit. If they were to let her go home, she might have died. And so, again, anti-Blackness has these very devastating and dangerous effects. And so what are some of the effects of this sort of antisemitism where if you believe that Jewish people have this natural affinity for money or natural affinity for being like my [?] or saving or whatever, so what are some of the negative consequences of that sort of belief? 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: So I think there are a couple of things. One is that there are Jews of every racial identity and actually, like American Jews, are a fairly diverse population. I think I’ve seen some estimates that up to 20% of American Jews are people of color. So people like to use the word intersectionality a lot, but it is important to be aware. That you are talking about a very diverse group of people that hail from a lot of different backgrounds. So, I mean, I guess like the joking way of talking about this is like, so if I’m Black and Jewish and Jewish people are supposed to be really good with money, but Black people are really bad with money, do these things like cancel themselves out with me? [laughter] Like I’m just kind of neutral. I’m not like, particularly bad. I’m not particularly good. 


Damon Young: [laughter] You’re just Irish, I guess, or something? I don’t know. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: I’m just average. [laughter] So I think that’s the one thing is when you situate part of it is situating Jewish people as those people. Right. And not one of your own. But there are Jewish people who are one of your own and who are being set aside in other by those kinds of statements. I think that that’s one thing. And then I guess actually the other analogy I will bring up or a comparison I will bring up here is really that’s kind of a model minority stereotype, right? And we tend to talk about the model minority stereotype in terms of Asian-American experiences. My spouse is Taiwanese American. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: And he’s actually not that good at math. I have a Ph.D. in physics [laughs] and he’s like a lawyer, like so I guess like because I was born Jewish and he is a Jew by choice, I guess I should be the lawyer and he should be the physicist if we’re following the stereotypes here, right. [laughter] But I do think that it can also be limiting in that when people are constructed as this is a thing that your people do or that you people do, that it can be hard for someone to just be themselves and imagine this is who I actually am. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: So I do think that there is that kind of like psychological warfare element of it. I take my cues on this topic a lot from James Baldwin, who wrote a really beautiful essay called The Negro is Anti-Semitic Because He’s Anti-White. I’m pretty sure that was the title. It was published in The New York Times, I think, in 1968. And one of the comments that he makes and I’m paraphrasing, please actually go read the James Baldwin, because he’s obviously smarter than me. But one of the things that he says is if you’re willing to articulate someone as the other, then there are a whole bunch of other bad things that you are preparing yourself to do. 


Damon Young: Mm hmm. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Like he just says that’s a slippery slope, that you are just like voluntarily riding right down. At the end of the day, we’re seeing a resurgence of violent antisemitism. You’re in Pittsburgh, Tree of Life just happened a few years ago. Again, I wouldn’t say that antisemitism and anti-Blackness are on the same level structurally in the United States, but antisemitism is not nonviolent. Antisemitism is ideologically deeply violent. And so even when you think like, oh, well, I’m just relying on positive stereotypes, anything that you’re doing that stereotypes Jewish people is contributing to a norm where people can just say things about Jews as a group, and it’s deeply dehumanizing because we’re individuals. 


Damon Young: Yeah, and that’s just for context, what Chanda mentioned earlier, with Tree of Life, a man shot and killed 11 people in Tree of Life synagogue which is in Squirrel Hill, which is a traditionally Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. And the trial for that is actually happening right now as we speak. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Yeah, I mean, I will just like to add to it. I live on the New Hampshire seacoast part of the time and there is a Jewish cemetery here. And antisemitism is so significant that the cemetery is gated off, it’s locked. You can’t just walk into the cemetery. And there have been recent attacks on it recently. A teenager actually, this is really tragic. A teenager spray painted swastikas on one of our local synagogues and a bunch of like people of color owned businesses. We do have Black owned businesses here on the New Hampshire seacoast, and it’s telling that the swastika holds such power among white supremacists. It’s used against Black people, but it’s also very much an expression of hatred for Jewish people. 


Damon Young: And I will say also, again, Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is not just a predominately white city. It is the most it is the whitest major metropolitan area in the country, actually, of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Pittsburgh is the whitest. That’s that  always surprises people when they hear that. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Yes, I just made a surprised face. I’m surprised to hear that. 


Damon Young: [laughs] Yeah. People would assume like what, Salt Lake City or some other place. But no, it’s is Pittsburgh. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: People always like to say it’s Boston. But actually, if you look at the demographics, Boston is a majority minority city or close to it. 


