Saturday, February 25, 2012


Black culture website The Root has published a blog editorial about the woes of frequently embattled R&B singers Chris Brown and Bobby Brown. Bobby Brown claims that he was pushed away from the funeral of his recently deceased ex-wife, Whitney Houston. Chris Brown has reportedly been recording songs with ex-girlfriend Rihanna, whom he was convicted of battering in 2009.

You know what? Stop it! Neither Bobby Brown nor Chris Brown are revolutionaries! They are not human rights activists! They are not Afrocentric academics! They're not! Just because they can sing and dance does not mean they are particularly wise, ethical or moral. Talent does not indicate that they are open to advancing their knowledge, formally or informally. They are both celebrities who have (especially in the case of Bobby) squandered much of their goodwill with self-indulgent, petulant behavior over the years. Just because they are singers with an "edgy" street-wise quality does not make them into martyrs for black manhood. Chris Brown is not Malcolm X! Bobby Brown is not Fred Hampton! Am I supposed to admire these dolts because "They have swagger"? Really?? I really wish black pundits would present a more balanced portrayal and not just have a bunch of reactionary rhetoric for the mainstream media (who, in keeping with their cultural hegemony, will likely ignore it).

When it comes to the likes of Chris Brown, Bobby Brown, R. Kelly, Michael Vick, T.I., the Game, Kwame Kilpatrick, the list goes on, why do well-compensated black men still seem to be prone to making recklessly ill-informed, self-destructive decisions? And then when the inevitable pushback and criticism comes, we have to circle the wagons and damn near beatify these people? Based on the comments of many of these men, before, during and after their respective crises, they are clearly obsessed with the concept of hordes of anonymous "player haters" having something against them on principle-- supposedly for being black men who are cocky, talented, and with money. Get over yourselves!! All these guys have the millions to pay high-powered lawyers to get them out of the trouble that ordinary black men with little or no affluence would not have access too. What infuriates me is that folks like Grant Hill or Hill Harper have managed to avoid any crazy scandals, and people look at them as "soft". People have NO IDEA who Dr. Neal Degrasse Tyson is.

The Root has recently been including profiles of its Young Futurists of 2012. In this author's opinion, they will contribute more, pragmatically, to our culture than the celebrity "bad boys". Yes, some of the mainstream press coverage gets batty-- but hey-- on some core level, maybe they have a point. It speaks ill of the intellectual discernment and political capital of black folks when we start going to the wall defending literally every black celebrity who's been struck by megalomania.

Look, I'm not stumping for Armstrong Williams' spot (or Stanley Crouch's, either). I see plenty of imbalance in contemporary American cultural narratives about African-American men. There are plenty of ongoing issues in which with the mainstream press and in pop-culture that deserve vigorous critique. But when it comes to the "ne'er-do-well distant cousins" of our community, I can defend their humanity, but I will not defend their pathology. At all.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


"I'm not playing to prove anything to anybody," Lin said. "That affected my game last year and my joy last year. With all the media attention, all the love from the fans (in the Bay Area), I felt I needed to prove myself. Prove that I'm not a marketing tool, I'm not a ploy to improve attendance. Prove I can play in this league. But I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore,"
Jeremy Lin, San Jose Mercury News, February, 2012.

Boxer Floyd Mayweather, sportwriter Jason Whitlock and others have made some flippant remarks concerning the recent ascent of professional basketball player Jeremy Lin. A guard for the New York Knicks who recently scored 38 points in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers. With those who are starkly critical of the attention being paid to Lin, one of the underlying assumptions here seems to be that only black guys are entitled to play ball. By this same line of reasoning, black people had no reason to be proud of the Williams sisters in their tennis career. Lin's ascension illustrates that as of 2012 maybe it’s not good enough to just be a talented young black man from the ‘hood anymore, especially now that the NBA corporate culture is trying to do more multicultural, global outreach to recruit players. Incidentally, Lin was born and raised in California, so he's no more "foreign" than this author is.

Lin is also a Harvard graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in economics. How many young black men only go to college just as a mandatory stepping stone to going into the NBA, and getting their degree is a secondary, if not tertiary, concern? If the league still allowed for graduating high school seniors to enter the NBA, how many would jump at the chance while saying “(bleep) college”?

Haven’t Asian-American youth been growing up watching college and NBA players over the years, same as the young black, latin and white kids? It stands to reason that some would be interested in sports besides tennis, soccer and golf—and not every Asian kid is into martial arts, either. For whatever its worth, Lin clearly paid his dues, being a non-drafted player who played in the NBA’s minor league squads before being put on by the Knicks.

I really hope that people don’t start reflexively bashing him with a bunch of Asian jokes, or, particularly for some of our “afrocentric” peeps, trying to smear him based on the ongoing problems of confrontations with Asian-owned businesses in black communities. Lin isn’t involved in any of that and doesn’t deserve to be associated with it.

To be clear, I'm not much for all of the "second coming/savior of the league" talk concerning any rookie/semi-rookie, mainly because it's frequently entirely too much pressure to put on these guys. Whether he ends up as a 'premier' player or a role-player has yet to be seen. Hopefully he will be allowed the space to naturally develop as a consistent contributor to his team's W column. Lin has publicly identified as a person of faith, so hopefully it will help him maintain some personal-life equilibrium (it would suck if he were to get gassed and start wilding, and getting in legal trouble like... well, the anecdotes are legion. Google 'athlete arrested'.)

When it comes to the NBA, I'm more concerned with parity in minority ownership and front-office/non-athlete jobs, than whoever is their 'marketing face' to sell season tickets for the fiscal year. But Lin getting some current shine shouldn't be taken as an affront to the skills of the dozens of his contemporaries. That's all..