For UConn’s Paige Bueckers, racism is personal

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It has been well documented that UConn freshman Paige Bueckers is a wiz on the basketball court. She was the top-ranked recruit in the country for her high school class and is expected to be a special player for the Huskies over the next four years. 

Her arrival to UConn has been built up with much hype since she announced her commitment back in April of 2019. During her senior season at Hopkins High School, Bueckers was probably the most popular high school basketball player in the country, along with Bronny James. She gained a massive following on social media and even appeared on the cover of Slam magazine.  

With this new public status came a platform, and in the wake of George Floyd’s brutal death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, Bueckers realized what she would use that platform for: to promote the message that Black Lives Matter. 

“I participated in a bunch of marches,” Bueckers said when addressing the media last month. “I donated in food drives just to try to use my image to make a positive impact.” 

“There’s been a lot of difficult conversations with the Black Lives Matter campaign and how people go against it and how people are supportive of it. I’m one of the supporters. I mean like they say, ‘All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter,’ and I’m huge for it.” 

Bueckers was born and raised in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, Minn., a city that was almost 90% White in the 2010 census. But despite being a young, White woman from a predominantly White area, racism is very personal to her, and to know why you have to know about Drew. 

Drew Bueckers is Paige’s 7-year-old little brother and her best friend. He is also biracial, which means he will likely have to face racism head-on when he gets older, and that’s not OK with Paige. 

“I just want him to grow up in a world that accepts Black people and doesn’t judge them based on the color of their skin,” Bueckers said. “So I’m all for [Black Lives Matter], and if I lose supporters because they don’t agree with it then I don’t need those people anyways on my side.” 

Bueckers has made quite a few posts on the topic of racial injustice on her Instagram, but her most recent — posted in the midst of yet another wave of protests after Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis. — was the first to specifically talk about Drew. 

“At what point do they stop looking at my little brother as a cute little boy and instead as a threat to society?” the post reads. “It scares me. I’m going to work for change little brother. I want you to grow up in world that accepts you for who you are. I am committed to help making a change for the better. It’s time to step up and act in unity because WE ARE THE CHANGE” 

Bueckers said it is really hard to have conversations with Drew about how he needs to act in certain situations because of his skin color, especially since he is only 7 years old. It’s not possible for her to just sit back and accept the racial inequality in this country when someone she loves so much is a person of color. 

“I’m scared for him,” Bueckers said. “Just having that fear of one wrong judgment and his life could be on the line, it’s super scary and it’s something I want to help change. It’s not just me living in fear, it’s everybody who’s related to a person of color. So anything I can do and anything to make this world a better place for Black people, it’s huge for me. That’s why I try to use my platform as much as I can.” 

Her coach Geno Auriemma, who has also attended protests this year, said he is very proud of the work being done by Bueckers and the rest of his players to try and make a change. He said back in the 1960s, it was college kids and young people who led the charge for change, and now 50 years later, it’s happening again. 

“They’re living in a very subtle, very complex world that they’re growing up in,” Auriemma said. “And they have opinions, they have views. They’re radically affected by it in a way that only kids can be … I think they’re smart and they’re socially conscious.” 

Specifically, Auriemma believes that Bueckers can make a change because she truly sees the big picture in all of this. 

“Paige is a very insightful kid,” he said. “She’s very much aware, and she’s not self-absorbed.” 

So look out for Paige Bueckers not only on the basketball court, but also out in the community bringing awareness to social issues like so many of the UConn greats that came before her — Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird just to name a couple. And every time you see that, remember that she’s fighting not for herself, but for Drew. 

“I’m just trying to use my image and my platform to try to promote the Black Lives Matter campaign and just bring justice and equality in the world as much as I can,” Bueckers said. 

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