Too often Black children are pushed toward athletics to the detriment of academics. I would be the last person to suggest sports have no place in the lives of our youth. Without sports, there are many children who will never feel their worth. But our children should not be led to believe athletics are the sole means to an end, whether the end is leaving the ghetto, supporting their parents or personal success. Furthermore, the expectation is that a Black child is automatically good at sports, particularly basketball, football and track.
Gold medal Olympian Shani Davis brought all of this to mind. The Chicagoan was teased as a child for speed skating. His mother had to fight all kinds of people who did not believe Shani should be a skater. Only days ago, he overcame the odds of a predominately white sport to become the first black person to win an individual gold medal in the winter olympics.
As is often the case when we excel, he has come under fire. Another American speedskater, Chad Hedrick has spent much of his time in Torino lambasting Shani for refusing to compete in the relay. Shani did not compete for a myriad of reasons. 1) His 1000m event, his signature event, was only two days afterwards and he wanted to concentrate on it, 2) there were people on the team for the express purpose of competing in that event and he did not want to take their spot, 3) speedskating is NOT a team event, and none of them helped him get there. Of course people are focusing their attention on the last reason. Hedrick even went as far as to call Davis "selfish." Or at the very least imply it. Who the f*** are you??? You don't even know him? That pissed me off. Why? Because the Black athlete is America's favorite to emasculate and vilify.
Black athletes are called everything thing, but selfish seems to come up most often. Why is that? Why is it that a white man who does the same thing gets far less coverage? Unbalanced, negative coverage. Its ridiculous. I will not deny that sometimes they deserve it. T.O., Warren Sapp, Charles Barkley, Latrell Sprewell, Allen Iverson. They've all had their moments they have never been able to live down. But this right here is just ridiculous. Now tonight's 1500m race is being touted as a "showdown." I know part of that is to combat NBC's lagging ratings for the Olympics, but I for one cannot wait for Shani to kick Hedrick's ass. Parrish presented an excellent foray into the Shani Davis controversy. Check it out.
So what is the state of black america's athletes? Too often they are encouraged to leave college early, or skip it all together. How many white athletes have you seen doing this? I know you see it all the time with baseball and hockey, but in the NBA, overwhelmingly, it is black children who are taught they should go for money instead of their education. I for one, cannot agree with it. I do not care your level of talent. The average teenager is not ready for the rigors of a professional season with grown men and millions of dollars. LeBron James is an exception, not a rule. Not only will coaches tell you that, but there is a long list of high schoolers taken in the first round sitting on the bench who could've been college superstars. Kwame Brown anyone? Number one draft pick?? We need to impress upon our children that they are more than their athletic prowess. What happens when your pro football-bound son tears both his ACLs? Good luck finding a team willing to suffer that nightmare. Go pick up a book.
Speaking of books, today marks 41 years since Malcolm X was gunned down while spreading his new found message of brotherhood. If you read no other autobiography, treat yourself to The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It is an engrossing read.
UPDATE: Shani Davis won the silver medal, beating Chad Hedrick who was forced to settle for bronze. The two held a joint news conference afterwards making both of them look rather silly. Davis refused a request from "The Today Show" to appear this morning. Hedrick accepted and re-iterated he didn't know Shani well, but felt betrayed by Davis refusing to participate in the team pursuit. Hedrick looked like an arse. A big white one. He also made it glaringly clear how wide the cultural chasm is between the two men.
*This is part one of my new weekly series, "The State of Black America." Your regularly scheduled programming will commence at will. Thank you for reading "All Me, All the time." Please stay tuned.