Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Time to get serious...

I am not going to beat the dead Imus horse, I saved Mirror Sports 3 x 5 this week for that, however I am going to address this growing issue of racism in sports. The main problem: This is not a growing problem. It has been a problem forever and it stems from issues way beyond sports.

In the midst of graduation and finishing up courses, I don't have time to cite historical racism throughout this country and sports. Besides, most of you are well aware.

What I offer is a unique perspective as a man who has a diverse background.

I was not raised under a formal religion as each of my grandparents are a different affiliation. Lutheran, Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish are all a part of my family and my life. While I have a general and basic knowledge of each religion, I don't feel close enough to any religion to consider myself a part of it or defined by it.

Similarly, I grew up in a fairly diverse school district. Racism was certainly present, but it was widespread and amongst all groups. While this may have seemed ass-backwards, it in fact gave everyone a sense of equality. Nobody was above or below anyone else because everyone ripped on each other, equally.

When I came to Fairfield, I was given a culture shock like no other.

While many kids broaden their horizons and branch out, I had to become introverted. I met kids who knew their parents by credit card statements, have never seen a Jewish person, and gave the fabled "there was one black family in my town, but they came in high school." This really bothered me. Could people be this naiive and sheltered? Is it possible in modern day to have this ignorance? After four years, the answer is a resounding yes.

This, in effect, is the issue with this continued racism coming to the fore-front of sports and the media. While the comments of people, and I use the term "people" loosely, such as Don Imus and Michael Ray Richardson are heinous and racist, the sentiments are unfortunately widespread.

It is more than true that these comments have no place in sports, let alone anywhere. At the same time, there is more racism then merely their ignorant comments.

At what point do we attack the greater whole, not just the individual offender?

I pose an alternative view. Last night on Scarborough Country, an African American screenwriter (whose name I sheepishly don't recall) put the entire Imus situation in perspective. Imus, like Richardson, is a crotchety old man who is old school, racist, and isn't going to change. This is a definite truth, but as he continued, his argument became more unique. While he was offended by the comments, the other side is that you can go to BET or MTV and see videos in which African - American women are being portrayed in this way.

As he said, is there no shame in the culture? At what point do we draw the line and stop people from portraying these stereotypes and start moving forward with cultures?

I found this profound and an exact representation of the problems within this country, and world.

Everyone hates stereotypes, but not enough people respect their cultures to cease playing into them. For instance, Jewish comedy is as self-depricating as it comes. Funny, but often asking for anti-Semitism. Rappers like 50 Cent and Snoop Dogg play into the ganster stereotype. The racism is not right, but it is almost justified.

Finally, the argument (which yesterday Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser supported) that cultures can be racist toward themselves does not hold water. You can't be offended by words such as "nigger" when you use it ceaselessly. It is an awful word with an awful connotation and it is not justified, by anyone.

Cultures need to gain a maturity that wrong is wrong, not wrong is only wrong if you say it.

Either that or as Carlos Mencia says, hate everyone equally.


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