This week I encountered a most disturbing incident. Perhaps you did too. I am referring to the question that Oklahoma State University wide receiver Dez Bryant was asked by the NFL's Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland in a pre-draft interview. As reported by ESPN and other news outlets, Ireland, who is Caucasian, asked Bryant, an African American, if his mother was a prostitute. In the interest of full disclosure, let me just say that I am not a big fan of professional sports these days. Even as someone who played a little college football, I really don't care much for collegiate athletics anymore either. There is entirely too much pomp and circumstance for my taste, more entertainment than fair play. Having said that though, this incident with Dez Bryant perturbs me dearly, but it has nothing to do with football.
I could care less about the specific context in which the question was asked that presupposes its justification, although I give Ireland credit for apologizing to Bryant once the media blitz occurred. The bottom line is that this incident is sheer, unadulterated ignorance of the worst kind, undergirded by a sense of racial, cultural, and socioeconomic entitlement and superiority. As a racial minority, in particular, you learn to deal with these wrongs even while growing weary of them.
Let me explain.
You grow weary of condescending tirades from your contemporaries that, in light of us having an African American president in Barak Obama, we now live in a supposed post-racial society; as if Ireland asked Caucasian potential draft picks if their father was a pedophile or their mother a drug dealer whose lifestyle might negatively impact their career. No, he didn't do that, which begs the point that racial prejudice is still very much alive. It is perhaps more subversive, occurring in these more passive-aggressive scenarios. Nonetheless, it is alive still.
You grow weary of constantly explaining, re-explaining, clarifying, and defending the historical and everyday nuances of your culture to voyeurs who mock it, but also pillage, exploit, and attempt to imitate its genius. And, of course they never acknowledge this oppressive reality.
You grow weary of sitting in classrooms at leading institutions of higher learning wherein your ancestors' contributions have pedagogically been rendered nonexistent or a mere marginalized blip on the course syllabus.
You grow weary of those who, particularly because of racial and socioeconomic elitism, feel entitled to touch your hair (African American women know this all too well), for example, or make statements and ask questions that are unprofessional and unethical. Think of Don Imus' comment in 2007 where he referred to the Rutgers University women's basketball team, who were overwhelmingly African American, as "nappy-headed hos." I won't even get into the disparaging, ridiculous comments that Glen Beck and Pat Robertson have made over the years about minorities; most recently with regards to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck on January 12, 2010.
There is a similar thread of ignorance and even hate that can be found in The Tea Party and militia movements of today. In many ways, although not in totality, they are somewhat of a throwback to the nationalistic sentimentality and superiority rhetoric that the KKK and White Citizens Council used so demonstratively not that long ago to relegate African Americans to second-class citizenship. These groups contend that they are merely in favor of traditional American values. But, what is that?
History tells me that America has a tattered, despicable track record when it comes to "traditional values," specifically regarding its treatment of those people it has stolen, enslaved, and otherwise oppressed in order for it to achieve the global powerhouse status that it now maintains. Free labor and a tenacious stateside and international manifest destiny governing philosophy have a way of propelling you past your rivals. Pardon me if I feel uncomfortable when the racial majority begins talking about turning back the pages of history to our, or rather their, "traditional values."
Once upon a time it was American tradition (often backed by unjust legal precedent) to disenfranchise, harass, rape, and lynch African Americans. The strange fruit that jazz vocalist Billie Holiday sang about and Ida B. Wells protested about was indeed the accepted status quo at one time. It once was the American way, during Reaganism, for example, for everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, much to the point of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, even if they had no shoes or shoestrings to speak of.
Again, dealing with this sad state of historical affairs day after day would leave anyone weary and today I am just that.
However, while I won't spiritualize my pain and discontent, I will let the Spirit move me through it. I am reminded of the African American Spiritual:
My God is a rock in a weary land.
My God is a rock in a weary land.
Shelter in a time of storm.
Since God's anger lasts only a moment it behooves me to claim new life; which is to say, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5) I believe that.
Rejecting ignorance-or put another way, departing from evil (Proverbs 3:7)-is a critical component of the Christian life, but so is accepting the ignorant. Loving, blessing, treating kindly, and praying for those who don't have your best interest in mind, who even might wish do dominate you, is something that all who claim Christ as Lord of all are to commit themselves to.
I believe in the redemption and power of Jesus Christ more than this world. Ignorance comes a dime a dozen, but wisdom and a prophetic desire to represent God well-and in doing so care for your neighbor-is rare. Today I choose to be rare in seeking to understand and be understood, to serve and be served, to care for and be cared for. I can only hope that you will do likewise and, in doing, so love the sinner while confronting the sin.
I am weary, yet because of Christ I am hopeful. I leave you with the words of the 2000 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the distinguished preacher Gardner C. Taylor: "There are days when we can bring before God a deep and glad laughter of joy and gratitude. There will be other days when we can only muster a bitter, angry complaint. If it is honest, be confident that God will accept whatever it is we truly have to lift up before him, and he will make it serve his purpose and our good."
Let the church say, "Amen!"
 Watch the issue discussed on "Pardon the Interruption" (PTI) with Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser; http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5141008&categoryid=2459789
 Matthew 5:43-48.
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