Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Problem With Jordan

Well, I wouldn’t go THIS far but…

“Republicans buy shoes too.”

This is the quote that doomed Michael Jordan, in my mind, as little more than a corporate pitchman, a shill, completely devoid of social, political or race consciousness. This was in response to those who wondered why the pre-eminent black athlete of his era wouldn’t endorse fellow black North Carolinian, Harvey Gantt in his Senatorial bid against enthusiastic racist, Jesse Helms. This was even after Helms played the ‘race card’ (that’s right – whites have played the race card MUCH longer and more effectively than we) with a campaign ad playing to white paranoia. According to an article from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the commercial became known as the "’white hands’ ad, in which a white man's hands crumple a rejected job application while a voiceover intones, ‘You needed that job...but they had to give it to a minority.’”

I have to admit, I always rooted for Jordan. But Jordan’s response made me wonder if he wouldn’t mind Ku Klux Klan members so long as they were wearing his sneakers under their white robes. Yet, my disappointment in learning that Jordan apparently didn’t give a damn about taking a stand against a certified bigot like Helms, was only matched by my confusion when I saw Jordan backing Bill Bradley in his 2000 presidential bid – AFTER it had become apparent that Bradley would lose the nomination to Al Gore. Jordan admitted at the time that his unprecedented move was not motivated by any particular familiarity with Bradley’s policies, but by, of all things, LOVE: ”I love Bill Bradley and I'm learning more about his campaign as it goes further...But I do see myself supporting him. And I have had some conversations with Bill about it, and I've always respected him as a leader."

“Hmmm…,” I thought. “Nothing especially enlightening in that statement.” Then it occurred to me – a little late, I now realize – that Bradley was a teammate of Jordan’s uber-coach, Phil Jackson, on the championship Knicks teams of the 1970’s. Jackson backed Bradley. Jordan made his aggressive attachment to Jackson known publicly and often. So I concluded (and not, I think, unreasonably) that Jackson called in a favor to Jordan and Jordan, ever dutiful, decided to jettison his ‘Republicans Buy Shoes Too’ stance and support his former coach by supporting Bradley – even if he didn’t really know shit about Bradley’s politics.

Now, I’ve never expected Michael Jordan to be Muhammad Ali or even Charles Barkley for that matter. After all, he’s got a bland, valuable, corporately built and supported image to uphold. But the RBST deal-breaker isn’t the only example of Jordan abandoning his blackness, hell, his humanity, so as not to offend the sneaker buying public. Consider these:

  • "I'm more concerned with my jump shot." – Sociologist Dr. Todd Boyd paraphrasing Jordan’s response when asked for his reaction to the Rodney King verdict-inspired riots in LA.
  • “My job with Nike is to endorse the product. Their job is to be up on that.” – Jordan’s response to Nike’s paying Indonesian workers 30 cents a day when he was raking in 20 mil a year in endorsements.

In the words of Douglas Kellner, author of The Sports Spectacle, Michael Jordan, and Nike: Unholy Alliance, Michael Jordan, like many athletes corrupted by the sports spectacle and commercial culture, has abrogated his basic political and social responsibilities in favor of expensive clothes, commodities, and a megastock portfolio.”

Not that it would have changed history, but maybe all that time I was rooting for the wrong cat.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

"The Muslims Are Coming! The Muslims Are Coming!"

The pic that launched a thousand protests

I generally don’t enjoy receiving chain emails. Particularly when I consider their content: usually some insipid joke, unsubstantiated urban legend, ‘pass-it-on-or-else’ banality or fruitless attempt to get me to smile for no apparent reason. At best, they’re tedious and annoying. At worst, they reflect – intentionally or inadvertently – the bigotry of the sender. Consider the shittily-reasoned composition that found its way into my inbox most recently. Bluntly entitled, “Can Muslims Be Good Americans?” it makes the case that (hold your breath!) no, Muslims cannot, in fact, be good Americans.

First, a bit about the dupe who sent it: white, male, unmarried, poorly-educated, locked into a job with no hope of upward-mobility, decidedly right-leaning and angry. Let’s call him Ed. Now you’re probably thinking, ‘I would be angry too if I weren’t educated and I worked a dead-end job.’ But those aren’t the reasons Ed is angry. Ed’s angry because he’s convinced that this country’s values and mores are under constant assault from Muslims, terrorists, liberals, flag-burners, feminists, atheists, Hollywood, homosexuals, Democrats, environmentalists, the ACLU, PETA, Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, high taxes, teachers’ unions, leftist college professors, etc. Ironically, it NEVER occurs to him that none of these perceived threats has had any remarkable impact on HIS life whatsoever. He’s one of the millions of people in the world who exerts considerable mental, emotional and political energy defending a system that grinds him, and folks just like him, into dust.

