On Aaron Hicks and the mental exhaustion of being Black in America

Shalise Manza Young
·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·4 min read

On Monday, New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks became the face of what so many other Black Americans were feeling.

Distraught at the news that yet another Black man, this time Daunte Wright, had been killed by police in a Minneapolis suburb, Hicks approached manager Aaron Boone and begged out of the night's lineup, when the Yankees were set to face the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thankfully, Boone supported Hicks, and defended him against those who inevitably would and did question Hicks' decision, telling reporters that "my consideration is with Aaron and his well-being, and making sure that as best we can we support him and try to be there for him as best we can right now."

Teammates expressed support for Hicks' decision as well. The 31-year-old was on the bench for the game, a 3-1 Yankees win.

The happenings in Minneapolis are likely particularly personal for Hicks because he began his career with the Minnesota Twins; he was the team's first-round draft pick in 2008 and spent seven years in the organization, including three with the big club, before being traded to New York after the 2015 season.

Giancarlo Stanton also reportedly considered sitting out Monday night, though Stanton ultimately played. Stanton, Hicks and Marcus Thames have been the most outspoken Yankees in regards to racial injustice and police brutality since George Floyd's killing last May, because unfortunately Black people are too often asked to educate others on easily accessible data at best, and at worst why they deserve human decency.

It is mentally overwhelming to be a Black American right now, or at least one attuned to the goings-on in this country and specifically Minnesota. Eleven months after Floyd died an agonizing death under Derek Chauvin's knee on a Minneapolis street, with Chauvin's trial ongoing in that city and his defense attorneys using disgusting but familiar tropes about the inherent danger of Black men to justify Floyd's death, Wright was pulled over just a few miles away and killed within minutes. The Brooklyn Center police chief told reporters the officer who pulled the trigger on her Glock, 26-year veteran Kim Potter, allegedly believed she pulled her Taser, which weighs significantly less and almost certainly has neon accents.

News of Wright's death came just a couple of days after video surfaced of a Virginia incident last December in which officers threatened to kill a Black Latino motorist — who was in his Army uniform — during a traffic stop.

And voter suppression laws passed in Georgia and proposed elsewhere aren't going away.

And the heaviness of Floyd's death remains, with news of Chauvin's trial in headlines every day.

And if you're Black it's exhausting. Because it won't stop. Because the mass marches after Floyd's death have ended and the campaign to get justice for Breonna Taylor hasn't resulted in any. Leagues and teams and corporations that pledged to support Black lives months ago have moved on, too many apparently believing that an Instagram post is sufficient anti-racist allyship. We've seen Confederate-flag-carrying, Nazi-supporting insurrectionists storm the U.S. Capitol and not only not be arrested immediately, but get to go home or ask for organic food while they're in jail awaiting trial.

And those are just the things that make the mainstream headlines.

All we want is affirmation that our lives and our parents' lives and our children's lives have value, and every day there's at least one state-sanctioned incident that shows that in too many places, they don't. Not equal value anyway.

Hicks hasn't commented publicly since asking for the mental health day, nor should he have to, not to appease anyone else. And some people won't care what his reason is anyway, so trying to convince them is useless. 

He had the ability to take a step back, to realize that playing did not take precedence over his own well-being, something not everyone that looks like him can do. 

For one night at least, Hicks protected himself, and his team protected him as well. 

If only that were the norm everywhere, for all Black Americans.

If only we didn't need to take mental health days as a reaction to yet another person that looks like us, reminds us of our son or niece or husband or aunt, extrajudicially killed.

New York Yankees' Aaron Hicks, left, and manager Aaron Boone watch batting practice at the New York Yankees spring training baseball facility, Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks, left, and manager Aaron Boone (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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