For some unexplainable reason, there is an expectation that African-Americans are born with a keen insight regarding the “color line” that W.E.B. Du Bois termed the problem of the twentieth-century. Trust me when I say that many a black schoolchild can share stories regarding a moment when the issue of Race reared its head and caused all of their white classmates to slowly turn toward their direction as if they were equipped to deconstruct America’s greatest social cancer. I am sorry to disappoint America; however, the vast majority of African-Americans know very little, if anything, about Race beyond very limited personal experience. Trust me when I say that when it comes to racial matters, caution is the best advice that I can offer to anyone stepping foot into this minefield.
The latest example of a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread is sportswriter Jason Whitlock; in fact, this is not Whitlock’s first foray into the turbulent waters of American racial matters. And to his credit, Whitlock is very consistent as he never fails to make an absolute fool of himself while analyzing racial issues.
Whitlock’s latest unwise foray into this highly volatile arena occurred moments after the public was made aware that Cleveland Cavalier Lebron James’ L.A. home had been vandalized by someone spray painting “the N-Word” on the gate. James addressed this cowardly attack with his usual dignity and poise. Whitlock pounced on this issue as if he and his ravenous appetite were unleashed at Fogo de Chǎo.
In short order, Whitlock verified my previous assertion that blackness does not endow an individual with an innate ability to understand American racial dynamics. According to Whitlock,
“Racism is an issue in America, but it’s primarily an issue for the poor. It’s not LeBron James’ issue. He has removed himself from the damages and the ravages of real racism. He may have an occasional disrespectful interaction with someone, a disrespectful inconvenience.”
I am always surprised when individuals such as Whitlock who have been gifted with a national platform do not understand basic principles surrounding Race in America such as the difference between prejudice, discrimination, and institutionalized racism. Like so many other nationally renowned commentators, Whitlock has fallen into the usual trap of believing that his status as a black man is a substitute for the years of focused study that one must devote to the issue of Race to truly garner any significant insight. Most troubling of all are that the seriously flawed perspectives that figures such as Jason Whitlock haphazardly hurl into flexible public spaces occupied by an unknowing public carry significant weight.
It appears that while making his commentary that Whitlock channeled the spirit of Pino, a white character in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. Consider the following dialogue between Mookie, a black character, and Pino, an individual who believes that fame shields one from racial bigotry.
Mookie: Pino, who’s your favorite basketball player?
Pino: Magic Johnson.
Mookie: And who’s your favorite movie star?
Pino: Eddie Murphy.
Mookie: Pino, all you ever talk about is nigger this and nigger that, and all your favorite people are so-called niggers.
Pino: It’s different. Magic, Eddie, Prince… are not niggers. I mean, they’re not black, I mean – Let me explain myself. They’re – They’re not really black. I mean, they’re black, but they’re not really black. They’re more than black. It’s different.
Mookie: It’s different?
Pino: Yeah. To me, it’s different.
Despite Whitlock’s well-documented inability to offer anything of substantial to any discussion of racial matters, I am unsurprised by his failure to realize that neither fame nor money shields black athletes and entertainers from racial bigotry. Now there is no denying that the financial resources possessed by individuals such as Lebron James provide creature comforts and options that the vast majority of African-Americans will never know; however, the American historical record definitively proves that such resources fail to move this segment of Black America out of institutionalized racism’s large shadow. Rest assured that such evil is much more disruptive than the relatively mundane racial conflict the average African-American will ever experience.
Quite possibly the most dangerous effect of Whitlock’s uninformed commentary is that his penchant for not knowing is incredibly infectious among an American populace that has never acknowledged its storied past of lynching, rapes, Jim Crow, housing segregation, and discrimination in the employment sector. Although I am certain that Whitlock will seek to shield himself from criticism by stupidly alleging that there is room for multiple voices within the black community regarding substantive issues, his voice is not merely divergent from mine, it is one that works against both the fortunes of Black America and the illumination of every American citizen in regards to an increased understanding of racial matters. I most certainly agree that there is room for a plethora of voices that will sometimes conflict with one another; however, such a realization fails to provide a voice such as Whitlock’s that is so uninformed regarding racial matters that it serves no purpose other than to delay a real discussion on American racial matters. Put simply; Whitlock’s penchant for using his platform to spew uninformed opinions regarding American race relations muddies a toxic river. Whitlock should know better. However, I long ago came to understand that “stupid is as stupid does.” And experience has taught me that there are some levels of stupidity that cannot be reversed.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III