Duncan Banner: My attempt at cultural discussion back in 2007

Posted: June 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

With music becoming annoying after the first three hours of my road trip, I dialed around the stations trying to find anything besides the new Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song. Nothing came across that caught my ear, so the final resting place stopped at the Dan Patrick radio show on ESPN.

Patrick doubles as a television anchor, and is usually pretty entertaining. He hardly ever talks about anything serious, so our personalities kind of mesh. He doesn’t think that sports are the most important thing in life, yet his career is based around them. I’m trying to fashion myself in the same mold, so I try to find time to hear his opinions as much as possible.

So there we were, stuck together for the next 2.5 hours with nothing to do besides laugh at the latest blunder in the sporting world.

On this occasion that I spent listening to him, and on this occasion that you are reading me, it turned a little serious. The subject was race and the language we use in addressing it. The conversation was a reaction to the statements of Sen. Joe Biden saying that Barack Obama was “articulate.” The president followed suit, and then the national media jumped on top of them.

I guess I was being naïve, but calling Obama “articulate” seemed like a compliment at first. The media and other voices saw it differently. They saw it as Biden and George W. Bush saying that Obama was different from other black people. They said that the comment of Obama being “clean” and “articulate” was insulting.

After some thought, I started to see where they where coming from. The point is, when was the last time you heard someone call a white adult articulate? They are usually called “smart” or “bright,” but we hardly ever hear “articulate” to describe them. After all, can’t we always understand what a white adult is saying? It makes perfect sense to understand why people were offended.

A lot of times, we let these little words slip into the sports’ lexicon.

As was discussed on the radio show, white athletes are looked at differently from black athletes. It’s almost a reversal of what goes on in the rest of society. While a black business man is said to have to work harder to achieve success in his field, it is said to be the same for a white athlete in the sports world. The general population sees white professional athletes as over-achievers, while black athletes are simply athletic.

The white athlete spent hours after practice working on his game, while the black athlete was born with the ability to run a 4.4 forty, or dunk a basketball. These are stereotypes, but ones that people carry with them every day.

When we think of John Stockton, a white man, playing for the Utah Jazz, he is described as a scrappy player who went above his potential to become one of the greatest guards in the National Basketball Association’s history. When we think of Michael Jordan, a black man, people see a guard who has been given a gift. Jordan probably put in the same amount of time as Stockton to develop his game, but because of his skin color, we put him into the category “athlete.” Stockton had great athletic ability, too, but there were probably few occasions where someone described him as athletic. He was “savvy” and a “student of the game.” To some people, Jordan was simply born with the talent.

That’s where the lexicon can be disrespectful. It’s an unintentional use of words for most, but should be something that we consider when describing people.

Ricky Henderson, a black man, set the stolen base record because he was fast, with blazing speed. Craig Biggio, who is a white base stealer, is simply crafty or deceptively quick. They say that Biggio can “sure read those pitchers,” while Henderson could overcompensate for slow jumps. He had the “blazing speed,” remember.

We can also see this at the high school level here in our area on the nights that the Duncan Demons’ basketball team goes up against predominately black players. It’s an unspoken thought, but when you look at Duncan warming up with white players, and the other team warming up with black players, you almost automatically think that Duncan will lose.

It’s also unspoken that Duncan will have to outsmart them in order to win the game. Because they are white players, we see them as being not as athletic.

It’s a mindset that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but one that will hopefully drift away in the future.

Like a road trip, we may not notice the little things that are happening around us at all times, and it may take awhile to get to the desired destination. But just like when we are driving, we should always be aware of what is going on.

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