“What Do His Braids Say to You?”
I promise this isn’t another Robert Griffin III post. I’m pretty sure that if I write about him one more time during the season, I have to carry his shoulder pads, so I’m chilling. But when RG3 was busy NOT being the subject of high-praising 40 Acres posts, First Take commentators decided to have a largely tangential discussion on his race yesterday, because that’s just what First Take does. What we got was a pretty awful tirade from the apparent Supreme Arbiter of Blackness, Rob Parker (the black guy pictured above) about how RG3 is apparently a faux “cornball brother” because he has a White fiancée and is a “Republican,” according to an interview he did for USA Today. Check it out.
Note the 1:04 mark of the video, where Master Troll Skip Bayless asks Parker “What do RG3’s braids say to you?” in what I suspect he thought was a nuanced, hard-hitting question. And note the end where Stephen A. Smith echoes the horror I felt while watching and becomes the voice of reason. Anything that makes Stephen A. Smith look reasonable and measured has to be really bad. And just for context, here’s an excerpt of the interview that Rob Parker took offense to:
“For me, you don’t ever want to be defined by the color of your skin,” Griffin said at the end of Wednesday’s post-practice news conference in reference to a question about Martin Luther King, Jr. “You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I’ve tried to go out and do.
“I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that. […] I am aware how much race is relevant to them,” RGIII said. “I don’t ignore it. I try not to be defined by it. But I understand different perspectives and how people view different things. I understand that they’re excited that their quarterback is an African-American. I play with a lot of pride, a lot of character, a lot of heart. I understand that. I appreciate them for being fans and not just fans because they’re African-Americans.”
To me, that looks like some of the most well-thought out and verbally crafted statements on race from any athlete in recent memory. Something that sounds very similar to the President’s statements on his own race. And those statements came from Robert Griffin III, a Black rookie quarterback who happens to have a White fiancée and can speak well and wears funny socks. I’m not sure why Rob Parker believes he can police the race of others, and given that I had to suffer from the same idiotic self-hating ideology throughout my youth, I’m really just sick of Black folks holding other Black folks up to some kind of racial ruler and saying they don’t measure up. It’s despicable, and it’s really just passing on the same ridiculous standards and unfairness that were applied to us during times of oppression. You’d think that after emerging from centuries of our ambitions and dreams being tightly ascribed from the moment of conception to the color of our skin that we’d know better. But ignoramuses like Rob Parker continue to make livings by getting on TV and saying these things that they are absolutely unqualified to say.
But what the hell is First Take doing that constantly leads them to opine (mostly stupidly) on subjects like players’ racial identity? I’m glad I have a job, because when I was unemployed and wanted to see morning sports talk, I often wanted to commit murder when I turned to ESPN2 and saw Skip Bayless talking on and on about players’ race and “intangibles” like their “will to win” and other things like that. It’s not something that I only find on First Take (although First Take may be the worst sports program in history). You can’t go an hour on ESPN without hearing something about whether race impacts perception of an athlete or whether some component of sports is racially-charged. They all kind of miss the point, because we all see and make decisions based on race. And all sports, where mostly-white decisionmakers and fans want control over mostly not-white superhuman physical modern-day gladiators, are going to have racial undertones. I don’t really think we need to beat that deceased horse EVERY DAMN DAY.
When the hell did every sports commentator become an armchair psychologist, demographer, and cross-cultural studies PhD? In what world do we need sports arguments about whether quarterbacks are really Black or not? It seems like what was once the greatest strength of ESPN (and the sports commentary world in general), its inclusiveness and willingness to discuss tough issues, has been perverted into a culture where those issues are reheated and brought up for shock value and ratings rather than for useful nuanced discussions. And now it just seems like every commentator is empowered by that culture to become unqualified windbags and get up on soapboxes to say whatever they’d like. And it leads to televised ignorance that often just gets accepted into the public discourse. Like this:
Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the glaring hypocrisy that I’m a person who opines on race through this medium almost everyday and whose only claim to expertise is racial experience. But I’d like to think that I’m afforded certain freedoms by virtue of not being a professional and having a daily audience in the hundreds (thousands, if I’m lucky), as opposed to the millions. I have no journalistic credibility, and I make no claims of it. But when you claim credibility and your stupidity is broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people, then your drivel is accepted by many and becomes part of the public discourse and opinion. And even I try to offer more balanced and fair arguments than folks like Rob Parker. And this is a blog where we compile fried chicken dance gifs. ESPN isn’t the spades table in your mother’s basement, bro, although I guess they’ll be on the same level of discourse soon.
But that’s the end of my rant. I’ve gotta go work on my Blackness before the audit in February. I need to hang on to my race card so I can get these Popeye’s discounts.