Friday, July 20, 2007

Back in Da Hood

A federal grand jury in Richmond indicted Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and three other men yesterday on charges related to their alleged operation of a dogfighting ring based at a property Vick owns in southeastern Virginia.

Vick, one of the NFL's most exciting players, was charged with competitive dogfighting and conducting the venture across state lines. The 19-page indictment alleged Vick was highly involved in the operation, alleging that he attended fights and paid off bets when his dogs lost. It said he also was involved in the executions of dogs that did not perform well.[1]

Many people will wonder how a man under contract to make 130 million dollars, not to mention millions more in endorsements, could be involved in something so cruel as what has been alleged in this case? A man who arguably is one of the best athletes in the NFL and a public icon in Atlanta is being indicted for such a heinous crime. Why is it that so many Black superstars continue to find themselves on the front pages accused of criminal activity, some of it imitating “gangster” behavior publically? Are Black stars different from White stars?

In order to get a better understanding of what is taking place; one must look into the history of many of these stars. It is in looking at their backgrounds that their behavior begins to not seem as bizarre as we would like to think. Many of us cannot understand how men who are making ungodly amounts of money are willing to throw it all away to ride around carrying guns, smoking pot, and assaulting women. Let me start by saying that the majority of athletes both Black and White are not criminals. Because we live in a celebrity driven society the media will continue to highlight the ones that they consider newsworthy. This may not be fair, but everyone who signs on for their 15 minutes are aware of the rules and consents to them. You can’t accept the money and the perks from having celebrity status, but then whine when they use it to sell newspapers, because you got caught doing something stupid. It may be something that Joe Sixpack may do all day long and nobody says anything, but that’s because he is not considered newsworthy. Again, it isn’t fair but its how the game is played.

Having read a number of articles concerning this particular case and others that are similar in recent weeks, I can’t help but notice that there are those who will defend a Black man no matter what he is accused of, convicted of, or confessed to doing. I understand the desire to do so, but at the same time it is this blind race defending that cheapens the times when there really is racial outrage. It is not a secret that Black stars are targeted by the media, law enforcement, and an angry white public. There are those who would like nothing better than to see the frailties of Black men and women exposed and make it stereotypical of all Blacks. Again it doesn’t make it right, it just makes it real. Every Black person in America is aware of these harsh facts at an early age and lives their lives accordingly. Having said that, it would be foolish of me to acknowledge that I am being profiled and still continue to do stupid behavior. When I smoked pot, if the police were behind me I wouldn’t pull out a joint and light it. I don’t care how many white boys were driving down the street doing it, I knew better.

We should stop confusing how things should be, with how things are. Sure in a perfect world we would all be judged equally and based on our character and not our color, but we don’t live in that world. We should be able to condemn the behavior of criminals and deviants no matter what their race. Why does it have to be an either/or scenario. Why can‘t we be able to acknowledge that there is prejudice and that we have some criminals worthy of punishment.

Black stars are different from many of their white counterparts. Most black stars come from poor, single mother households. This is not an indictment against being poor or single mothers, it is merely a fact. They grow up in bad neighborhoods and are surrounded by the “ghetto” lifestyle, these are there realities. Poor people live by different rules. The things that people value changes as their economic status changes, but the rules are much harder to change. Because so many of the Black stars grew up poor and most were not just in situational poverty, but generational poverty the rules they live by are still the same no matter what their economic circumstances. The difference in situational poverty and generational poverty is that when one has situational poverty, it occurs due to some unforeseen circumstance, a medical catastrophe or a layoff. The family was making ends meet until the incident occurred and usually given a change in economic circumstances the family regains some semblance of their previous life. Generational poverty is when the family has been poor for multiple generations; this occurs a lot with single teenage mothers, coming from single teenage mothers. My grandmother lived in the projects, my mother lived in the projects, and I live in the projects. For these stars, no matter how much success they receive or how much money they make, in their minds they are always “back in da hood”, keeping it real. This is why they exhibit the same behavior as others who are still living in the ghetto. You have stars that are making lots of money, dealing drugs, not because they need the money but because this is what we do in the hood.

You add to this poverty mix, the star worship culture that we surround them with and before long they think they can do no wrong. Having been a part of the athlete worship environment I know firsthand how we coddle our star athletes from a very early age, we give them a false sense of the world. They can begin to believe that they are above the law. This attitude is dangerous for any black man no matter what his status is.

I have read that because of white people’s unhealthy love of animals and animal rights that Michael Vick is being unfairly treated. I admit that the calls for the death penalty are a bit ridiculous. I am not an animal fanatic. I have had dogs and I like dogs, but I don’t put animals in the same category as people. As much as sometimes I despise people, I will unfortunately always chose a human life over an animal. What Michael Vick is accused of is heinous. I have never found pleasure in watching animals fighting each other, it just isn’t my thing. But what troubles me more is the treatment of the animals after they fought or during the training process. It is cruel to hang, drown, or beat a dog to death, I’m sorry regardless of your feelings about animals and animal rights this is a no-brainer. I pray that these accusations are false, but if they prove to be true then Mr. Vick will surely be thrown to the dogs…


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