I know this seems like an odd topic for a white woman with a blog primarily about writing books to bring up. But since equality (sex, gender, race, orientation, etc.) is important to me, I’m going to discuss this.
A week ago, the Seattle Seahawks won over the San Francisco 49ers with the prize being a trip to the Super Bowl. For a moment there, it looked like the 49ers were going to win. But Seahawk Richard Sherman tipped away a pass to 49er Michael Crabtree. In layterms, he stopped the ball from getting to the other guy, preventing the other guy from scoring for the team.
Now when you’re a young player and you are the reason your team is going to the Super Bowl, you’re going to be filled with adrenaline and just be thrilled to the moon and back, feeling on top of the world. Before this, Sherman offered Crabtree his hand and said, “Hell of a game, hell of a game” (verified by video), a good sportsman gesture. Instead of shaking, Crabtree shoved him. After this, Sherman gave a bit of a cocky statement about being the best. As he walked off the field, he make a quick throttle gesture toward Crabtree. In football, this has never been a big deal.
Despite being shoved after offering his hand to an opposing player, Sherman has been called a thug. In times past in football, this has applied primarily to Raiders fans for being a bit rougher than the fans of most other teams. Now maybe it’s because I am a member of the Raider Nation, someone who grew up surrounded by those typically called thugs, that I didn’t get it at first. What did Sherman do that was wrong at all? He wasn’t rough. He didn’t call anyone names, or hit anyone. He behaved no different than any other player in that regard. He actually tried to congratulate Crabtree on a very good game that was so close that it came down to that very last play! I asked on Facebook what was going on, and friends posted links to a video of him talking about being the best. Okay. What did he do wrong? And then video to that throttling gesture. Okay. What did he do wrong? What did he do that hundreds, if not thousands of players before him didn’t?
Ah. I found out. It’s because he’s a black guy, and so that throttling gesture was taken as him making a threat. I guarantee you that if John Elway had been walking off that field instead and made that gesture, excited about his team going to the Super Bowl, no one would have paid him any mind. I know, I know, I’m a white lady, so why should I care when my own race wouldn’t have had issues? And that’s just the problem! Different treatment based on race is wrong. People using a different word as a stand-in for another word I won’t even type is WRONG. Just a few years ago, what he didn’t wouldn’t be a big deal. But now? Oh my god, whutta thug….
We are in 2014. Why is society still judging people on race? We’ve got plenty of white people who are morons who should be dropped off on a deserted island to rot, and plenty of black people who are full of heart, intelligence, and who’d do anything to help anyone. Judging on race never should have happened, and if we want to be in a more enlightened time, it definitely shouldn’t be going on today. But racism is on the rise, and this proves it.
I’d read many reports that try using the fact that this young man earned a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University because of his grades in high school as evidence that he can’t be this big bad guy. This misses the mark. You don’t have to be a 4.0-student in high school or go to college to be a good person. On the flip side, you can get a scholarship to Harvard at the age of 16, get a degree, earn a PhD in mathematics from University of Michigan, and then become an assistant professor at UC Berkeley by the age of 25, and still end up like Ted Kaczynski. You might know him as the Unibomber. Plenty of people who didn’t even finish high school are polite, hard-working people, and their formal education status shouldn’t be used to say they have a higher chance of being a bad guy that someone who got a couple degrees by his early 20’s. However Sherman’s education is all that’s been used by the media to defend him.
I think the one good thing to come out of this is that, in the last few days quite a few people I know have been posting about his their own visceral responses to this who situation, a knee-jerk response of jumping on the bandwagon and looking down on someone did nothing wrong, has made them realize they have more deep-seeded racism than they realized. I’ve been biting my tongue from snapping, “No shit, Sherlock.” These are people who get mad when a white guy trails and kills a black teen who only defended himself against his armed stalker. Still, their reaction, when there was no physical harm, was to denounce the black man as if he’d committed some great crime against humanity.
Since then, NFL has decided to find Sherman almost $9,000 for “unsportsmanlike conduct” while looking the other way regarding Crabtree shoving Sherman without provocation.
I don’t know what I can do about this. In my writing, such as Sacred Blood, I prominently feature people of different races, including interracial pairings and marriages, without making it out to be anything out of the ordinary — because it shouldn’t be seen as unusual. I’ll go to bat against injustice when I see it. I’ve cut out an entire side of my family largely because of their racism (frankly I’m not missing anything by not being around people like that). I will not support racists in any way, and frankly, I will not respect someone’s “opinion” that any race is inherently better than any other. But what else can be done on the individual level? I don’t know. The rise in racism is horrifying, and Sherman’s statement garnering this level of vitriol just goes to show that these days a black person can do the same thing as a white person, and will still be targeted for it.
If your first reaction to Sherman was to get mad at him, please ask yourself what he did that was so different from what any other player has done. Think about how Crabtree shoved him for no good reason, and ask yourself if Sherman was really the one out of line, or if you just jumped on the bandwagon of putting him down because it was the easier thing to do.
And then ask yourself why Justin Bieber, despite causing $20,000 in damage to a neighbor’s house, having the audacity to write in the guest book at the Anne Frank house that she’d surely “be a Belieber” (a term for his fans), and most recently, drag-racing through a residential Florida neighborhood while drunk (he’s not even 21, so drinking at all isn’t legal), and then resisting arrest, hasn’t been called a thug. Charges were actually dropped aside from resisting arrest. Yet 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian was slammed to the ground by Florida police officers for “dehumanizing stares.” Black kid gets physically slammed for looking at a cop wrong, and the white kid gets treated with kid gloves.