♣ Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them. ♣
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
DETROIT (JSC) — In the 5½ months I was largely AWOL from this blog, a whole lot of stuff happened. I can’t even go through an entire rewind of it all. I could go into the tomfoolery that was Donald Trump demanding to see the President’s birth certificate (never mind that anyone with half a brain and a 10th grade education, had seen it three years ago). I could go into the subsequent killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden after he was on the run, and I use that term loosely, for 10 years. I could go the sports route and talk about the NFL lockout, which threatens to torpedo part or all of the 2011 NFL season. Hell, I could always go to an oldie but goodie and talk about Detroit. But one story that really jumped out at me that I didn’t get a chance to touch on back in March is the shit storm that jumped off when Jalen Rose, and later Jimmy King (of University of Michigan “Fab Five” fame), singled out all black players recruited by and playing at Duke, particularly Grant Hill, as being “Uncle Toms”. Rose and King got very chesty about this, until the backlash punched them in the face. The full quote asserted that apparently there was something inherently unfair about a school choosing to recruit black players who can not only play, but are model citizens and strong students. The Nerve of Duke! Far be it from me to ever defend Duke basketball, but if I ran a program, I’d do the same thing. Well, the “Uncle Tom” alarm has been sounded again with the barbs being thrown at a familiar target. I’m here to say: Enough is Enough! Let’s Go.
If there’s one thing about Philadelphia sports fans, they are consistent. If they hate you in the beginning, nothing you do will change their hatred. Case in point, take former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. He was booed very loudly the moment he was taken by the Eagles in 1999. They NEVER liked him. To them, he was “soft”, not tough enough, and couldn’t win. Mind you, the Eagles hadn’t exactly done a lot of winning prior to his arrival. Their lone Super Bowl appearance was in 1980, when they got cuffed by the Raiders in Super Bowl XV. Yet, the Eagles were consistent winners in his time there, making the playoffs nine times, including four trips to the NFC Championship game and the Eagles’ only other Super Bowl appearance in 2005. We all know what happened after that. Terrell Owens blamed their close loss to the Patriots on McNabb (TO missed all the Eagles playoff games in the Super Bowl run, and McNabb was throwing TDs to Bryant Westbrook and Freddie Mitchell), and that gave the vocal majority in Philly all the ammo they needed.
We can debate the merits of his play. That’s very fair, especially the last three years. However, for a man who has never been accused of or committed a crime or been a locker room cancer, I don’t think there’s been an athlete as largely and roundly hated as Donovan McNabb. He has been criticized by Rush Limbaugh and the NAACP, for God’s Sake! One particular Philly resident who REALLY doesn’t like McNabb, who has been with the Washington Redskins since last season, is boxer Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins feels that McNabb is too white (he said that McNabb’s skin color is a “suntan”). He feels that McNabb’s upbringing in Chicago wasn’t rough enough for his standards of what being “Black” is. I’m not making that up. Bernard Hopkins has served five years in prison for nine felonies, released in 1988 (and yes, he is a huge fan of Michael Vick, McNabb’s successor). McNabb, meanwhile, has never seen the inside of the jail. He insists (kind of like Detroiters do) that McNabb is “suburban.” For reasons that I will not go into, I know all about that “suburb” in Chicago that McNabb grew up in. Let me tell you, ain’t nothing “suburban” about it. But to Hopkins, McNabb might as well have been in Troy or Birmingham:
“Look at professional boxing. I’ve never seen a suburban boxer be successful. There has to be something in the DNA of the person’s experience, of what they overcame, to have that grit; like, I’m going to bite down and let it happen. I just didn’t see that in him.”
Mind you, he said this about a man who once finished a game with a leg that was broken in three places and went the majority of a season with a severe hernia. Plus, dude’s talking about McNabb like he’s the one he’s fighting this weekend. Hopkins continued:
“Why do you think McNabb felt he was betrayed (by the Eagles trading him to Washington)? Because McNabb is the guy in the house, while everybody else is on the field. He’s the one who got the extra coat. The extra servings. ‘You’re our boy.’ He thought he was one of them.”
…And here’s where we reach the entire point of this blog. Remember the reference I made about the whole Jalen Rose/Grant Hill thing earlier. This is all apart of a larger and more damaging problem that we as Black Americans have had ever since Slavery and Reconstruction. It’s this ridiculous notion that “Blackness” is this one singular thing. “Blackness” in the eyes of many is something you that have to constantly prove, like you’re on a prison yard. If you didn’t grow up in a neighborhood full of abandoned buildings and drug dealers, or if you choose to go to college instead of street hustle, or if you use correct grammar, then you are a “sellout” and you aren’t “real”. This type of attitude pervades the Black community. I’ve had to deal with assholes questioning my “blackness” as far back as Kindergarten. I have been made fun of for speaking correctly, called a “sellout” for going to school, and been taunted by people because I had a father in my home. None of this was done by whites. It was all black. The beef is very real.
