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Although it's no surprise that racism permeates all areas in American culture, it has returned again to the world of sports, but this time people are taking notice...
Racism sucks. Retrieved from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/newstaco/5635106360/in/faves-18687099@N04/


I have been an anti-racism advocate for a while, but even with being as much, I have desperately tried to pick my battles, think critically, speak both academically and objectively, and at the same time, not ruffle too many feathers unnecessarily. It is my contention that not only are race and racism major factors in America, but that they’re issues of explicit sensitivity.  There is no secret that since the presidency of Barrack Obama, racism has reared its ugly head in America to a shocking extent. There are those who will oppose this statement, but I don’t recall (in modern history) racism and/or race related incidents being so blatant or public before the realization that the Obama campaign in 2007 had the realistic potential of being successful. And with modern technology and the expansion of social media over the years, there has been more racist commentary from everyday people over media outlets, more racist “jokes” displayed, and more white people in blackface, unrestricted, than there has been in ages.

So why do I make it my business to continuously bring up the obvious? Why do I continue to beat that dead horse? Because that horse has become cat-like, with its nine lives. In fact, in truth, it never dies. Though it’s important to highlight what I believe is the reason racism is so flagrant, which I consistently state stems from the reality that a black man holds the highest position in the American government, it has become a sobering thought when one looks at the reaction of the masses when people voice and complain about their modern experiences of racism.

I frequently chastise media sources such as Fox News, not only for their perpetuation of racism, but at the same time, for pacifying racists. Those Americans who tune in to such garbage (and others like it, for Fox News is only one example) are among those who continue to exhibit insensitivity in terms of using words like the N-word, wearing blackface, and mocking the parents and loved ones of Trayvon Martin. This is become so commonplace in today’s society that it is hardly shocking anymore. It’s pretty much causing people to become numb to it when they see or hear of it. So what, you may ask, is causing me to bug out now?


Well, as a fan of the National Football League, I was quite surprised that at the end of a football weekend that saw the head coach of the Denver Broncos, John Fox, face open heart surgery [1] and another head coach, Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans, collapse on the field from a possible stroke, [2] the breaking news story of the day was the suspension of the Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito indefinitely for behavior detrimental to the team [3] [5]. This is a sad story where Incognito allegedly threatened and harassed his teammate Jonathon Martin with, among other things, racist voicemails and texts. Martin, who is biracial, took a leave of absence last week to seek help for an undisclosed illness.

Initially, the story was that Martin was upset by a lunchroom prank that caused him to get up, leave the facility, and seek help for emotional issues. Some of his teammates even commented that if he were to play in the NFL, he would have to toughen up [4]. However, it turns out that he may have been threatened and bullied. The NFL recovered and released a voicemail left by Incognito that went as follows [6]:

Hey, wassup, you half n----- piece of s---. I saw you on Twitter, you been training 10 weeks. [I want to] s--- in your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your f---ing mouth. [I'm going to] slap your real mother across the face [laughter]. F--- you, you're still a rookie. I'll kill you.

According to ESPN, in regard to Incognito [7]:

Sources familiar with the tapes say these are terms Incognito used over time and were not isolated incidents, including the use of the racial epithet multiple times.

Sources also say Martin received a series of texts that included derogatory terms referring to the female anatomy and sexual orientation.

Incognito was suspended indefinitely by the Dolphins on Sunday night for conduct detrimental to the team. Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported Monday that the team plans to cut ties with him.

"He's done," a team source told the newspaper. "There are procedures in place, and everyone wants to be fair. The NFL is involved. But from a club perspective he'll never play another game here."

Now, it is not my intention to go beyond the edge on this, so I’ll start by saying that when I first saw the transcripts from the voicemail on the NFL Network, even my initial reaction was, “What’s the big deal?”

After all, it has become so common for people to play with the N-word as if they we playing with their children, so while offended, I tried to put it in perspective. However, the more I watched reaction from former players and other commentators, and after researching the story, two things popped into my head. One, was how often people try to make light of such a situation and make comments about the antagonists’ joking personality. It seems that in these situations, the person who has taken offense to such behavior is always labelled as soft, or too emotional and is often condemned for making a big deal about it. The second, was an experience I had in 2005. A subordinate employee who just so happened to be white, while unprovoked and one whom I was not talking to at the time, randomly stated to me – his supervisor, that, “…I should make you come up here a spit shine my boots.”

