>Defending the Indefensible…

>…at least if I was defending Tookie Williams or Mumia Abu-Jamal I’d get some sort of credit in various political circles; but alas, it’s Rush Limbaugh and you don’t get credit for that sort of thing.

I find it laughable, on the heels of the oft repeated implication that any white owner who hasn’t hired a black coach is racist (or at least greatly prejudicial) that Rush Limbaugh’s recent comment regarding the whitness of Rex Grossman — which he claims was a joke — has generated such an uproar.

Most of the reactions were quite predicable. However, I wasn’t prepared for Michael Wilbon’s reaction in his weekly Q & A with fans on WaPo.com (which if I take the time to read every week is a good indication that I’m a big fan of Wilbon):

Arlington, Va.: Hey Mike, can we pass a law banning Rush Limbaugh from ever commenting on sports again? Most people who have played sports or are huge fans, know that sports are one of the few things that can bring different races together. It’s where I have no problem hugging an African-American teammate or high-fiving a complete stranger when watching a game. Sports brings people in close contact with those they might not normally associate with and idiots like Limbaugh just need to shut up!

Michael Wilbon: Limbaugh is the worst kind of race-bating bigot: one who’s smart enough to be very dangerous. His hatred for people different than him is such a sad, sad thing to see and have to put up with.

Serious words and serious accusations, Mr. Wilbon.

(Just a quick note that in Mike’s zeal to bash Limbaugh he misses the pretty ironically hilarious racism in the question: “…sports are one of the few things that can bring different races together. It’s where I have no problem hugging an African-American teammate or high-fiving a complete stranger when watching a game.” “You know, cause, normally I’m not really down with hugging or high-fiving black guys.” What?)

I’d imagine that, regardless of Mr. Wilbon’s political leanings, he was especially miffed at Limbaugh’s previous comments about Donavon McNabb — a fellow Chicagoan and friend of Wilbon — comments that some have argued persuasively had merit at the time.

Limbaugh is a provocative media figure, a seller of opinions– and a very successful salesman at that (though some would bill him as a huckster of highest order). Given that his status and success hinge on the statements he regularly makes, he makes, go figure, provocative statements. Therefore it’s surprising to me that Wilbon would be so easily riled at such blatantly irksome trite.

But it’s not the outrage over Rush, real or drummed-up, that bugs me, it’s the fairly obvious double standard (I know, it’s not like I’m documenting some previously unknown and unrecorded phenomenon, but it’s still worth noting). This double standard tends to permeate all levels of racial dialog but is much more obvious in sports where the playing field is supposedly level and, thusly, anomalies in the way we talk about race are easily noticeable.

So let’s take a look at some people making racial or sexual orientation based remarks, who have yet to have their bigotry so emphatically affirmed by Mr. Wilbon. Hell, one of these guys is a colleague and friend of his.

  • After a playoff game Rodman opined that Bird was “overrated” and received media praise and attention only “because he is white.” (where have I heard similar remarks…hmmm) Teammate Isiah Thomas agreed, “If Bird was Black, he’d be just another good guy.”
  • Allen Iverson – “Come to me wit faggot tendacies, you’ll be sleepin where the maggots be”
  • Reggie White on Hispanics: “(They) were gifted in family structure … they can put 20, 30 people in one home.” On white people: “Blessed with the gift of structure and organization.” On black people: “Very gifted in what we call worship and celebration. A lot of us like to dance. If you go to black churches you see people jumping up and down.” On gays: “Homosexuality is a decision.” On Asians: “Gifted in creativity … they can turn a television into a watch.” On Native Americans: “(they avoided slavery because they) knew the territory, and the Indians knew how to sneak up on people.”
  • But the king of racial generalizations has to be Sir Charles Barkley, whose wife is actually white and who is gainfully employed by TNT along with, one, Michael Wilbon:

  • On Steve Nash – “I’ve only said this two times in my life, but that’s a bad white boy.”
  • “Man, there’s nothing in the world that makes me as nervous as seeing white people dance.”
  • “I always say two things: Black people will borrow money and not pay you back and white people cannot dance.”
  • “You know the world is off tilt when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest basketball player is Chinese and Germany doesn’t want to go to war.”
  • “First of all, you don’t want the Chinese mad at you: They can fight!”
  • “You’re the boss, Ernie. The white guy’s always the boss”
  • “You know what (Yao) said? “Whew! Even white guys can play over here!”
  • Kenny: “There’s guys who go over to Europe and play overseas from America, and they dominate!”
    Charles: “Those are called ‘brothers'”
  • “The NBA’s in disarray – a white guy won the slam-dunk competition. We need to have another Million Man March.”
  • “It’s really wrong for black people to be racists, because two wrongs don’t make a right. White people don’t know any better, that’s the way they were taught, but black people knowhow it feels.”
  • I know, I know, Sir Charles is just such a great quote. He’s just being Sir Charles! The problem is Limbaugh is not afforded the same leeway in making race based accusations. How can one be different from the other? Without knowing either man’s intent or true feelings, how can we so quickly condemn one while promoting and revering another? How does Lane Kiffin’s whiteness become a factor in his hiring over black coaching candidates but Mike Tomlin’s blackness isn’t a factor in his hiring over Russ Grimm? Is there something I’m missing?

    It’s hard not to claim a double standard when Rush is forced to resign from ESPN over relatively innocuous, though stupid, comments, or Steve Lyons is fired for pretty much nothing, and the those I quoted stayed gainfully employed and (relatively; their various comments have been noted in various media outlets and White’s comments on gays had been the source of much consternation) free of public scorn.

    I wouldn’t call any of them ‘race-bating bigot(s)’ or full of ‘hatred for people different than (them)’, I’d just call them people making stupid generalizations and until Wilbon bemoans the bigotry of the previous men, I’ll have to assume he’s just as guilty of that offense.

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