FC Cincinnati teammates Saad Abdul-Salaam and Joseph-Claude Gyau learned about the harsh reality of racism in America at a young age, they revealed as part of the club’s “Conversation: Juneteenth & Racism.”
Abdul-Salaam said he was on a middle school field trip in Atlanta when he and classmates stepped into a national chain drug store where they checked out some Walkmans.
The white classmates did so without issue. But Abdul-Salaam and the Black classmates were approached and questioned by the store’s manager.
“He was like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ We’re like, ‘Oh, I’m thinking about paying for this,’ and he was like, ‘You don’t have money to pay for this. You’re just in here.’ We’re like, ‘I literally have my money right now,’ and he said, ‘I think it’s probably best for you guys to just leave the store.’” He said. “That was the first time I was probably like, ‘So my money isn’t the same as everybody else’s?’”
Abdul-Salaam’s mother was on the same trip, which led to a conversation about the racial reality.
“It’s a very tough thing for any parent to tell their kids this is a real thing and this could happen to you, and it’s just how you handle it,” he said.
Gyau’s realization came on the youth soccer fields when he was part of a highly successful team comprised of “first-generation immigrants.”
“We were beating up on teams, and I just remember the parents saying, ‘Your team is full overaged Africans who probably have kids in Africa.’ At the time we were like, what? We were 10, 11 and 30 and 40-year-old adults are telling us to our faces after a game. What did we do wrong? All we did out here was just play and happened to beat your team. It’s one of those things where it’s extreme confusion.”
FC Cincinnati teammates Fatai Alashe, Zico Bailey, Kekuta Manneh and Kendall Waston also shared their stories and opinions on systemic racism in the United States. You can listen to the podcast here.