Monday, January 20, 2014

The Angry/wimpy Black Man

It's MLK day and the day after the NFL conference championship games. To say that today is a day that has people talking is kind of stating the obvious. Last night, after 4 teams were whittled down to two teams, the focus quickly turned to the upcoming super bowl. Of course before we get to that we have to get to the fact that Seattle corner back Richard Sherman has been the name on everyone's brain today. Of course for me, Richard Sherman is symptom of a bigger issue that I've noticed during my 26 years of life.

This all stems from his post game interview where he loudly exclaimed that he's the best defensive player in the NFL. Somehow this rubbed some people the wrong way(despite his numbers backing up his claim) due to the fact that he was loud, boisterous and willing to trash talk another player. I personally have 0 problem with this because sports is basically a struggle between players to assert athletic dominance and sometimes the way to help assert that dominance is through self reassurance and even a good dose of trash talking. What bugs me however is that being loud, animated, boisterous and sure of yourself is looked down on despite the fact that we as a nation tune in to see players be exactly that. I find myself wondering how I would have been if it were me, instead of Richard Sherman who made the play that every kid playing the sport of football dreams of, the winning play, the play that sent your team to a super bowl and a fan base of millions out in to the streets to celebrate. How would I react to being asked about that play only a few seconds after making it? Would I show raw emotion and call out a player who in the past had gone out of his way to be a complete and total ass towards me? Or would I give a canned answer followed by slick product placement for Bud Light? Looking at the circumstances, I find it hard to believe that I, nor anyone else would show anything other than raw emotion that may even come across as a bit of a rant.

With that said, why is it so fine for someone like Jim Harbaugh to get loud, throw a hissy fit, go on profane tirades and invade the personal space of others but totally classless for a player to voice his honest opinion(without being profane) on the sport during an interview? Is it the sheer optics of seeing an imposing black man yelling in the general area of a waif-ish white woman? Is it our sliding scale of sportsmanship that says it's fine for hockey players to beat each other bloody but the same action among NBA players is considered thuggish, a bad look for a race of people and against what's considered decent in American society? Or could it be that we as Americans have yet to come to terms with the hypocritical nature of wanting someone to excel at their job but being offended when they mention that they're excelling at their job?

Whatever it is it seems to be a huge double standard that goes beyond just the realms of professional sports. We openly celebrate politicians such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for being a loud, assertive, authoritative and even dominant alpha male while at the same time being caught off guard and even offended when President Obama shows some of these same traits on occasion. When the president does on occasion show his frustration with the continuing gridlock in congress, he gets painted as an angry black man, a bully and even a racist when he even bothers to mention that racism still exists. This characterization isn't just from his political opponents but also from people who otherwise agree with him on policy issues and the blogosphere on all sides of the political spectrum. Of course the other side of this is that President Obama is often portrayed as a complete and total wimp thus making his occasional showings of public frustration even more jarring to people.

As a black man, and as a man in general, the one thing that you can't be seen as is a wimp. You really can't even be soft spoken or the quiet type in a lot of situations. From personal experience, I can point out that not being loud, assertive and trying to dominate the conversation can lead to people questioning your loyalty, ability and motivations. It also instills a false belief in people that you're a pushover and therefore gives them a right to routinely and purposely go out of their way to disrespect you. Even in a work situation that doesn't involve running full speed in to 300lb men who are shouting profanities about your mother at you, this can and does happen. No one wants to be that guy. No one wants to be the wimp and most guys really aren't angry alpha males who feel the need to go out of their way show the world that they're the angry alpha male. There has to be a middle ground somewhere and I'm sure that most people fall in to it. Of course, until we acknowledge that middle ground and stop having a weird double standard about it, guys like me will always be left out in the cold as either too aggressive, too arrogant or weak depending on how we decide to answer a question on any particular day.