Sports, Racism, and Homophobia

This is going to be a slightly different post from me. The most recent racial issues in the US made me want to comment. There is huge amounts of talk about the Trayvon Martin case and more recently about Riley Cooper and his racially insensitive screaming at a Kenny Chesney concert. I will also talk some about how racial issues are tied to sexual orientation issues. Let me just state that these views and opinions are mine and only mine. I don’t speak on behalf of anyone other than myself.

I am going to start with racism in sports before I disappear into racism in general. I just watched the Riley Cooper video and don’t see the huge story that the news agents are trying to make it into. Does it excuse him for what he says? No. Should he be vilified and condemned for the comment? No. He is a professional football player and has grown up playing next to and with blacks, whites, and if I had to venture a guess, a few other races also. While his comment at the concert did use a racial slur, I want to ask anyone that has known him growing up and longer than the last couple of days, if he has shown any other racial prejudices? Is he racist because he used one word? Or is it how he used it?

In the video that has led the media outcry he states (no Im not going to edit or censor what he says) “I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here.” When looking at the video, he looks to be responding to someone that is off camera and, well to be blunt, not famous. You cannot deduce from the video if he was inebriated, provoked, or if there was more going on here. All that you can tell from the video is that he says that he is willing to fight, and he calls a entire race a term that white people are not allowed to use. Now let me say that again, one race is not allowed to say one certain word to a whole nother race.

I view this incident much in the same light as the story about Paula Dean recently. Both celebrities said “nigger” in description of someone. The only reason that these are stories is due to the status of these people as celebs. Just because someone is famous, they are not allowed to be human. They are supposed to be perfect role models, that never misspeak, misstep, or get emotional. They aren’t allowed to have any privacy, time out of the spot light, or relax in any way. Paula Dean volunteered that she used the term when repeating what someone else had said or in the confines of her home in description of someone that robbed her place of employment and neither time recently. People then immediately said that she was racist because she used one single word, not because of her lifelong actions but because of a one single word.

Lets come at this issue from another direction. If a person goes their entire life in a mixed society, living around and interacting with multiple races everyday, and never verbally or physically attacks a person of another race, never denies goods or services to, or is outright malicious to anyone of a differing race than them, are they considered racist? Most people would respond by saying “Of course not.” Now if that same person is in a situation where they feel that they have been treated wrongly, unfairly, or even attacked, responds in an emotional way under tremendous duress and part of that response happens to be a racial slur that is commonly used by the same race, they are now instantly “racist”? I find that to be really unfair. Now that same person apologizes and continues their life, never showing any signs of prejudice toward another race, will they be exonerated? More than likely not, and especially if they are considered famous and a name that people will recognize. A single word in the heat of a moment undoes an entire life of work.

Is racism a one way street? Any person that says yes is severely mistaken. Racism isn’t just white against black. People often forget that those aren’t the only races in this country, much less planet. They are just the only ones commonly described by colors and be excepted. I pose one question to African Americans, What do you want to be called? You have had many names through the years and never seem happy with any of them. What about white people? Did anyone ask if that was okay by them? Blacks can be decedents from many different places but so can whites. What if I wanted everyone to call me Swedish American or Scandinavian American? Yes I am technically white, but so are Italian Americans, German Americans, Russian Americans, and the list goes on. My problem is with labeling people.

Now  to touch on the mistreatment of Treyvon Martin. I feel that the entire case was mishandled and blown way out of proportion. Murder is wrong. PERIOD. Murder is the killing of someone in a premeditated way, during another another crime, inhumanly or barbarously, or by negligence. People have the right to defend themselves from bodily harm. Now I wasn’t there, at the scene that night, and haven’t spent days upon days reviewing the evidence in the case, but I have read many reports, both on the news, online, and law enforcement reports posted. But it doesn’t matter if I think Martin was an innocent boy walking back through a neighborhood and Zimmerman was looking for trouble or if Zimmerman was defending himself when attacked by Martin. What does matter is that the entire case was in the news before anyone knew what happened. Before the evidence was collected and the statements recorded. It was an immediate transformation into a racial issue before one person’s race was even clarified. Zimmerman is not what most people would describe as white, and his family doesn’t even describe as white. I saw an interview with his brother and he said they are of Latin heritage. So tell me how this is a white on black crime?

