Let me be absolutely clear in what I am saying, because neither you nor I can afford to miss this point, the Race issues that divide this nation were in effect prior to the formation of the United States of America and the arrival of the first ‘half-free’ Africans in 1619 and should therefore never be expected to die a quick death. Put simply, racial discord on the North American continent predates the founding of America and the enslavement of Africans. So it stands to reason that the ‘Color Line’ great scholar W.E.B. DuBois’ prophesized would be this nation’s foremost problem throughout the 20th-Century would enjoy an unusually long life of relevancy and extend into the 21st-Century. It is obvious that Race sit at the core of African-Americans exponentially increasing politico economic issues. There is also no denying that a rapidly diversifying nation should expect increased levels of racial animosity, if not hatred.
The socially constructed antiquated Race paradigms of yesteryear were not designed to deal with a highly-diverse populace that is no longer segregated by either law or custom. Americans now live in a world where it is no longer contradictory or even note-worthy to encounter individuals whose identity would have not existed even a half-century ago; at least not publicly. However, it is no longer shocking to find individuals in possession of the following characteristics: (an ordained minister, Black, female, married, and Gay) or (Baptist, Bi-sexual, socially conservative, political progressive, who opposes Gay marriage). To the chagrin of many older Americans, the world they knew has been turned on its head and will never return.
Indicative of the unusual situations that one finds in contemporary American society is the presence of emboldened, boisterous, and politically astute African-American collegiate-athletes in lily-white locales such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If we believe this nation’s storied-history of racial animosity, it should be expected that significant strife will result from African-American students living lives that are invariably ‘touching’ or being ‘touched’ by an overwhelmingly white community. Put simply, the above scenario is a veritable Pandora’s Box of racial strife and discord.
However, all is not lost as many whites arrive at sporting venues to cheer the Black athlete representing their beloved university on either the gridiron or the hardwood. Unfortunately, those euphoric feelings that are so commonly found in this nation’s sporting venues never exit this nation’s arena/stadium. In many ways, sporting events provide a much-needed reprieve from the raging racial and cultural wars that so many of our white brethren are engaged in.
When you really think about it, whites cheering for African-American male athletes is the ultimate paradox. Here you have exuberant whites who have somehow carved a space in their minds that allows for them to cheer Black bodies in motion on a sports field while still reserving prejudiced thoughts that they may very well hurl at these same individuals’ moments after the game’s conclusion.
It is this absurd scenario that was fully displayed during a recent gridiron contest between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The alluded to incident included a rabid Wisconsin fan who donned a Halloween costume that centered upon masks of President Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton with a noose around their necks; an associate of this individual donned a Donald Trump mask and led him around by a noose.
Someway, somehow, these two individuals managed to create room in their underdeveloped minds to simultaneously offer polarizing political commentary regarding their obvious desire to hang this nation’s first African-American President from the closest tree, while also cheering on young African-American male football players toting the pigskin down the gridiron for their favorite team.
To their credit, several University of Wisconsin student-athletes took the initiative to publicly address this matter via social media and demand some type of reform from University administrators.
It is during moments such as this that victims of such unprovoked attacks can unwisely allow their frustrations to crescendo and lead them to recklessly blame all whites for the actions of a single individual; according to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., heightened emotions often leads to one’s failure to discern between the actions of a singular individual and the entire population. Hence, during such moments of inflamed racial animosity, it is critical that white leaders, in this case the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, quickly step forward and definitively illuminate an appropriate path that their university community must walk. This grievous moment fell onto the shoulders of Rebecca Blank, the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To her credit, Chancellor Blank responded in the following manner.
“I am personally very sorry that the hurt that this incident and our response to it has caused. I have heard from students, faculty and community members who are dissatisfied with our response, and I understand why. A noose is the symbol of some of the worst forms of racial hatred and intimidation in our country’s history. We understand this, and we should have communicated that more forcefully from the very beginning. … I understand the deeply hurtful impact this particularly has on our students and communities of color.”
In a nation that is still plagued by DuBois’ cryptic prophesy regarding the ‘Color Line’ it is vital that white leaders lead the way in addressing the prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, and racism emanating from their community. Make no mistake about it, the vast majority of racial discord can in one way or another be traced to individuals, policies, decisions, and/or events emanating from the white community; therefore, it is upon their shoulders to not only address, but also work toward healing their woefully sick brethren who view racial animosity and antagonisms as essential to their earthly existence as food and water.
The silence of white power-brokers on racial matters is akin to a consensual agreement with the worst scourges of their community; elements that they ironically do not associate with even behind closed-doors. Chancellor Blank’s leadership and decision to issue a bold public statement is a major step in the correct direction, however, it is only a single-step that must be repeatedly replicated by whites if this nation hopes to close its cavernous racial divide. Obviously there is much work to be done, however, it all begins with a conversation. Now it is time for the entire nation to understand that although it begins with a conversation, the struggle for racial equality does not end with that initial conversation.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.