Yep…that four-letter word again

Help me make sense of this.

I’m sitting in on a conversation, covering a particular sporting event, when I overhear two of my colleagues give their spill about the future pro prospects of Tyler Hansbrough and Kevin Love (Hansbrough and Love are both white collegiate basketball players). I happen to know both of said colleagues, so I was allowed to sit in on the dialogue as a fly on the wall. It was a confabulation in predictability:

“Hansbrough and Love won’t succeed in the NBA. Christian Laettner was just as good in college, and he turned out to be average in the league.”

“I agree. When was the last time a white boy was propped to do big things in the NBA? Keith Van Horn? You see how he turned out!”

Blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada…one does not need to go into the rest of the discussion; you know where this is going. The actual physical talents of the two basketball players were not even discussed. The race of the discussers aren’t relevant, nor is the fact that most Clutch readers probably don’t even know who Keith Van Horn is, or Kevin Love for that matter. The point was made, without an overt attempt of my colleagues to make it: The hue of an individual is still the main ingredient in the perceptions of one’s talents.

So what else is new?

However, many black people would find nothing offensive about that belief. We all know that white men can’t jump. We all know that whites in the NBA are like morsels of acorns amidst knee-deep snow. A movie was even made to accentuate this myth. But if so many are willing to acknowledge this “truth,” then many must also be willing to pay credence to the “black men can’t play quarterback” creed, or the “if it doesn’t involve a ball, a microphone, or a camera, then black people aren’t interested” creed.

(The very action of typing that past sentence made me cringe.)

Racial reconciliation is a two-way street; you can’t pick up one end of the stick without picking up the other end. The parochial arguments about race – that four letter word again – does nothing but damage our capacity to find solutions and further our lot. This notion of superiority, and inferiority, because of one’s pigment is not only debilitating, but dangerous.

This isn’t to say that genetic variations don’t exist between the two races. Medical and epidemiological evidence indicates that African-Americans are more likely to acquire diabetes and prostate cancer and experience hypertension than their white counterparts. Black women show signs of puberty sooner than white women; breast tumors grow faster in black women that white women. Athletically speaking, African-Americans have greater bone mass than white Americans, suggestive of greater muscle mass. These facts somewhat explain the dominance of African-Americans in professional sports; however, these facts do not tell the whole story.

But the sad truth is that many people stop at that point. Blacks are more genetically disposed to be athletes than whites. True. But does that mean that is where the advantage stops? Does that mean that white Americans hold advantages in the other areas of vocations?

Can black women be viewed as more than hyper-sexed creatures that can do more than dancing and secretarial work and housecleaning? Can white women become non-naïve creatures that do not depend on their parents’ bank account to get ahead in life? Are Hispanics capable of more than just holding down laborious jobs? Are Asians more than technology specialists?

As my two colleagues continued to converse with me as the silent observer, I sat, waiting to see if one of them would flash a toothy grin, asserting that they were just joking about the “white man can’t jump” thing. Nothing. Not even a hint of a smirk. That’s when the weight of it hit me. We hear about progression among ethnic groups all the time, but deeply held prejudices remain. The façade of race relations may improve, people may become nicer and friendlier towards brethrens of other ethnic groups, but subconscious fallacies endure.

So how do you change your own prejudices? In a word, introspection. Introspection is a interesting term: in its very meaning is to look into something, but by connotation, it means to root out something typically unpleasant. People don’t tend to search themselves unless they have to. It’s like cleaning your room after you let it pile up in debris for weeks. You don’t want to do it, but sooner or later, it has to be done or it won’t be conducive to live in.

Over the years, many have learned to live with a cluttered room. Who wants to look in the mirror to discover a bevy of flaws about themselves? In a world where so many see discrepancies in the external realm, many are hesitant to looks inside themselves to find something amiss. Many people rely on that same internal drive that forms deeply held beliefs, to propel them. Introspection appears to be a conflict of interest. But it is only when the majority embraces that look within that things will change in this country. Quixotic thinking perhaps, but true nonetheless.

The more that we can eliminate the type conversations that I sat in on, the sooner that we can achieve sensible discourse on a subject that is babbled on and stepped over for far too long.

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