But here’s something a bit more substantial that we need to be talking about. Let’s talk about how men like Vick keep finding themselves in these sad and disturbing situations in the first place?
We’re about to go into some very deep waters here. I am getting ready to talk a little family business, which means some of you will actually be eavesdropping on a conversation. I don’t expect some of you to understand where I’m coming from. I don’t expect some of you to relate to what I’m saying, even though in many ways this crisis actually cuts across all racial and social barriers.
I want to talk about why too many young black athletes in America keep finding themselves in these messes.
I’m old school enough to remember when we had no shortage of black athletes of true substance and positive images. We had men with social conscience and resolve like Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Muhammad Ali, Curt Flood, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and John Thompson who used to be our heroes. They were athletes and coaches with social consciousness who felt a responsibility to portray themselves with a sense of dignity, pride and purpose.
It wasn’t all about a multimillion-dollar shoe contracts. They had far more significant issues to handle. But somewhere between Jackie Robinson and Michael Vick, too many black athletes have gotten lost. In the words of Malcolm X, things have run amok, and we’ve been led astray.
I’ve written about this before, and so I want to be very precise with my words. For far too many modern black athletes, “keepin’ it real” has become the dangerous anthem that is threatening to destroy all the good that the previous generation of black athletes helped create.
“‘Keepin’ it real’ is one of the most dangerous phrases in our language,” St. Louis Rams Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson says. “It puts us in situations we have no business being in, then makes it almost impossible to get out of.”
This is the misguided notion that the only way to appeal to the young demographic of the sneaker-buying public is to adopt the negative attitudes of the thug life popularized by black gangster rappers. It is all part of the systematic hijacking of the Black American culture. And the worst part is, too many of us just let it happen. We let it happen by passively condoning this mess. The minute we started embracing the images of Allen Iverson as the edgy iconoclast, but sniffed our noses at a straight arrow like David Robinson as “too soft” and lacking in “street cred,” we helped fuel this mess. We fueled it every time we sanctioned the repeat violations of stupidity by Vick and all the other new athletic minstrels every time they stumbled and we accepted their sorry alibis.
It’s a culture that created a new generation of minstrels who are just as dehumanizing as Amos and Andy or Stepin Fetchit. Now they come glamorizing thug life and prison fashion, legitimizing derogatory racial insults into the mainstream, and convincing an entire generation that the only measure of true blackness is a hard-core gangsta edge, and anyone who rejects this is either hopelessly out of touch or a sad Uncle Tom. So the Pacmans and Michael Vicks just can’t pull away from the street, can’t tear themselves away from so-called friends who have rewarded them for that loyalty by escorting them to a front-row seat in a federal courtroom, then rolling on them to the authorities.
So due process might still be in effect with Michael Vick in the U.S. vs. Michael “Ookie” Vick, but in the court of common sense, he and too many men in his generation are guilty as charged for the crime of living life under the wrong influence.
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