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Friday, September 18, 2009

Race, Race Everywhere, but not a Drop to Drink...

Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Beyonce
Serena Williams, Kim Cjisters and an unkown lineswoman (is that the right term?)
Rep. Joe Wilson, President Barack Obama, Wilson's son, and former president Jimmy Carter
Michael Jordan and the sports journalist reaction to his Hall of Fame induction speech

What do all of these have in common? 1) They all involve people behaving in ways that other people don't approve of, even find offensive.
2) Until Jimmy Carter "injected race" into the Wilson episode, race was rarely if ever mentioned in any of these stories. But it enveloped, silently, every one of them.

NPR's call-in talk show "Talk of the Nation" mentioned the trouble "the three W's" (West, Williams and Wilson) were involved in, but did they use it as an opportunity to prove the racial implications? NOOOO! They invited an etiquette expert to help us learn how best to apologize when we "make a mess of things."

Of course, I'm gonna wimp out too--I'll bring up the situations, and the fact that there IS a racial angle to be explored in each, but since, besides Wilson, the above examples involve an African American being accused of offense, I'll reserve judgment. Ah, hell, I can't do that and remain true to my credo of taking race head-on, can I? Oh, OK.

West: I'll cop out by quoting the Angry Black Woman: "The line between bad boy and public asshole has now been crossed. Brother man would do best to step back on the other side." (the blog entry is entitled, "Kanye-West-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you?")

Williams: 1) It was, by accounts that I've read, an inexplicable, horrible, totally unfair and crucially harmful call. Yeah, Williams probably still would have gone down, but don't gift-wrap it for her opponent! Was race a subliminal factor in a lineswoman, who presumably has watched feet stay behind a service line until a split second after contact with the ball several thousand times before, and made the right no-call on most all of those serves (else she wouldn't have been judged competent to be where she was for the U.S. Open Semifinals), inexplicably calling a phantom foot fault on Williams, one of the few blacks (along with her sister, of course) in the upper echelons of the traditionally liily white country club sport?
2) Uh, Serena, really now, talk about shoving a blanking ball up the blanking backside of a person is going a bit far, dontcha think? Kinda hard to excuse that as "just black street talk misinterpretted by the white establishment." But hey, she paid the price in losing the match, and in the public shame she's experienced, so let her be.

Wilson: Carter is right. Of course, 99.5% of my fellow race members disagree. Like I've said before, we've got some work to do...

Jordan: Not sure on this one. I've got to check my own biases here, since as a Illinois native I was a Bulls fanatic in the 1990s, so much so that I was able to forget, once he put the red white and black on, that MJ came from the hated (by me) UNC program. I haven't seen the video, but the reports from several white journalists is that Jordan's approach left much to be desired, and revealed a sad case of a person, regarded as the best player EVER in his sport, apparently still feeling the need to build himself up by denigrating others, all this on the occasion of his "acceptance" into the hallowed halls of basketball immortality. Maybe it's a case of whites not understanding the black cultural tradition of trash talk and put-downs and manhood. Maybe. I kind of doubt it though. As painful as it is for me to admit, the guy who brought me so much vicarious joy and celebration is, apparently, a bit of an ass. Oh, well, burst my bubble...

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