The thunderous return of NBARS
For any of you new to this blank-fest, one of our most treasured (and oft-neglected) traditions is that of monitoring NBA Racial Semiotics, or NBARS. In the past, we've brought you such dusty gems as Bobby Sura, white Negro; T-Wolves rim relativism; and Billy Hunter's errantly declared race war.
Today, though, I interrupt my increasingly half-hearted NFL watching to report the following: Gilbert Arenas is now officially a Latino. As most of us dimly know, Arenas is half-Cuban; this is of great interest to Andreo, my girl, and anyone else whose chromosomes spring from an island nation just off the coast of Miami. I have witnessed at least one Cuban octogenerian refer to him as "my Cuban friend." For the rest of us, though, it's a funny factoid, one that has little or no bearing on the way we interpret this blog's unofficial heart and savior.
In the spots for Arenas's new signature Addidas model, though, they're giving his surname the full-on ethnic pronunciation. Maybe it's a market-by-market thing; to be sure, Houston is a place where this added info might boost his rep. Yet I heard this on a corporate hip-hop station which, as much as it may acknowledge this city's Latinos, remains focused on marketing blacknusss. You have to wonder, then, just what's being done with Our Friend. He's unlikely to be transformed into a People's Champ like Najera, or even a partner-in-Otherness like Ginobili is in this state. If anything, he's closest, identity-politics-wise, to Melo, whose Puerto Ricanitude is one of basketball's best-kept secrets.
Of course, the major difference there is that Anthony can easily, for lack of a better word, "pass" in the world of commerce. At this point, the face of Stop Snitching is thought of as city black, not Rican in the least—this despite his fetching choice of fiances. Perhaps the marketing logic—and best believe, this is done purely with profit maximization in mind—is that Arenas has gained such a rep for zaniness that it's best to pawn him off on the Latinos, those desperate for NBA heroes and maybe more accepting of Agent Zero's sensibility. I really don't know enough about non-Jews to know how Latinos in general, and Cubans in particular, would judge Gilbert's behavior. But from this slight detail of pronunciation, I can only surmise that Addidas has decided this is the best demographic to try and sell the Association's foremost eccentric to.
Addendum: From the mouth of the aforementioned romantic companion of mine: "It's probably easier to be a Black American than it is to be a Black Latino." She also suggests that, in addition to getting scorned by the mainstream, Black Latinos are a harder sell to their very own people. Quoth: "The whole idea of Latin American identity in America is whitewashed. It's run from the top up by the whitest, most powerful, and most visible Latinos." While my first inclination is to add that this is doubly true for Cubans, and that Arenas would instantly become one of the most famous Black Cuban-Americans, I might be greatly underestimating the effects of MLB defectors like EL Duque or Contreras.