By mW on May 30, 2009
Probably a lot of you that read this site enjoy Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie. I do. Big fan of The Basketball Jones, too. But I caught a video they posted the other day, “Where Amazing Caucasian Happens,” a parody of Kanye West’s alleged-song, “Amazing.” Honestly, I get that it’s a joke. But beyond that, I think it bothered me. The very premise that whites are worse athletes than blacks is ingrained deeper than this parody, and obviously is the thing upon which it relied.
To begin with, it is an outdated paradigm: whites-blacks. The NBA, like America itself, is a multicultural thing, with a growing number of foreign players. How do they fit in? What about mixed heritage players? I mean, seriously, there are few blacks in America as richly dark as persons born in Africa today, and few whites in America as pale as Swedes. But why even get caught up in distinction? Does it matter? I don’t think so.
When Kobe broke out as a star, he emerged from a League that had a thug-like reputation. What made him stand out wasn’t the color of his skin. It was being brought up in an upper-middle class, suburban neighborhood, being well educated, and traveling the world at a young age; despite not going to college, he’s probably been better schooled than a lot of athletes who went to college. I mean, contrast that to the out of court college experiences of Jason Williams, who got kicked out of one of the most prestigious college sports teams in the country for repeated violations of the drug policy, i.e., he liked the Weed. So he jumped straight to the NBA with amazing raw physical talent, made highlight passes left and right, and talked with that Southern-ghetto accent. Oh yeah, and he was white. Yet his nickname, “White Chocolate.” I don’t think I have to explain the correlation. Both of these players inverted the extreme stereotypes that people have of certain races, and showed that it was a person’s actions that mattered most, and that anyone, of any race, if put in the right or wrong situation, could exemplify the best or worst of any attribute, race be damned.
Here’s the bottom line. We do studies and track data and make all these distinctions by race. But what is “race”? Why are Hispanics not Caucasians? They developed from Spaniards, like early Americans were French or American. Are people in Spain today not “white”? What even is “black”? Not that long ago, in a famous case here in Louisiana, a woman discovered she was legally black because she was 1/36 black. Not sure if that law is still on the books. But think of it, how “mixed” people are considered to belong to whatever race the minority distinction in their blood inheres. It’s more latent racism, that only “pure” members of the race count. Crazy.
My point? It’s irrelevant. I try never to think of or even acknowledge race. Sure, the guy standing in the third row with the pale skin. The black lady walking past George Shinn’s seats. There’s no shame in describing someone’s appearance, just like there’s no problem acknowledging the color of a person’s eyes. But as if it means anything? Nope. It’s all how you are educated, how you choose to develop, and how you carry yourself. For those of us that pretend these things are inherently related, it’s just lazy correlation. As a convenient side-bonus, it enables people to forget the real and more complicated problems: unequal education, low wages vs. out-of-control inflation, and lack of health care coverage.
But that’s just me. Yeah, I get this video was a joke. But it’s also an implicit acknowledgment of how we perceive race relations. I just think that time will erase all such artificial distinctions. But who wants to wait that long? Sorry. Now back to your regularly scheduled NBA-blog.