Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Not a black-or-white issue

Before posting yesterday's blog about Richard Sherman, I excised two paragraphs alluding to the racial aspect of the debate. They distracted from what I thought was the real problem with his post-game remarks: That a grown man who'd won a personal feud on the football field was continuing to taunt his vanquished competition. Such showings are always immature, whether it's Sherman on Sunday night or, well, any other time when a victor is a classless, sore winner.

But because the hot, racially tinged debate that sparked in the immediate aftermath continues to rage, I feel like I can't ignore it. 

As far as racial issues go, I'm sympathetic. America is still not a level playing field for minorities in many ways. Hatred and discrimination remain very real. I bristle at cries of "race card" anytime a cultural injustice is brought up. All too often, that tactic thwarts necessary discussion of worthwhile issues, to the detriment of progress toward equality.

That said, however, some things aren't about race, and considering them as such detracts from genuine racial issues. This is an example of that.

Yes, many whites did share horribly racist thoughts, but those people are bigoted at the core. For them, this wasn't a catalyst for those slurs, it was an excuse to share them. Their diseased sentiments are rightfully marginalized and impotent. They deserve to be recognized only as a reflection of how low some Americans still go.

Of greater concern is the declaration that all criticism of Sherman was rooted in his race. That we didn't want to see an African-American honestly expressing himself. That we don't condemn white people for the same behavior. Even that we didn't approve of a black man speaking that way to a white woman. 

I can speak only for myself, but absolutely none of that was applicable to my criticism (not that anyone accused me directly). None of it even occurred to me until I read about the backlash. Sherman acted foolish and invited grief just like anyone else would in that same situation. Giving him a free pass on that would be holding him to a lower standard, which is arguably actually racist.

Sherman has since apologized for his actions, which was the right move on his part. Because actions were precisely what this was all about.

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