I have been shaking my head at all the hype and commentaries concerning the Barry Bonds and Michael Vick sagas. Usually I don’t weigh in on these topics because I find that they are dishonest moments in media (and society at large) ingenuity. Yes Barry Bonds did steroids (allegedly). So did many other baseball players and MBL and the media knew about it, condoned it and turned a blind eye to it. The long ball, re: McGwire, Sosa, Giambi and Bonds resurrected baseball after the 1994 – 1995 strike. So I say put an asterisk* by his name…. after you put one right beside Babe Ruth’s. Ruth got the record when African Americans weren’t allowed to compete in the MLB. He never faced pitchers like a Satchel Page, nor did he have to compete with the likes of slugger Josh Gibson for the home run title. And back then, just like when steroid use was rampant in the 90’s, the ownership and the media went along with the status quo.
Then there’s Michael Vick. This multi-million dollar player got caught up in the world of dog fighting and the illegal gambling which goes along with it (allegedly). He apparently owned a house where the dogs were being trained and executed for poor performance. He has been indicted and offered a plea deal which expires Friday, when more charges will be pending.
Now the reason I bring all this up, especially in this forum, is that I was listening to a couple of sports talk radio shows today. I found that all the Black callers were not only supportive of Bonds and Vick, but expressd that were indeed obvious victims of media bias, FBI conspiracies and societal racism. I know that Bonds has used the “race card” many times himself. One radio host, who was Black, stated that Vick shouldn’t accept the plea deal, because as everyone knows, as a part of any plea deal you will have to “snitch” on other participants and the code of the street is that you don’t snitch! Are you freaking kidding me!? This from a grown, mature man! A professional sportscaster!
This leads to my take on this whole deal and it’s connection to a larger issue within our community. I don’t demonize Bonds and Vick for their (alleged) illicit activities. There are a lot of co-conspirators and blame to go around, and no ONE action completely defines a person. However I don’t see them as victims! These are grown azzz men. They made choices. Wrong choices, regardless of what others may have been doing. It’s no excuse that others were doing the same (or similar) things. So as grown men…. and as a people, we need to take responsibility and be accountable for our choices and actions. Until we do this, we will never move forward.
So we need to get over this crutch of always blaming the “white man”….. of “filtering” our own self-inflicted misfortunes through the murky waters of self-denial to emerge as self-appointed victims. We need to move beyond the all too familiar scheme of self-righteous polarization, which at one end of the spectrum: claims that those who demand that our sports and entertainment figures act with responsibility and accountability, are “race-traitors who are blaming the victims” (who are by the way mainly millionaires); while at the other end: point a finger at those who do see the deeper dynamics at work (let’s call it racism/white-supremacy), “as apologists condoning and facilitating the self-destructive behaviours and activities of our people.” Both perspectives bring essential pieces needed to understand and develop effective strategies to counter this culture of self-hate.
Which leads me to values. I have never been one to focus my energies to work towards the goal of being “equal to white people”…. in any way! There is nothing about them in particular that I desire to be equal with or to, especially when it comes to their moral and/or value system. The individualistic, materialistic and egocentric premise upon which “western” morality and values have been built, are the seeds of our own self-destructive behaviour.
Wouldn’t it be a triumphant feat to conceive our own value based system based on the pillars of cultural integrity, community responsibility and personal accountability. Wouldn’t it be an innovative paradigm to hear a Barry Bonds say “Yes I made a wrong choice and did steroids for financial and other personal accolades. I am sorry that I let my community, my family and baseball fans down. I ask for your forgiveness.” Or what about a Michael Vick claiming: “Yes, what I did was wrong. I made a wrong choice. My participation in dog fighting is shameful and unforgivable, but please find it in your heart to forgive me…. and I will be co-operating with the police with identifying and testifying against those who were also involved with me.” How about a 50 Cent holding a press conference and stating: “My Sisters, I apologize for the hurtful lyrics in my songs which referred to you as bitches and ho’s…. I will stop using them and please forgive me. My Brothers, I am also sorry for my lyrics which dehumanized you by my using the “N” word and also the songs which glorified your death. I will no longer make my living by being complicit in your genocide. Forgive me and I ask you now to assist the police in identifying and testifying against those who are murdering our people.” This is not the answer to all what ails us…. but it’s a start.
I have a friend who is a Muslim from Africa. When he was 8 years old, his parents bought a house in Canada and left him and his two brothers, one 17 and one 14, to attend school here in Canada, while they returned to the Middle East to work. They had no other family members here and knew no close family friends from their ethnic community. Canada was completely foreign to him and he couldn’t speak, read or write English. In spite of all this, he has never gotten into any trouble, has acquired a couple of degrees and has a good job. He is deeply religious and practices his religion faithfully. He is the nicest guy you could ever meet and a great role model. I asked him how, without any “hands-on” parental guidance and the many difficulties (such as: racism and religious indifference) he must have faced, especially the peer pressure which comes as a teenager…. how he was able to stay out of trouble, to stay focused and dedicated to being successful in school, work and remain committed to his religious convictions.
To summarize his answer, he believed that he owed it to Allah and his family, to be the best person that he could be. They provided him with the opportunity and the tools, to acquire a good education and live in a safe, secure and stable society. He considers himself fortunate as he is aware that there are numerous others from his country of origin and religious community who will never have these opportunities. So he never took it for granted and felt obligated not to waste the opportunity afford him. He in turn is now able to give back to his community.
For me, my friend embodies the values of cultural integrity, community responsibility and personal accountability that we as a people need to adopt. The Bonds, Vicks and 50 Cents of our people can learn a lot from his example about making conscious choices, which will lead one to be responsible and accountable citizens, and positive role models to all in our community.