Damon Young: Well, the thing with Pittsburgh is that race here is more of a binary than it is in most other major cities where it is Black and white. So I think the Black population here is like 22, 23%. The white population is maybe 70% and like the 8% is like everybody else. Whereas in other major metropolitan areas that other whatever could be 20, 30, 40%. And so living in this city, living in this area, and you have these predominantly white neighborhoods that you have to learn how to navigate if you’re a Black person who grows up in Pittsburgh, Squirrel Hill was always the place I felt the least unsafe in and obviously can’t speak for all of Black Pittsburgh. But again, of the predominantly white neighborhoods in the city, Squirrel Hill was the one that I feel like most of us have a relationship with. And again, your story that you lead with about the antisemitism coming from Black people anywhere, you know, you’re in a barbershop, you’re playing basketball, you’re just out and about and you hear some of these negative stereotypes repeated. And I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know that my own personal relationship with Jewish people, particularly even white Jewish people in Pittsburgh, has not been as problematic as it has been with other types of white people and again, I don’t know how that fits in this conversation. I just felt like I couldn’t answer this question without sharing that.


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Yeah, I think like look, whiteness is a problem. I tried to be really clear when I’m talking about the structure. It’s the power structure of whiteness. We all have the capacity to engage in activities that sustain white supremacy. But Clarence Thomas is right up there on the Supreme Court doing his thing, hanging out with Nazis. Apparently. Allegedly. 


Damon Young: Clarence. [sighs] Man. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: But what I will say is that sometimes when people have negative experiences with people that they can identify as Jewish because there’s something identifiably Jewish about them, they’re wearing a Star of David. Maybe they wear kippah, maybe they’re orthodox or whatever. There is, I think, a tendency to ascribe, oh, that person is problematic because they’re Jewish and that’s Christian antisemitism. That’s taught people to make that assignment. When if you really look at it, if that person were dressed differently, they weren’t wearing the Star of David. They didn’t have a last name that was stereotypically Ashkenazi Jewish. You’d be like, that person is doing that because they’re taking advantage of whiteness. It would be really clear. Right. And so I think part of the conversation has to be about white Jewish participation in these power structures. And, you know, I think that that’s a place where Jews of color, like myself, I think we really feel caught between a rock and a hard place, because on the one hand, we’re trying to explain to our community, you know, you can’t say obviously, first of all, I say our community. And the first thing that comes to mind for me is the Black community. I’m not thinking the Jewish community where we’re trying to go to our Black folk and be like, there are certain things that maybe you’ve been saying about Jews that I don’t want you talking like that. But then we’re walking into our synagogues and like I’ve definitely had the experience of the synagogue that I am currently a member of and have been for years. If someone trying to figure out why I am Jewish [laughter] I don’t know how else to say it. So they’re like, so are you Mizrachi? Like half my last name is literally Weinstein like it’s Prescod Weinstein. Does that sound like a Mizrachi name? No, that sounds like an Ashkenazi Jewish name. Right. And it’s obvious that if I looked like, for example, my half sister who is white presenting, we don’t share the Black parent in common. She wouldn’t be getting that same question. She’d be getting a different one because she’s Chicana and her last name shows it. But just from visibly looking at her, people would be like, yeah, she seems like someone who was born Jewish, grew up Jewish and is Ashkenazi Jewish, right? And so we are living that experience of whiteness is a feature in our Jewish spaces and we have to deal with that. And at the same time we’re defending Jewish people who are sometimes enacting whiteness against antisemitism. And it’s like mentally totally exhausting. And then you’ve got these white Jews being like, well, no, I’m just I’m like, I’m white passing. And I’m like, passing is a Black practice. And it has specific features where you have to cut your family off and pretend you don’t know them and that you come from a completely different place than you come from. You are not passing like that’s not what’s happening here. So I don’t know. Every time I talk about this, I realize I just start to sound tired. [laughter]


Damon Young: Yeah I think that’s a perfect place to end. I think that the person who asked the question, I mean, when someone is clueless about antisemitism or even anti-Blackness, you just have to provide facts, have to provide context, have to provide examples, you know, and you hit them with enough of it and you hope that, you know what? Okay, I get it now, it’s actually not hard to get if you actually are receptive to listening and to kind of putting aside your biases and your preconceived notions and actually listen to what’s being said and actually receive what’s being offered. Chanda, thank you again for coming through. 


Dr. Chanda Prescod Weinstein: Thank you for having me. [music plays]


Damon Young: Again, everyone. I just want to thank Hanif Abdurraqib, Chanda Prescod Weinstein. Great guest, great conversation, great friends. Please go out and read their books, they are both brilliant thinkers and writers and thank you all for coming through again with us this week you could find Stuck with Damon Young on any platform where podcasts are available, but if you are listening on Spotify, on the Spotify app, there are interactive polls, interactive questions that you could be a part of. Have fun with, share with a friend, subscribe, do all those things to expand the Stuck universe. Right? And again, if you have any questions about anything whatsoever, and again not just advice questions, but any questions, about anything, hit me up at All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our executive producers are Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler. [music plays]