Back in the days of antiquity, one of the most stressful jobs I would imagine, would be that of a messenger. If you returned from the battlefield with a message of victory, you would be hailed a hero and celebrated. If you were sent to an opposing kingdom with a message of goodwill, you would be treated as royalty and given a feast. However if you returned with a message of defeat, or brought a message of war, well your death was pretty much assured and it wouldn’t be pleasant. Hence the term: “Don’t kill the messenger!”
Jason Whitlock brings a message to the African-American community. It’s usually a message of the second type because it’s not popular. It’s not what most of us want to hear. So he is vilified.
Now I don’t regularly read the brother’s column, but I have read it a few times. I don’t agree with everything he says…. actually I agree with a lot of what he says, but hey… for me it’s not about agreeing… it’s about having a point of view. If it’s different from mine… all the better…. maybe I can learn something. I have seen him on Oprah and heard him a few times on a sports radio talk show sitting in as a guest host. The primary message which I get from him, is one of responsibility and accountability within the Black community, primarily when it comes to “our” sports heroes. He is sometimes harsh with his commentary. Yes, he is uncomfortably hard on Jesse and Al… almost to the point of being disrespectful, but there is a lot of truth in his message. During the Imus affair, one thing he said which struck a cord with me, and I am paraphrasing, is that we as a people cannot expect others to respect us more than we respect ourselves. Not a popular message when it is directed at the rappers, other entertainers and sports celebrities of our community. I have read articles where he argues eloquently (in my opinion) against demonizing Barry Bonds and Michael Vick and he supports the NAACP’s call to give Vick an opportunity to return to the NFL, after he pays whatever debt society dictates. Not a popular message to the “white” moralists. Although he acknowledges that racism is the root cause of some, maybe even most of our problems, like me he doesn’t see it as an “excuse” for our self-inflicted woes…. especially by our millionaire sports heroes. Even on the sports talk shows, the majority of the Black callers have an issue with his call for our highly paid athletes to behave better. To be responsible and accountable for their actions, because they are role models to the youth of our community, whether they want to be or not. “Whom much is given, much is expected.” Not a popular message to our community at large.
Now our sports heroes have always had a special place in our hearts. Historically, every time they were able to beat a “white man” in a competition, overcome the odds whether in track and field, boxing, tennis, etc,…. they were striking a blow for us. They were our champions. Our Davids defeating the Goliaths of white supremacy on our behalf. They were an inspiration. Role models. Jesse Owens. Joe Johnson. Joe Louis. Muhammed Ali. Arthur Ashe. Not any more. Not with our present crop of athletes. Maybe back in the day we were more forgiving and/or accepting of their shortcomings. Times have changed. We have changed. Not to say that today there aren’t any African-American athletes who are positive role models, male and female. Unfortunately they don’t make the headlines, because they quietly go about their business…. and stay out of trouble…. doing the “right” thing. They should be featured and celebrated more…. no doubt. We need to take some blame for not publicly honouring them more.
However I digress. Back to the messenger: Jason Whitlock. Through the Afrosphere I became aware of a column he did on the “Jena 6″. This led me to a post by my brother blogger, Field Negro and to the Whitlock’s column. I read both articles a number of times in an effort to understand what it was that Whitlock said that…. well…. proves that he has a “problem with Black folks.” What has earned him the unfortunate title as “the LaShawn Barber of the sports world.”? OUCH!!!!! (DAMN…. I gotta admit that I fell down laughing at that one! Cold.) He brings to light certain facts in regards to the “Jena 6″ case, which leads him to the position that “much of the mainstream reporting on this story has been misleading, irresponsible and inflammatory.” He takes issue with the actions of all parties involved: the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the school board, the “noose-hanging” white students, the media, Al Sharpton, the community at large (both Black and White), the “Jena 6″ and the parents: of both the white students and the “Jena 6″. He lays at all their feet…. their share of the blame which has lead to this travesty of justice. In his post Field states about Whitlock:
“And every fucking day he rips another black athlete or person who happens to be in the news, for not playing by America’s rules. Like who the fuck died and made him the Martha Stewart of race? On a certain level I almost respect Jason’s hustle. Because you and I both know that he can’t believe all the shit that he writes. But it’s working, Jason is getting more popular by the day, because he is just the latest in a long line of black folks who “Charlie” props up to say what he wants to say, but can’t, because it would be too politically incorrect. Jason can say it, because he is one of them.“
Hmmmm. Ok. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I only wonder if there are any falsehoods in the facts of the situation which Whitlocks contends, regarding the individuals in the “Jena 6″? Not that it justifies what is happening to them, because it doesn’t. However, it gives another perspective which I wasn’t aware of. But in the long run, that doesn’t even matter. It’s the message that is the underlying issue. We now live in an age where you cannot kill the messenger, but you can certainly kill the message. Discredit the messenger and you can discount the message. The easiest way to discredit a Black person in our community, to nullify their voice, opinions and beliefs…. to KILL their message…. is to call them a tool of the “white man”…. a house negro of “Massa Charlie”.
Jason Whitlock is very lucky we aren’t living “back in the day“. Come to think of it… so am I.