Now let’s move on to the email. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that someone who’s not even particularly clever could change a few lines and transform it into an anti-Christian screed. For example, in response to the question, “Can A Devout Muslim Be a Good American?”

  • Anti-Muslim Email: Spiritually, no, because when we declare "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as our heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in the Quran's 99 excellent names.
  • Anti-Christian Version: Spiritually, no, because when we declare “one nation under God,” Allah has 99 excellent names and the Christian God’s name is jealous. "For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." (Exodus 34:14)

So when red-blooded Americans like Ed engage in brainless proselytizing by-way-of Islam-bashing like this, it always makes me wonder if those people who trash the Quran have ever read the Bible.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

The Latest From The World's Ugliest Sex Symbol

I can't take credit for the title. This description is from my man, Harold M. Clemens, the prolific blogger of the brilliant and angry ghettouprising. It just so happens that I agree with his assessment of Ann Coulter. I realize that white folks and black folks generally have different ideas about what constitutes beauty - after all, whites have celebrated Calista Flockhart, Princess Di and JFK for their good looks - but they should be able to do better than this. I mean, check out the neck.

In any event, her physical appearance isn't her only ugly feature. She's made quite a name for herself as a right-wing hatchetwoman on the front line of the culture wars. Her sole purpose seems to be to give a voice to the most ignorant, racist, petulant elements of the Republican party. So here's how it usually goes: Fox News, or some other cog in the Republican noise machine, invites her on. She's lobbed some rhetorical question about current events. She sees how much offensive fiction she can fit into a 2 or 3 minute time span. Then the host, barely containing his/her glee, "attempts" to get her to lighten up on the hyperbole. For me, it's gotten old pretty quickly. Of course, her more intelligent defenders would argue that many of her comments are delivered with tongue placed firmly in cheek. The more brainless ones don't see anything wrong at all.

There is, however, some value in this horseshit. As I argued in my last post, it lets us (minorities, the poor, the struggling) know EXACTLY what they think of us. Here's her latest appraisal of the complicated immigration issue: hire illegal immigrants to build a border wall then send them packing. noticed that she echoed the sentiments of a character on a Saturday Night Live sketch.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

It Could Be Worse, You Could Still Be In Africa

Every now and then - well, with increasing regularity it seems - white social conservatives will let you know EXACTLY what they think of you. Such was the case when the mentally and physically decrepit Adele Ferguson wrote a piece that questioned the intelligence of her "black brothers and sisters" for remaining loyal to the Democratic Party. I strongly encourage you to read it but, if you're pressed for time, I'll sum it up for you..

a) You Negroes need to stop acting like victims and take some responsibility for yourselves.

b) Black folks can learn a thing or two from Ronald Reagan - great white race prophet that he was.

c) SLAVERY was God's way of dragging black savages from the continent of Africa to the divine shores of America (think Phyllis Wheatley).

d) Slavery was the equivalent of indentured servitude.

e) If the white ancestors of indentured servants managed to 'get over it,' you Negroes should be able to do the same.

f) The reason why blacks don't get respect from others is because they don't give it.

g) You Negroes ought to be ashamed of yourselves for the way you "dissed" (this is her word, not mine) George W. Bush at the funeral of Coretta Scott King.

h) The very same Negroes who disrespected Dubya at the funeral treated Clinton like the King of Harlem.

i) Blacks claim that they value education but this obviously isn't the case because they eschew vouchers and charter schools.

j) Teachers' Unions are an impediment to black progress because they also eschew vouchers and charter schools.

k) Black students lag behind white students academically because of incompetent teachers.

l) You Negroes need to get yourselves a Cesar Chavez, ironically enough, to challenge the teachers' unions. If one cannot be produced, then you should make collective effort to dismantle them.

m) Basically, you Negroes are dumb.

Unlike many black folks, I'm not angered by these neo-con guffaws. I find them illuminating. Under the guise of offering advice to misguided Negroes, white conservatives often reveal themselves to be the ignorant racists that many of them are.

One more thing, Ms. Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA 98340. If ever you self-victimized, former savages get it together, perhaps you can write her to let her know how appreciative you are for her guidance.

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