I’ve recently foregone the comfort of cable television in my quest to leap as far off the grid as humanly possible, so when a colleague shared with me a text snippet of Rob Parker’s comments, I was totally unaware. As I went online to view the actual clips I was floored. Parker, in his role on ESPNs First Take, was asked to comment on statements made by RG3 on December 12th. At a press conference RG3 said:
“You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That’s what I strive [for]. I am an African American, in America, and that will never change. But I don’t have to be defined by that.”
Parker, when asked his view on those comments, openly shared his thoughts:
Parker’s comments, as asinine as I believe them to be, reflect a perspective that is unfortunately common to many people and sadly many of the African-Americans who are most damaged by this belief. The idea of there being a “real” African-American experience, was born out of a culture of subjugation, popularized by media and perpetuated by those who view it as a badge of honor. In this view male Blackness is about a hyper-masculinity that dictates how one should dress, what music you like, who you should socialize and date, how you wear your hair (because braids are so urban!) how you speak and how you engage in the political process (or if you should engage at all). That fact that these ideas are out there didn’t surprise me and given Parker’s history of dumbassery, the messenger was also not a surprise.
To me the comments of Stephen A. Smith are the more telling. Normally bombastic, incendiary and often stupid, Stephen A. is not known for restraint, but he almost eloquently stated a very simple yet profound concept; how RG3 lives his life is none of our business. Now with that said, I found it interesting that Stephen A. did not take a more aggressive stance (in line with the nature of the show) in repudiating what Parker had just said. I believe that Stephen A. was: A) a stunned that Parker just screwed up so badly and B) unsure of how to respond because as unpopular as it is, he knew Parker was speaking to something that many folks think. Smith was clear to state:
” …he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.”
With the unsaid implication being that I know there are those folks out there but I’m not one of them. A smart move, because I have to believe Parker will be radioactive for a while.
What I hope happens is that athletes, media personalities and other journalists line up and verbally eviscerate Parker. He needs to be an example of what happens when any one person sets him/herself up as the arbiter of any race/culture/ethnicity, especially when that person is coming from a place of pure, uninformed opinion. I am interested to watch the response from the worldwide leader. They have the power to make this issue go away partially by ignoring it. For better or worse ESPN makes sports news and if they don’t give it air then it might fall quickly out of prominence. If nothing else hopefully pieces like this will keep the discussion alive. And remind Parker that he does not speak for anyone but himself.