Wednesday, October 17, 2007

White Privilege, Steve Nash, and My Love for Larry Bird

TrueHoop linked to the following post by Cosellout, "It's Not Steve Nash's Fault!: A Study in White Privilege.”

Some highlights:
It was the media that often used Nash as a tool to: denigrate black athletes; to perpetuate tired racial stereotypes; to revise current and past basketball history; and, by contrast, to ignore or give token treatment to the incredible community service of men like Marbury, Mutombo, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Carmelo Anthony, Richard Jefferson and so many others.

…But the truth is, it’s YOUR fault!

That’s right, it is your fault if you like up-tempo basketball and tuned into the Suns in the playoffs last year, but did not watch the Warriors-Mavericks historic series; if you appreciate the finest of pure point guard play, but didn’t witness last year’s playoff series’ that featured Jason Kidd AVERAGING a triple-double or the coming out party of Utah’s Derron Williams; if you praised Nash’s politics [protesting the American policy in Iraq], but never acknowledged the existence of Etan Thomas; or if the reason why Marbury’s community service can’t garner a magazine cover is because the big bosses know full well that you won’t buy a copy. Yup, it is YOUR fault!
(If you haven’t read any of Etan Thomas’ stuff, you should.)

More takes from the Steve Nash-White Privilege post:
Nor is Nash to blame because commentators can’t see past the white athlete stereotype. Like when former NBA great Bill Walton marveled at Nash’s achievements a couple of years ago in part because he was "the least athletic point guard in the NBA." While Nash has never been a great leaper, perhaps Walton never took notice of Nash blowing by most opposing guards in the league on a nightly basis. We could only guess that lateral quickness and agility have absolutely nothing to do with athleticism. Because such a reality might put a dent in the romantic notion that Nash is just like every other white guy on the couch with a TV remote, but just worked that much harder than all those “natural black athletes”. But the truth is that Nash was a highly gifted three-sport star (soccer and hockey) who had professional potential besides basketball…

So from now on, I will go back to rooting for Steve Nash, and for everything that he represents. I’ll root for his game, his community service and most urgently, for his anti-war stance to be heard by as many people as possible. And if he is not facing my beloved Knicks in the finals, I might even root hard for him to get that championship ring. But it is simply not fair or ethical to wildly root for Nash, but not challenge the white privilege that he regularly receives by a media that predominantly looks likes him, lives vicariously through him, and probably wants to BE him. Rooting for Nash comes with the added responsibility of demanding the very same accolades, credit, and attention be given to any other athlete who is just as worthy, if not more worthy of our praise. So yes, it is clearly my fault because while I was innocently cheering for Steve Nash, enjoying his on-court game, and admiring his off-court causes, it took me this long to write why “It’s Not Steve Nash’s Fault”.
You really need to read this post in its entirety, it’s very good. As difficult a pill as it may be to swallow, I can’t say there’s much I disagree with in this post. I’ve often asked myself, “Why choose Larry Bird as your favorite player? Why not Magic Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, or Michael Jordan?” I think it had a lot to do with living “vicariously through” him like Cosellout accused members of the media of doing. I’m sure much of it had to do with the fact that we were both white, but I also think my choosing him had a lot to do with our lack of athleticism (unlike Steve Nash). There was this idea that even though we couldn’t jump as high as our opponents, or run as fast, we could still dominate (or at least compete) by doing the little things on the basketball court. It was obviously an ideal that could only by realistically attained by a few, but it made him relatable, and isn’t that the point?


Todd Wold said...

Great post. Thanks for this. Havin gjust completed Cross Cultural Communication, this topic is pretty fresh in my mind. White privilege is like air. We inhale and exhale and never give it a second thought. Once you begin to open your eyes to it, you start to see it everywhere. Everywhere. Even the color of band-aids if a symbol of white privilege.

MODI said...

thanks for the post as I caught it on the backlink. For what it's worth, I don't think that Nash is not anywhere near Bird territory of greatness (Bird is best small forward to play game IMO. Of course I couldn't stand Bird but that has more to do with being a Knicks fanas I'm a Knicks fan...

Anyway, never thought about the band-aid until todd brought it up!

The Cook said...

Careful, you two your starting to sound like "liberals," whatever that means, relative to this conversation.

There's also the ever popular "flesh" colored crayon. I'm pretty sure Crayola has done away with that though.