Thursday, December 13, 2012

Breaking Down Rob Parker/RG3

Watch that video above. Here is the full text of what happened on First Take when ESPN's Rob Parker and Stephen A. Smith discussed Robert Griffin's comments on race.

Let me educate people on this. Robert Griffin is doing what many Black people have done for years. They strive to be the best, regardless of race, and they don't seek to be defined by it. I have personally felt the same way that I wanted to be seen as a great guy, not a great Black guy. Yet at the same time, I've been told in college that I blew people's minds on what they expected from Black folks.

This is not about how Griffin carries himself. This is about what Parker said and why people are looking at this wrong. The problem is that Parker put all of this barbershop talk on ESPN. A conversation that Black people may have had in front of a mainly White audience and you have people of all races rushing to call him an idiot for questioning Griffin's blackness.

He didn't question it directly. He just said he was curious because he feels Griffin runs from being seen only as a Black quarterback. His misstep was bringing up irrelevant issues such as his fiancee, his voting record - something Stephen A. rightly called him out on.

“I understand the whole story of I just want to be the best,” Parker continued. “Nobody’s out on the field saying to themselves, I want to be the best black quarterback. You’re just playing football, right? You want to be the best, you want to throw the most touchdowns and have the most yards and win the most games. Nobody is [thinking] that.
“But time and time we keep hearing this, so it just makes me wonder deeper about him,” Parker went on. “And I’ve talked to some people down in Washington D.C., friends of mine, who are around and at some of the press conferences, people I’ve known for a long time. But my question, which is just a straight honest question. Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?” (Asked what does that mean)
"Well, [that] he’s black, he kind of does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause, he’s not one of us,” Parker explained. “He’s kind of black, but he’s not really the guy you’d really want to hang out with, because he’s off to do something else."

Full disclosure - I met Parker this summer at the National Association of Black Journalists convention. He was friendly to me, kind to anyone who asked him questions or wanted a photo and he came off very real. Anybody questioning his character needs to ask me how I saw him interact with folks in a genuine way and me personally.

That said, reading that quote, I saw Parker basically speculate and wonder - but not say he feels RG3 isn't Black enough. It wasn't worded appropriately and he dug himself a deeper hole with those tangent issues. Asking if he's a cornball brother was inappropriate and made this worse. I hate when Black folks do this behavior in front of White people because it never goes well and makes you look silly instead of provocative.

Unfortunately, people are dropping bombs on Parker like he called Griffin an Uncle Tom, sell-out and the like. He didn't go there. He just made a bunch of speculations that had no business being said unless he felt that way. But since people get up in arms about questioning Blackness - myself included - it's gotten blown way out of proportion.

By the way, let's not forget Donovan McNabb played this same game in Philly. He didn't play the race card and strove to transcend barriers. We saw how that played out.

Robert Griffin III is a great quarterback. A great rookie. And yes, he's a successful Black athlete. Let's not divorce him of that and let's not demand he answers questions about this while he's trying to grow in his craft.

In this post-MJ world (pick one, Jordan or Johnson or Michael Jackson), some Black professionals strive to be seen as colorless. They are Black enough because of obvious reasons but they aren't "hood" to prevent themselves being pitchmen or successful - see Kobe, Tiger Woods and to an extent, Barack Obama. The problem with this is that we've bought into an assumption that being Black is one thing.

I've always believed in being the best regardless of race. But as I've gotten older and more conscious of what being Black means for me, you realize that transcending race is problematic. It's a problem because it doesn't mean you've made it, it means you don't make White people uncomfortable.

Age is key here. When I was 18-23, I didn't want to be seen as the Black guy. Now at 28, I understand the importance of never forgetting I am Black and not letting people pretend that I'm not. A colorblind society is a dangerous one because of who sets the rules of said society. Dr. King said that he dreamed of folks judging a man on his character (not his race), but he didn't mean we should ignore race.

I can't blame RG3 at 22 trying to be a good quarterback and remain as polished as his parents raised him. I can't blame him trying to appeal to everyone while winning football games and not being judged by his race. I blame a society where many of my generation and older have to play this game of not being too Black while still being Black and have people wonder if we're forgetting our Blackness or just moving beyond it without losing it.

I leave you with Stephen A's comments at the end. The best statement on this matter

“What I would say to you is that the comments [RG3] made are fairly predictable. I think it’s something that he may feel, but it’s also a concerted effort to appease the masses to some degree, which I’m finding relatively irritating, because I don’t believe that the black athlete has any responsibility whatsoever to have to do such things.
“Let me say this clearly. I don’t know of anybody who goes into something trying to be the best black anything. We understand that. That’s a given,” Smith said. “But I do think it’s important to acknowledge a level of pride and a feeling of a level of accomplishment for being somebody who happens to be of African American descent, who competes and achieves and accomplishes things on the highest level while also bringing attention – to some degree anyhow – to the pride that they feel being black. Because they’re allowing themselves to be a reminder to those who preceded them, who worked so hard, accomplished and achieved so much, but were denied the accolades that that individual is receiving.”

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