A few weeks ago, airport-hopping while on vacation, I saw at least a half dozen Miami Heat, LeBron No. 6 jerseys -- all worn by black men. Given today's anti-LeBron climate, rocking his jersey is a fairly defiant act. It says, "Screw the rest of these folks, LeBron, I'm riding with you, homeboy." It might seem as if LeBron is on an island, right now, but something tells me he knows he's not alone.
And truth is, I don't really need to discuss it since I could use this most recent "black person attacked me!" false accusation, too. Cause really, however mentally ill Bethany Storro must be to attempt suicide by pouring drain cleaing fluid in her own face, she was clearly lucid enough to know that blaming a black woman would take the focus off herself because the media and public, if not the doctor and police, eat that kinda thing up. I don't know how things work in Canada, but here in the US, blaming a black person for a crime you committed can give you enough time to leave the country if you so chose. And I'm sorry, but one Tawanna Brawley does not equal Susan Smith, Charles Stuart, or Ashley Todd to name a few.
That said, I'm a big sports fan, and I really want ESPN to stop giving TV time to Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie aside. I haven't read it.
Okay. Here's my point. Today we live in an age driven by the myth of racial "colorblindness," both that society is and that individuals can be. Understand, noticing my racial background isn't the problem. Making assumptions about who I am or could be is a bit offensive; but depending on who you are, even that's not necessarily racist and not much the problem. Racism occurs when you attribute actual value to my phenotype, whether positive or negative. Besides, several studies, most notably this one by Harvard, talk about implicit racism. So just because you're consciously "ignoring" my dark(er) complexion doesn't mean your amygdala is, and I hope I don't have to prove to you the possibility that white Americans can be unknowingly (even though we try to tell them all the time) racist. It just seems reasonable that if we have subconscious cues in other areas of life, we'd have them in this particular area, whatever your reservations about Harvard's test may be. (Furthermore, whatever white people say in public, we know everything ain't "p.c." when no one's paying you any attention.)
So look. Racism does a few things . . . aside from the initial racist reaction. First, it dismisses complaints of racism:
Still, no one should be surprised that LeBron's answer was, "I think so at times. It's always, you know, a race factor."Then, it ignores the evidence. Albom says:
Because sadly, when a high-profile African-American athlete hits an oil skid of controversy, it is all too easy to make race the culprit.
LeBron's popularity dropped steadily after that event. And recently it was announced that he was the sixth-most disliked athlete, according to the latest Q Score. Now, I don't put much stock in polls. But LeBron didn't become internationally famous with only black fans liking him, and he didn't reach this sudden infamy with only white fans bailing out (emphasis mine).Even though:
According to The Q Scores Co., for non-blacks, LeBron's positive Q rating went from 18 percent in January to 10 percent in September and, more telling, his negative Q rating went from 24 percent to 44. Nearly half of the non-blacks in this country don't like the dude. Meanwhile, LeBron's positive Q rating among blacks went from 52 percent in January to 39 -- a noticeable drop -- but his negative Q rating barely budged, going from 14 percent to 15. Among African-Americans, says The Q Scores Co. executive vice president Henry Schafer, the shift in opinion was mostly to neutral (emphasis mine).Interpret the numbers how you will, cause I doubt the neutrality is solely about black protectionism. But you can't deny that ". . . black Americans just didn't go along when the dominant storyline came to be that James was evil. His negative Q ratings, in other words, did not change much after The Decision." So unless Albom meant that other racial minorities besides blacks had bailed on James, and he well could have (but I doubt it), his assertion that James' sudden fall from grace can't be attributed to white fans is wrong. To my point, such is racism. Blatently indifferent, if not just impervious, to the facts.
Finally, there are some occasions when racism can lead, though unintentionally, to some truth-telling, even if it'll have to be teased out. Again, Albom:
And for the record, re: Albom's assertion that there's "similar vitriol" against Brett Favre, Favre is more liked and less hated than Lebron.