Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Monkey Business, Again.

Nope, I'm not going back to chimpanzee thing.

Rather, I was thinking recently about those three ceramic monkeys that some folks have on their mantle. The monkeys that represent the phrase "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

Recently, the coach of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team made a fairly astute observation about race. Wait, let me correct that. He made a fairly obvious observation about race and sports, but since he's a powerful white man, people thought it was pretty astute.

The coach noted that black and white players get certain stereotypes attached to them, regardless of how they actually play their chosen sports. Those of you who keep up with sports are probably well aware of this, but for the folks who would rather gouge out their eyes than watch basketball, let me provide a primer.

The adjectives commonly applied to black athletes are athletic, naturally-talented, undisciplined and brash. For white athletes, the terms are skilled, disciplined, savvy and scrappy. On the surface, those adjectives may not seem like a big deal, but they subtly reinforce the stereotypes that black athletes are good because of superior physical gifts, while white athletes work harder and are smarter. Those stereotypes feed into the overarching idea that black people are physical brutes with limited mental abilities.

Anyway, when the UConn coach made his comments, it generated quite a buzz, mainly because he's a powerful white dude, and when powerful white dudes talk, people listen. Mostly the responses acknowledged that he might have a point and praised him for having the "courage" to bring it up. Typical.

However, there was one comment that really bothered me. It was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek response at this website. If you check it out, you'll find that author wonders what purpose it serves to talk about race, particularly if the person starting the conversation isn't saying anything new or profound.

Well ain't that a blip...

It seems that the new rules for discussing racism stipulate that unless you're saying something new or saying something special, you should probably shut the eff up. I totally missed that memo since I rarely talk about "new" racial problems, and while my blog may be decent, it's not like I could be Obama's speechwriter. Guess I've got to shut it down...


Look, I hate trite, racial conversations as much as the next guy, but I'd be stupid to tell folks that the only time they should mention racial stereotypes or other issues is when they have something really good to say. That would pretty much end all conversations about race because most Americans haven't been educated enough to speak intelligently about race. In fact, the reason why it's important that more people talk about racial issues more often is because hopefully the few folks with good sense will get a chance to reach more people.

The author of the website says that since racial conversations are so uncomfortable and fraught with peril, it makes more sense to avoid them until things get really serious... Yeah, I hope this doesn't offend my white readers, but that sounds like either a white dude talking, or somebody who thinks like a white dude.

You know, when black folks were getting lynched and hosed because they wanted to eat at lunch counters, there were folks who wondered why these uppity Negroes were disturbing the peaceful calm in the south with their rabble rousing. Those folks argued that while segregation might not be great, it was easier to let it continue than it was to try to change things. It was more "comfortable."

Excuse me if I ain't too concerned with comfort.

Honestly, what would really be "comfortable" would be if I could watch a basketball game at any level without having to listen to announcers dabble in race-based psychology. I would be more "comfortable" if I didn't have to worry about folks thinking that my black skin equals inferior intelligence, but nice "handles." (That's the ability to dribble for you sports-challenged folks.)

Life would be a lot more "comfortable" if I didn't have to deal with race-based stereotypes and discrimination on a regular basis, but that ain't life. Besides, who promised me that my life would be "comfortable?" Nope, my life is messy and problem-filled despite the blessings of God, and quite often I'm very, very uncomfortable.

Seems like some other folks need to step outside of their comfort zones as well.



Deacon Blue said...

So, I guess we need to drop other "hornet's nest" topics of conversation from the airwaves and from our personal interactions?

You know, because they tend to be "uncomfortable"?

So, no more discussion of politics, everyone. Shut down those 24 hour news networks right now.

Because if the word "uncomfortable" ever applied, it is in the current crop of "political" debate from folks like Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. I think I'd rather see folks bring up race discussions than encourage civil unrest and revolution in this nation...


Big Man said...

Thanks for the loyal comment Deac. I don't know why this post didn't generate more activity.

Deacon Blue said...

Maybe everyone is out enjoying the Spring weather? Assuming they have Spring weather...

Not sure either why I'm still the only comment. Boggles my mind at my own blog which posts generate comments and which don't.

Raving Black Lunatic