My biggest issue with this whole case is a larger issue entirely. I hate labels. Labels are used to quickly categorize and describe someone. Think about it like this, does how you were born define who you are? Every label comes with prejudices. Race, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, hair color, place of birth, even if you served in the military, they all come with ideas and perceptions. Why are we, as humans, worried about everyone else? Prejudices are taught or learned. Just because I was born “white, male, single, straight, blonde, in Fargo, ND, and didn’t serve” doesn’t mean a damn thing. I was raised in a Christian and more specifically a Lutheran family, by parents that if I had to describe might have been Democratic but so what? Do any of those things describe the way that I think or the views that I have, NO. What about marital status? Single or Married doesn’t even describe half of the nation anymore. Think about your “relationship” that you are in right now and isn’t single or married? Unless you have a document from the US saying you are married, you are single. You have been living together for 10 years, might have a kid or 2 but don’t have that license? You are single. How about in conversations with friends and you just started to “talk” to someone, or are “seeing” someone, “dating”, “exclusive”, “open relationship”? Those are all labels to describe 2 other peoples’ relationship, what does it matter to you? Are you trying to have sex with one of them? If so, the only question that matters at the end of the night is how they define their own relationship with their person.

I feel that the worst label and prejudices that are happening right now pertain to sexual orientation. Who the hell am I to ask about what you do behind closed doors, in your own privacy? I do care if you are straight, gay, lesbian, transgendered, or bisexual. Does it define you or is it just one aspect of you. If we ask that question, than we should also have to ask about what they like in bed. Where do we draw the line? Do we ask what fetishes people like? What type of porn they prefer? People say homophobic slurs more often than racial slurs in my experience and are just as hurtful with them. So say that sexual orientation is by birth, others by choice, but I don’t care. It has no baring on me or the way that I will live my life.

Labels should be demolished. They are the lazy way for people in positions of power to categorize and judge people without knowing them. No job application, college app, scholarship app, no opportunity should ever be allowed to be decided by anything other than you, your knowledge, and your experience. College scholarships should be generic. If a personal scholarship fund wants to provide scholarships to specific people and disqualify people on their race, sex, sexual orientation, heritage, social and economical situation, handicap, or even if a person is right or left handed, than that is their right as a private scholarship. Jobs that are able to list being an EEOC employer should not be allowed to list any of these questions on a job application. The government or any other governing association shouldn’t force any person to employ certain percentage race or sex because that could exclude someone that has genuinely earned the opportunity. If a college is required to have a specific percentage of races enrolled or sexes enrolled, they are then discriminating against the other applicants.

If society wants to do away with prejudices (and that is a huge IF), then they need to stop perpetuating those same prejudices. Do away with the categorizing questions on applications. Stop promoting the news that might cause racial tensions and report everything evenly. Report the white on black murders on an even base as the black on white, hispanic on black, asian on white, or any other combination, and don’t allow speculation on motives. Government needs to allow true equal rights to all citizens of the country, regardless orientation, sex, race, economic standing, education, etc. Who is any one person allowed to pass judgement on any one other person without knowledge of said person. If I ever am in the standing to employ, give an opportunity to, or otherwise alter a person’s standing in this society, I will do everything that I can to judge that person on their experiences, pertinent knowledge, references, and an interview with that person.

To people that feel they are being unfairly judged, do your best to rise above the prejudices. And when you get the chance, change the system. Educate those around you and encourage change. As a very famous saying goes “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. Meaning you can’t be pissed about being unfairly judged when you do nothing to change the perception.

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