One Team and Ten Lives in Black and White
by Doug Merlino
$26.00 List Price
Seattle is among the unlikelier American cities to be settling its accounts of racial strife. After all, the home of grunge, Starbucks, and the Space Needle prides itself on a certain shaggy, do-it-yourself civic sensibility. It's the town of Frasier, Bill Gates, and Jimi Hendrix, not Bull Connor, Orval Faubus, or Martin Luther King Jr. Still, as journalist Doug Merlino makes clear in The Hustle, the overcast capital has plenty of its own unresolved racial legacies—and like virtually all major American cities, these come refracted through patterns of class segregation, Chamber of Commerce–sanctioned gentrification, and "equal opportunity" that is equal only for some.
In 1986, Merlino joined an ad hoc team of seventh graders drawn from several schools in the Seattle area, although most came from two distinctly opposite ones—the affluent, and private, Lakeside, on the north end of town, and Garfield, a public school located in the heart of the heavily black downtown quadrant known as the Central Area. The team was the brainchild of two fathers, Willie McClain and Randy Finley, who sought to combine the teamwork and self-discipline of sports with the concept of individual social mobility. Finley and McClain's roster of three white and seven African-American players would compete on the court and learn about one another's disparate backgrounds. More practically, McClain's group of kids, from the predominantly black neighborhoods of Central Area and South End, would get the opportunity to be seen and scouted by the more elite Seattle schools. Or at least, that was the idea.