Yes, I'm afraid to say it's that kind of black and white that I'm going to talk about.
I was in Atlantic City this weekend, and while I was in a drunken haze for the better part of the trip, I was mostly sober on Saturday afternoon before the NFL draft. I was watching a preview show on ESPN (one of several thousand ESPN has run since the Super Bowl). The show featured five analysts: Mike Tirico, Tom Jackson, Cris Carter, Ron Jaworski, and another white guy who I'm not familiar with. The candor was relaxed and jovial, and everyone on the set was getting along and joking.
Some reference was made to, I believe, an NBA playoff game that was being played that evening, and Carter said he was going to the game. He also said he had four tickets, to which Tirico asked, "There's five of us here, who are you taking?" Carter's response, which was responded to with laughter and smiles, was, "Well, you know I gotta take care of the brothers first."
Let me start by saying that I, personally, don't have a problem with that comment. As I said, they were all laughing and having fun, it was obviously not a malicious remark, and I generally don't find anything offensive. My problem is not that the comment was innately inappropriate.
My problem is that, had a white guy said, "Well, you know I gotta take care of the white boys first," he'd have been fired immediately, and probably beaten up. My problem is that this is the television station that spent several days decrying Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh (neither of whom I like, but both of whom got jobbed) for their insensitivities towards race. My problem is that ESPN has set a standard that any sort of racial discussion that reflects poorly on black people is a bad idea, and only Kornheiser and Wilbon can get away with it without bringing down the wrath from on high. But when you say that you're going to "take care of the brothers," that's not a problem.
I did a Google search for the phrase along with Cris Carter, and got zero hits. Zero hits. Not a single person on a site indexed by Google has made mention of this incident. Forty million bloggers in the country and not a single person has anything to say about Carter's comments.
[begin political rant]
I'm in favor of free speech everywhere. I get uncomfortable any time you restrict/discipline someone for saying something people find unpalatable, because how long will it be before you get in trouble for stating an opinion? How long before I get disciplined for what I say? It's not like I've never taken a controversial stand; hell, I'm one of like eleven people who doesn't care at all that steroids were such a big part of baseball for so many years.
My government is supposed to protect my right to say things like Cris Carter said. I'm happy he hasn't been disciplined (and won't be), but I want that same courtesy extended to people of every ethnicity, or no ethnicity at all. I want everyone to have the right to say whatever they want to say, whenever they want to say it. If you offend someone and you didn't mean to, you can apologize. And if you did mean to offend that someone, you shouldn't be expected to apologize.
I leave you with a quote from my favorite show, The West Wing:
Josh: What do you say about a government that goes out of its way to protect even citizens that try to destroy it?
Toby: God bless America.
[end political rant]
I'm happy to protect Cris Carter's right to say he's going to give his basketball tickets to "the brothers," as long as we're also protecting Rush Limbaugh's right to speculate that Donovan McNabb gets favorable media attention because he's a productive black quarterback.
And in the word of Phil Collins, "That's all."
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