Thursday, July 19, 2007

More Than Black

Being a sports fan and also a New York Yankees fan I couldn’t help but catch the hoopla surrounding the latest tirade by Gary Sheffield, a former Yankee. According to Mr. Sheffield, the Yankees manager, Joe Torre treats Black ballplayers different from the White and Latino players. As I was reading the article I couldn’t help but wonder about his comments in light of two factors. Number one of course would be the source of the comments and number two would be my own personal experiences.

First off, Mr. Sheffield is a player and a man that thrives on controversy. He feels that it is his job to keep things “stirred up”, so he has been known to make some pretty radical statements. Because of his penchant for saying these things he strikes people immediately; they either love him or they hate him, there is no middle ground. This appears to be alright with Mr. Sheffield since his wealth affords him the luxury to tell people where to go. It is also true that Mr. Sheffield has been known to make some comments just for shock value, sort of like Dennis Rodman and the wedding dress thing, well sort of. I have learned in this life that anyone can have a message and that I need to focus not on the messenger, but on the message he is delivering. So with that I listened to the message and found that there was a part of it that had some merit.

I do not nor have I ever played for the Yankees. I have never met Joe Torre. I do know that he is considered a successful baseball manager and his players for the most part like him and trust him. Does Mr. Torre treat Black players differently from other players? Probably, but that is because Black athletes are different and require different motivation. We are all motivated by things from our past and if a manager or coach is going to be successful he needs to figure out what motivates his players. I have not heard of any complaints from Black players about how certain Black superstars are treated differently. We have should get away from trying to have the best of both worlds; we complain when it is convenient and remain deathly silent when it is to our advantage. It cheapens the times when the complaining is real, the whole boy who cried wolf thing.

Anyway, one of the reporters mentioned to Mr. Sheffield about Derek Jeter who is the best player on the Yankees and his treatment from Mr. Torre. It was at this point that Mr. Sheffield unknowingly hit on the crux of the problem for Black superstar athletes. He stated that Derek Jeter was “not all Black”. For those who are not aware Mr. Jeter is of mixed race, or bi-racial. The crazy thing about what Mr. Sheffield said is that in America, unlike anywhere else in the world, to perpetuate slavery and prejudice, a child is considered Black if they have any Black blood from any parent. So it was funny that Mr. Sheffield would say that Derek Jeter got special treatment because of his White blood. Then I got to thinking about the prejudice we all show based on color and race. We as Black people are just as guilty for the most part of the thing we accuse others of.

Lighter skinned Blacks have always had an easier time being black than darker skinned Blacks, not only with Whites, but with other Blacks. Based on studies, we find lighter skinned Blacks more attractive, trustworthy, and happier. Unfortunately, it is a sad vestige of our slave and Jim Crow history. It has always been easier for lighter skinned Blacks to be successful, whether it is in the entertainment field or the business field. The lighter the skin or the closer you look to being white the better your chances were to be successful. But this is not the point of this article, the point is that using number two, my personal experience I have found it to be true that successful Blacks have always been looked upon as being “more than black”.

It is as if in order for Blacks to be successful they have to be “super Blacks”. Take for example superstars like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, and others, for many whites in order to accept them they can’t just be regular black folk, they have to be more than black. In other words, they have to transcend their blackness to be palatable to Whites. Because of our history of “inferiority” ordinary blacks cannot rise to success, because that would mean that Blacks were just as smart, just as dedicated, and just as dare I say it, articulate as Whites. And God forbid that could be true. So in order to keep the status quo, whites have had to create a super race of Blacks that can then be worshipped as heroes; these Blacks are “more than black”. The problem is that a lot of these super blackmen have bought into this attitude and believe the hype. It is evident in how they speak about other Blacks and in how they live their lives. These “super Blacks” tend to isolate from other Blacks, their worlds are just as insulated as their White counterparts. The most glaring example of this phenomenon was O.J. Simpson, until his fall from grace.

I remember in college how my white friends would in some weird attempt to complement me say things like you aren’t like the other Blacks, not realizing that instead of a compliment, it was an insult, because guess what; I am them. They believed that my goal was to not be black; they didn’t realize that just because we shared certain goals and values didn’t make me less black and more white. It just made me, me. Blacks share some of these same misconceptions, many believe that if someone does not buy into the "ghetto" culture that they are trying to be white. We in America have these convoluted ideas about race and what it means to be one race or another. So remember this, what does the white state trooper in Alabama call General Colin Powell? Just another ni**er!

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