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Monday, September 14, 2009

A rooting interest

Last night at the VMA Awards, when Taylor Swift was giving her acceptance speech for Best Female video, Kanye West bounded up to the stage, grabbed the microphone from her, and said, "Yo, Taylor, I'm really happy for you, I'm a let you finish, but Beyonce had one of the best music videos of all time!" (He didn't let her finish.)

Later, when Beyonce won an award, to her credit she called Swift onto the stage, and said, "I'd like for Taylor to have her moment," giving Swift an opportunity to give her acceptance speech.

But the incident is a good illustration of how black people unabashedly -- and often, unashamedly -- root for their own. I'm always struck by how consistently this occurs.

When Jesse Jackson ran for President in 1988, he received 98% of the black vote in the primaries. When Obama ran last year, he received 97% of the black vote in the general election, despite the fact that something like 10% of blacks are theoretically Republican. Even well known Republican blacks like Colin Powell came out in support of Obama. White candidates, even the most liberal Democrats, are almost never elected in majority black districts. And blacks will overlook the most egregious sins on the part of their candidates. Witness Marion Barry being reelected as mayor of Washington DC despite his crack smoking and tax evasion.

Last year, all of the media-generated publicity was focused on how whites might not vote for Obama because they were racist; not one major media outlet commented on that fact that Obama garnered 97% of the black vote.

I pointed this out to a black friend, and he said that for black people to vote for a black President when they've never had one, and given the history of this country, is different than whites voting for a white President. True enough. But blacks consistently automatically side with blacks in every aspect of life, regardless of the circumstances.

Perhaps the most vivid illustration of the mindset of the black community came during the OJ Simpson trial. During the early stages of the trial, I offered to bet some of my coworkers that he would not be convicted of murder. They reacted almost unanimously: "Are you kidding? He's obviously guilty!" I said of course he is, but I'll still make the bet.

What struck me most vividly about that trial was the reaction to the verdict. The television showed the reading of the verdict, then showed various white and black audiences reacting. The black audiences all whooped and hollered with joy, as if their favorite NBA team had just won the title, while the white audiences just looked on in stunned silence.

Any white who cheered for a white man getting away with murdering two blacks would be considered evil.

When it comes to sports, I honestly cannot recall having ever seen a black person root for a white athlete over a black one. And this is hardly an arena where blacks have historically underperformed. Even blacks who get along well with whites (the only kind I know, or, I suppose, could know) will always root for the black.

I know plenty of whites who've rooted for their favorite black athletes.

During the Rodney King riots, black store owners would write "black owned" on the front of their establishment in an effort to escape looting by the rioters. (Usually this worked.)

If rioting whites ever behaved this way, leaving white businesses alone while trashing black-owned stores, it would be considered the second coming of Kristallnacht.

I was brought up to not judge people by their race. And I've always tried to follow that dictate.

But I have to admit, a lifetime of observing such a consistent double standard makes me want to....root for whites.


Anonymous said...

Any chance Obama is rooting for the home team?

John Craig said...

Any chance he's not?

Anonymous said...

This is a good post. Over the years, I've become a realist and just more skeptical as a person! I agree with you observations about people.


John Craig said...

Thank you Birdie.