Last summer, I got pulled into a conversation about President Obama, crime, and George Zimmerman that I totally did not want to have. Well, let me rephrase that. I did not want to have that conversation at that time. I was at a bar with some friends, and I was in “get a couple drinks, and talk shit about Yeezus and YouTube strippers” mode, not “get a couple drinks, and discuss racially sensitive issues with this conservative White guy I’m cool with” mode. But, it happened, and I wrote about it.
During this conversation, he matter-of-factly said that “Black people never criticize Obama”, and he cited a few polls and anecdotes as proof. When done making his point, I corrected him. Take a trip to any Black gathering, whether it’s a popular barbershop or a NSBE happy hour, and you’ll hear all types of things said about the president…and his wife. (The kids remain off-limits.) Most opinions shared will be positive, but even the lauds are often wrapped in snark. It’s not that we don’t criticize or even curse him. We just don’t do it in front of White people like you.
I mean, yes. If you’re criticizing President Obama’s stance and/or activity on an issue that has nothing to do with his Blackness (gay marriage, perhaps), then yeah. We shouldn’t have much problem agreeing. But if you’re criticizing his competency or attitude or intelligence — basically, anything where your opinion may have some race-related influence — then no. Even if we actually agree with what you’re saying, we’re not agreeing with you.
Anyway, before writing this, I watched the footage of Marcus Smart pushing Jeff Orr, again. I actually saw it live while at a bar Saturday night. Between then and now I’ve probably seen it a couple dozen times.
My feelings about it have remained the same. Regardless of what Orr said, Smart was in the wrong. This doesn’t absolve Orr of any wrong. Shit, it doesn’t even make him less wrong than Smart. But, while what Smart did was understandable — anyone who’s ever played ball in front of that many antagonistic people has had that urge before — you can’t retaliate like that. There are situations when a physical confrontation is necessary. Just not then. (And no, it doesn’t matter what he actually said to him.)
So yeah, Marcus Smart was in the wrong. As was Richard Sherman when he offered that fake-as-an-eight-dollar-bill-ass handshake to Michael Crabtree, then talked shit about him on national TV. Oh, and Kanye is a f*cking asshole, Obama has been disappointing, Drunk in Love is the only track off Beyonce worth a damn, and OJ did it.
All topics I have no problem discussing with other Black people. Or people I trust enough to get it. But once you leave the nest and start hearing criticisms caked in coded language (i.e.: “he’s a thug”, “her music isn’t really art”, “he’s acting like a child”, etc), you circle the wagons. And sometimes you circle even when you know you’re defending something or someone you don’t actually agree with.
If I bring up the Marcus Smart incident with Panama or my dad — or even one of my White teammates from college — I’ll be honest. Because I know the conversation will not occur in a context-less vacuum. It’ll be nuanced, raw, and real. If random White bar guy wants to talk about it, and he includes “…just like those NBA guys” or “he acted like an animal“, he’s not getting completely honest me. My feelings about and connection to the macro issue — his feelings about Black athletes and Black people — will overshadow my feelings about the micro.
Later this evening, I’m going to attend the third session of the pre-marriage counseling class we’re taking. As I mentioned before, nothing I’ve heard so far has been new or surprising. But there’s been one theme repeated ad nauseam. Probably to drive home exactly how important it is to a healthy marriage.
(Paraphrasing) “You and your partner need to be a united front. Regardless of the disagreements you might personally have with each other, when facing the rest of the world, you need to have each other’s back.”
—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)