“Why don’t you smile more?”
I never noticed that I don’t smile enough.
“Why are you so angry?”
Uh, I didn’t know that I was angry, but thanks for reading my mind.
These are the kind of questions that have been asked of African-Americans, especially in the workplace, for years. Many times we can’t answer that question. In fact, many times we simply don’t know what it is you’re talking about but we just go along to get along.
Seriously, must we channel Uncle Remus for you to be at ease in 2011?
However, here’s a question out of the blue that I know I have an answer for: Why do so many black people want the Miami Heat and LeBron James to win the NBA championship?
I really started thinking about this a few weeks ago after a female friend of mine, a successful entrepreneur, told me she was tired of “these sportswriters” questioning the intelligence of quarterback Cam Newton, the top pick in the April NFL draft. This was right after we shared a good laugh at Donald Trump’s gloating over forcing the president to finally present his birth certificate, only to get egg on his comb-over once we learned that while Trump was pursuing his bigotry-fueled inquisition, the president was making sure that Seal Team 6 got all the requisite support needed to breach Abbottabad and deliver the kill shot heard around the world.
The subject of James and the derision he faced after he decided to sign with Miami came up, and we and two other friends all agreed that we wanted the Heat to win the championship now just to shut up the media, which has reported with just a little too much glee whenever the Heat stumbled during the regular season.
Perhaps to a fault, African-Americans are very protective of our athletes. Oftentimes when they come under withering examination for something they have done, right or wrong we come to their defense, we take it personally.
This was the case with James. James’ jersey was burned by scorned Cleveland fans and we saw it as figurative tarring and feathering – and we were wrong. Black Clevelanders also burned his jersey. But when owner Dan Gilbert opened his fat mouth and called James cowardly, Jesse Jackson quickly jumped to James’ defense. Jackson said that Gilbert – who made much more off of James than he paid him — viewed James as a “runaway slave.” That might be a bit extreme, but I do think that with James orchestrating his exit and taking complete control of his career, Gilbert lashed out in a way he would perhaps not react to a white athlete.
James figured he was doing the right thing when he showed reporters some of the racist tweets he received on his Twitter page after he changed teams. African-Americans saw this and wondered what right-minded person wouldn’t view this as unadulterated bigotry? However, the puzzling narrative chosen by an “unbiased” media was that this was James playing the race card.
While sports are still seen as escapism, there are times when they are also used to make statements. The image of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising fists on the medal podium at the 1968 Olympics in protest of the treatment of blacks in this country is perhaps the most compelling example.
While this isn’t 1968, there are still everyday slights that resonate as bigoted with black folks. For instance, how else are African-Americans supposed to respond to an article such as the one in Psychology Today earlier this month that proclaims that black women are “objectively” less attractive than women of other races?
And can we just once be honest about the whole birth certificate nonsense? No president prior to Obama was ever asked to produce a birth certificate. The election of the first black president in 2008 spoke volumes about the progress our country has made. But somehow the racist wing of the Republican Party, still unable to accept the Obama presidency, stoked the flames so hard that even the so-called “liberal” media pursued this canard as a lead story.
And let’s not forget that he is a socialist bent on taking the wealth of the rich and spreading it to others in lower tax brackets. Surely you have received yours, right? Perhaps the killing of Bin Laden will prevent his opposition from attempting to use his middle name, Hussein, to link him to Islamic terrorists in the next election cycle.
Getting back to James, don’t overlook this cryptic tweet of his last summer: “Don’t think for one minute that I haven’t been keeping mental notes of everyone taking shots at me this summer. And I mean everyone.”
Without question, the most important statement that James has ever made to anyone in the media was when he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, following the burning of his jersey, “That I think so, at times. There’s always — you know, a race factor.”
The statement is an indictment of how far this country still has to go. That it comes from a young man who will likely be a billionaire before it is all over shows that just because he has amassed astonishing wealth he is not detached – like, say, OJ – from his racial identity.
Ultimately, I’ll be rooting for James because, as a sports fan, I want to see him at last marry his remarkable skills to the greatness that has been forecasted for him since he was in high school. But I know others who will be rooting for different reasons, reasons that I can relate to as well.