While the other employees and I just stared at him (I was actually at a loss for words at the time), he paused, then went on to add, “And if you do a good enough job, I’ll even throw you a quarter.”

Now, some people may not see the harm in that, but, while it’s never been proven that the quote was actually made, I immediately thought of the alleged statement by Elvis Presley that [8]:

The only thing black people can do for me is shine my shoes and buy my music.
 
Whether Elvis actually made the statement or not wasn’t important. It was the racist implication that pissed me off. And I certainly wasn’t that person’s shoe shine boy. What I was, was his supervisor and I should have been respected as such, for I gave no reason then or before not to be respected in my position, so where did the lack of respect come from? The fact that I am a person of color and he was not? Really? Seriously? How absurd.

As incensed as I was, I didn’t say a word to him, but wrote reports and filed a formal complaint. What was sad was that I was questioned on two different occasions by the same investigators who insinuated that I was being too sensitive about the incident and that the employee stated that he was just joking with me. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t joke about such issues. Had it not been for the reports of the other employees (who also just so happened to be white), nothing would have happen. As it was, he only received a three day suspension.

But that’s not the point. The point is, as I’ve said before, most people who are not of color have no reference for how people of color feel when dealing with race. If you have never been raped, who are you to tell someone who has how they are supposed to feel and/or act. It’s simply not your place. To tell them that it’s not that serious or that they have to get over it is also not your place.

To take this a step further, I would say that it seemed to me that many of the commentators seemed to half-believe the severity of Martin’s emotional state because he didn’t go to anyone in regard to the problems. This is where I blame the everyday media that has gone out of its way to marginalize the effects that racism has on people of color. It’s done to the point that victims of racism are afraid to voice their concerns to anyone who has the means to control it. Some people don’t want to be labeled, some don’t want to be ostracized, and some don’t want to suffer the blowback ramifications that result from making a formal complaint. And so, when the problems build up and the pressure gets to be too much, there has to be an outlet, and sometimes the results end up being tragic.

I would like to take the time to commend the National Football League, the NFL Network, ESPN, and all other media outlets who have covered this story and have given it the credence it deserves. It’s important that this story doesn’t fall to the wayside until it is properly dealt with.

Having said that, I will end with this: We cannot underestimate the power of racism. We must not let those who have no true presence in our lives dictate to us what we as human beings instinctively know to be true and we cannot continue to abuse each other and pass it off as a joke, or even worse, something meaningless. Racism, though intangible, is nevertheless very real. And it’s very powerful stuff, so unless we begin to take it seriously, it’s going to start to really impact us in negative ways. All of us…

Sources
1.    Associated Press (2013). Del Rio to guide Broncos as interim, MSN, November 4, 2013. Retrieved from: http://msn.foxsports.com/...
2.    Schwab, Frank (2013). Gary Kubiak reportedly suffered mini-stroke during Sunday night’s game, Shutdown Corner, November 4, 2013. Retrieved from: http://sports.yahoo.com/...
3.    Garafolo, Mike (2013). Did Miami teammate threaten Martin? Fox Sports, November 4, 2013. Retrieved from: http://msn.foxsports.com/...
4.    Beasley, Adam H., (2013). Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin on Jonathan Martin: Bullying ‘will not be tolerated,’ Miami Herald, November 2, 2013. Retrieved from: http://www.miamiherald.com/...
6.    Wilson, Aaron (2013). Incognitio made racial remarks, threats to Martin, National Football Post, November 4, 2013. Retrieved from: http://sports.yahoo.com/...
7.    ESPN (2013). Slurs in Incognito's messages, ESPN.com, November 4, 2013. Retrieved from: http://espn.go.com/...
8.    Hanson, Alan (2008). Rumored Elvis Racism Still Clouds His Musical Legacy, Elvis History Blog, January, 2008. Retrieved from: http://www.elvis-history-blog.com/...

Originally posted to White Privilege Working Group on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 02:14 AM PST.

Also republished by RaceGender DiscrimiNATION, House of LIGHTS, Support the Dream Defenders, Barriers and Bridges, and Black Kos community.

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