Friday, May 23, 2008

Lessons from Danny Ainge on Race Relations

Just finished a workshop on equity and religion in public schools. Workshops suck as it is, but they are worse when presenters don't practice what they preach. The facilitators of the equity discussion gave us norms to follow as we participated in this discussion about equity and religion in the public schools (they anticipated conflict). During that discussion, much to our surprise, one of these presenters decided the list of social norms did not apply to her, and chastised a grown man who expressed a dissenting view from that which the equity folk were preaching.

However tasty the equity kool-aid may have been, teachers were not drinking after that exchange.

Sometimes I think this equity discussion gets too complicated. I'm the heterosexul, white, english-speaking, able-bodied, Christian guy, so that gives me power and privilege in this society. I get that. But do we have to argue over semantics? Seriously. Look at how former rotund black Portland Trailblazer, Kevin Duckworth recalls white teammate Danny Ainge,
"We knew Danny was Mormon [Kevin Duckworth said]. I drilled Danny about everything I didn't know, why there were no black Mormons and that kind of thing. When you're with all black guys, you don't learn about other cultures. Danny was great. It was like Danny Ainge, the brother.
And during the Finals, when Spike Lee sent along some Malcolm X hats and t-shirts to the Blazers to help promote his new movie, the players made sure Ainge got one. "Danny was part of the team, too," Duck said.
"We called him token, in a light-hearted sense," said Abdelnaby. "I called him 'Ritz' for cracker and he called me 'Mandingo.' I've played with a lot of white people, and I don't know too many other people who could have handled it as well as Danny. That's probably the thing I most respect him for. There was never an inkling of anything from him of racism, of being uncomfortable... I don't think I could have handled it as well as Danny. We would talk black-white relationships. Part of the reason Danny and I got along so well is he was naive to what was going on as a black person. He never even saw the color."
He never even saw color. Wow. Multiculturalists would say we cannot ignore people's race or culture, we should learn about it, celebrate it. I don't know what a multiculturalist would say to Duckworth's comments. Heck, who knows, I might even be a multiculturalist. These arguments always seem so circular and pointless though (if you've been in these workshops you know what I'm talking about). Usually, when it comes down to it, it's a bunch of well-intentioned white people, who are privileged in some way, sitting in a room, arguing with each other about semantics. But, when it comes down to it, it's all about treating people right. Not just people of color, non-whites, minorities, subordinates, etc. (whatever you want to call 'them'), but all us privileged types too.

"Do unto others..." and leave semantics to authors and consultants.


Thaddeus said...

Thank you for this insight!

I've always been against the politically correct racial diversity movement, but I could never put my finger on why. We're supposed to celebrate our darker or lighter brothers just because of their skin tones? That's racism.

Forget it. I'm just gonna be a friend to everyone.

Siege said...

Ainge was a Mormon? Somehow that did not show up in his game. I will youtube old Ainge footage and dissect them for clues. Here, here Cookie.