By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
As an African-American columnist looking to become a columnist at some big mainstream newspaper or magazine, I find myself to be in one hell of a predicament.
For one thing, my views of how African-American sports figures are viewed and portrayed definitely are not reflective of those in the mainstream sports media. In fact, I am critical of the way the mainstream media portrays African-American sports figures because it reflects a definite white male bias.
And so when I see instances of racism in sports, the columns I write will generally point it out to the reader and call it into question. The problem is that nowadays it is taboo for an African-American columnist to point out racial bias in sports. I suspect that some of the columns I have written for the Philadelphia Tribune will not help land me a job to a similar position at a mainstream daily newspaper.
In 2006, it’s still not cool for a Black columnist—whether it’s sports or on the news side to say that racism still exists in America’s institutions. The new form of racism in America today is to say that is doesn’t exist even when it clearly does or to shift blame on the people affected by racism. Or they’ll use language such as you’re playing the race card.
Ironically, the main people helping to perpetrate this idea are Black journalists who’ve bought into this new form of racism. They believe in the same white male stereotypes of Black athletes. When a black athlete actually has the balls to speak out against racism in sports, you can count on the acceptable, establishment Black columnist to be the first to admonish him or her for speaking out against “the man.”
White columnists, in fact, will point to this Black columnist to give them comfort and to validate their racism. It’s like they’ll say, see “John so and so says we’re not being racist and he’s Black.” In other words, if you offend white sensibilities by merely pointing out their racism, they will call you the racist and you’re told to shut up.
Recently, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis came out and said that if quarterback Steve McNair were a white quarterback he would not have been locked out of the Tennessee Titans facility while in the midst of contract negotiations. When McNair himself was asked about it, he was careful not to say it was straight up racism, but he said it was without saying it.
“I always say you can’t mix personal feelings with business, and I always feel like if you do that’s when these things like that happen,” McNair said. “That’s why it would never happen to Brett Favre or Peyton Manning and it probably would never happen to those guys, but it happened to me.”
But how some prominent Black sports columnists responded to Lewis’ and McNair’s comments is a sad commentary of where we are today when it comes to pointing out racism where it exists. AOL Black Voices Roy Johnson Jr. applauded Lewis for pointing it out, but liked the idea that he was subtle about it. It was as if he was saying, ‘if it is there, don’t say it loudly.’ Walk on egg shells and tip toe around it. Additionally, Johnson also said that we shouldn’t make a big deal out of it because, after all, these guys are millionaires who aren’t experiencing the things that regular Black folks go through.
Then there was Kansas City Star/AOL columnist Jason Whitlock who suggested that Lewis should shut up and sit in the back of his limousine rather than say something in support of McNair. His argument is because the Ravens stood by him during his murder trial that he should lose his race card, i.e. his right to speak out on social causes.
Wow, since when did being a millionaire or being accused of murder take away your right to stand up for another Black man? I wish more African-American athletes had the guts to speak their minds on race. Hell, I wish more Black columnists would have the guts to point out white racism in sports in their columns. Ironically, Black columnists in the mainstream media aren’t going to speak up or are going to be subtle about it because they don’t want to lose their $50,000 to $100,000 per year jobs because they don’t want to offend their white editors. So if you can’t beat them join them.
A lot of Black journalists pride themselves on being tough on Black sports figures and holding them accountable to please their white bosses. I wish we would apply that same intensity to holding the captains of the sports industry accountable for their racial bias as they do for Black folks who speak out against it.