Even though I don’t frequent too many sports blogs or watch a lot of sports talk shows (I’m about the sports and discussion with fellow fans; I don’t really have time for punditry in any form) I happened across something that bothered me. I know it shouldn’t because when you accept the reality of a GAT-DL, nothing these persons do or say should upset you. At least in theory. But I happened across it and the negative reaction on my part was immediate.
To give a brief synopsis, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has said that he basically wants to be known as a quarterback and not be defined as an African American quarterback first and foremost. I took it to mean he wanted to be known for his individual achievements and not have “BLACK” slapped in front of everything he did. He wants to, I assume, be judged by who he was first rather than as a representative of an entire ethnic group.
Well lo and behold, an opinionated gentleman by the name of Rob Parker has taken umbrage with Griffin. His concern? He may not be an “authentic black person.” He decided to, on national television no less, have a go at this man over his “blackness”:
“My question is, and it’s just a straight, honest question: Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother,” Parker said. “He’s not really. He’s black, he does his thing, but he’s not really down with the cause. He’s not one of us. He’s kind of black, but he’s not really like the kind of guy you really want to hang out with.”
Lawd, Lawd, Lawdy Lawd! Are we…is this for real? Am I on Candid Camera?! Now, I don’t know the quarterback in question, and maybe he doesn’t know how to do the funky chicken or whatever this Parker person measures authentic blackness by. But this is the height of embarrassingly unaware. Black people, there is a difference between a person simply playing football and marching for civil rights. I know someone is going to want to pop up and talk about how he wouldn’t be where he is without someone having been the one to break the glass ceiling. But what the hell is the point of breaking a glass ceiling if it is only so that other people can dictate to you who you are and who you get to be according to your color or ethnicity? That doesn’t sound like the shattering of a glass ceiling. That instead looks like people rushing to glue it back together.
It can be hard as a member of a disenfranchised group to know when a moment is simply about you. Often, we’re expected to treat every moment as if we’re Rosa Parks sitting on a bus and someone is going to come along and try and take our seat. But this is not reality. You live your own life as people have fought and died for you to do so. I don’t imagine those people did that with the idea that you will forever be bound to a pre-existing and highly prejudicial notion of how you get to identify yourself as spoken by a total stranger.
I’m just Toni. I am not now nor have I ever been interested in being the representative for black women or black people everywhere. Certain people need to stop pandering this idea that all black people want to do is fight and march for everything. The man wants to play football. Let him play football. Let him play football and be recognized for who he is as a person. Just let African Americans get to be who we want to be without some idiot(s) standing around with a box demanding them to jump in, lest they forfeit their “authenticity”.
I don’t think it’s necessarily a wise thing to heavily attach individual pride and validation to the achievement of total strangers anyway. I think when those strangers make it clear that it’s about them and not you, if you’re heavily invested as a matter of race, that rejection can shake your sense of self. That’s what leads to people saying things like, “Well, you aren’t really black anyway so it doesn’t matter, because I couldn’t have ever identified with you.” And then you bring up causes and us vs. them – really, it’s just about a failure to recognize boundaries and the fact that not everyone exists in a mentality where every day is a march to Washington.
If you are wronged or you recognize something as wrong, yes, stand up for what is right. But it’s important to do so because that’s what you want to do because that’s what’s in your heart. I do not expect people to join my causes simply because we share a skin shade or a hair texture. Priorities differ from person to person. But please, stop trying to co-opt and claim people who want no part of you and your “authentic blackness”. Or at least if you are going to go at those people, be honest: You’re mad because unlike you, someone has a handle on their identity and what they want out of life that wasn’t scripted by someone else.
I am tired of these type of people fixing their mouths to tell me or anyone else what “authentic blackness” is or even that it exists. It doesn’t. In its place, what we have are real human beings with their own thoughts and wishes, who have more to do with their time than cater to the dated and biased groupthink of the small-minded and big-mouthed.