Part of this comes from the trained inferiority complex that the Black community has become, to excuse the pun, a slave to from day one here. What other race of people glorifies and rationalizes criminal behavior the way we do? You’d have thought that Michael Vick was Mumia Abu-Jamal the way we rushed to his defense. Yet cats like Donovan McNabb are vilified for being corporate pitchmen, well-spoken, and family men? Are you serious? What race of people see being educated as a negative more than us? (No, you cannot say the Republican Party counts as a race.)
I find more humor in the likes of the Fab Five going after Duke’s black players, specifically Grant Hill. I know exactly how Rose and Webber came up. Rose went to Southwestern High School in Detroit. My dad, who graduated from SW and worked there when Rose was a student, knows Jalen. Rose admitted that resented the fact that Grant had two parents in his home from educated backgrounds, including having a pro athlete father. Rose’s dad, former Pistons guard Jimmy Walker, wanted nothing to do with him or his mother and he hated it (and rightfully so). So he sought out Grant as the punching bag because he secretly wanted that life. But if Grant Hill was an “Uncle Tom”, then what was Chris Webber? Webber grew up like I did in a nice neighborhood on the city’s west side. Like me, he came from a hard working, two-parent home. Unlike me, however, he didn’t go to a Detroit Public High School. He went to Country Day, which is in Birmingham, one of the biggest private schools in the state in one of the most affluent areas in SE Michigan. And by the way…he was recruited HEAVILY by Duke, while Jalen wasn’t:
“Chris Webber was recruited and wanted to come to Duke, and I distinctly remember his visit. When they talk [in the documentary] about this kid being a thug and all that, I was like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ That’s a complete joke. Coach K had him on that campus for a reason. He fit the profile of the player he wanted to coach. Period. End of story.”
So what does that make your homie? And even funnier, were dudes who went to the University of Michigan having the nerve to pull the “keep it real” card on anyone. This isn’t a MSU bashing Michigan thing. The University of Michigan likes to call itself the “Harvard of the Midwest” and carries itself like it’s the forgotten Ivy League school. Let’s be real, how many “thugs” do you know at Harvard?
“If they go to an all-black school, it changes the landscape of college basketball, and historical black colleges are now making money and hitting their bottom lines. But it’s really a lot of irony with what they’re talking about and how they’re taking shots at guys like us. Michigan wasn’t Grambling.“
—Thomas Hill, who also holds a degree in Black American History (more irony).
Before we go, let’s take a look at the term “Uncle Tom“. The term comes from the title character of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe’s novel humanized the suffering of slavery for White audiences by portraying Tom as a sympathetic figure who is ultimately beaten to death by a his master because he refuses to betray the whereabouts of two women who escape from slavery. Let’s say that again: Tom refused to betray two women who escape from slavery. Meaning the term most often associated with selling out was attributed to a man who was killed for NOT selling out. You gotta love it! Stowe reversed the gender conventions of slave narratives by juxtaposing Uncle Tom’s feminine passivity against the brave daring of three Black women who escaped from slavery. It was in the ensuing years that Minstrel Show stage plays distorted the view of the Uncle Tom character and that, along with criticism from the likes of James Baldwin and others, helped turn the Uncle Tom character on his head. They felt the man was too passive, missing on the bigger picture of his sacrificing his life so others could go free. My mother hates the term. She always tells me that it’s inaccurate and that if you are gonna call someone a sellout, call them a “Sambo”.
This ridiculousness about “whose ass is the blackest” (© 1995, KRS-One) stems largely from a lack of knowledge in our own history. It’s 2011, yet there’s still a large section of Black Americans who think more of a man who has done 25 years for robbery, than there is of someone who finished their Master’s Degree and flipped it into a great job. There’s still that asshole who thinks that being a good father and provider for your family instead of being out in the clubs makes you “soft”. There are still losers on Twitter and Facebook talking that #TeamDarkSkinned and #TeamLightSkinned horse shit. It’s even crazier that the people often hit with these insults, myself included, are expected to just be quiet, take it, not defend ourselves or risk being called “sensitive” or worse by our detractors. The uppity ones like to call us “bourgeois” (and yes, that’s how the word is actually spelled. It’s not spelled “boozhy”). F— that. I refuse to apologize for how I was raised. I refuse to apologize for anything I have earned in my lifetime. I refuse to feel like I owe anybody anything. I don’t. My success is my own. Get yours. And one more dirty little secret: Yes. We do think we’re better than you. Nothing you say will change that. By one of you fools just asking us that question, it already tells the story.
In closing, we as Black Americans, whether you’re professional athlete, rapper, or just an average dude off the street, need to learn that we’re not monolithic. Just because you came up rough doesn’t make your ass any more blacker or tougher than mine. Instead of initiating a ridiculous class war, we need to wage war on why our school systems in the inner cities, like Detroit, are shitty. Yes, there are plenty of sellouts in the black community, but instead of vilifying and mocking those who do things the right way, you need to start looking at the likes of Kwame Kilpatrick and others who steal from “their” people and hide behind the race card.
Besides, as my dad has said to me time and time again, when it comes down to it: “We’re All Black.”
Until Next Time, That’s The Way It Is. Friday, May 13, 2011.
The 171st day since the Detroit Lions’ Last Loss!
Take Care, God Bless, Always Dare to Be Different, and G.O.M.A.B. Σ