A High-Tech Lynching, Or An Exercise in Verbal Disenfranchisement
Earlier today, Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com wrote a point by point response to Bethlehem Shoals's recent Josh Howard post. In my view, it didn't really add much to the discourse, so I won't bother with a point by point response to his response. But, I did find his other post on the situation, entitled "'Disenfranchised' In Dallas: J-Ho's Latest Diss," to be much more interesting and quite revealing, although maybe not in the way he intended.
I specifically want to address the issue of disenfranchisement, since Fisher uses the word in his title and repeatedly invokes the phrase "the Disenfranchised Black Man" throughout the post. When he first uses it, he actually calls it "the Legend/Myth of the Disenfranchised Black Man." Perhaps I'm being too literal, but the disenfranchisement of the black man is not a myth. It is a verifiable, horrible truth. I am sure that, being a patriot, Fisher knows enough about American history to know that, prior to the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870, black men did not have the franchise, or the right to vote. It's probably safe to assume that he knows about the Jim Crow era, during which black men were effectively denied the right to vote, and that this period did not end until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Hell, Fisher might even know that 1.4 million black men are not allowed to vote today, as a result of felon disenfranchisement laws.
Since Fisher's a Mavs fan, I'm sure he knows that Howard is from North Carolina and that he was raised by his grandmother. He probably realizes that this means that black people were not allowed to vote for a significant portion of Howard's grandmother's life. Indeed, he writes: "Maybe he's got a personal tale of racial oppression. More likely, he's got a personal tale relayed to him by an older relative." Fisher even encourages Howard to "use it" and "express it," but then comes the key quote, the moment when Fisher shows his (white) ass: "But not like this."
Fisher, a white man from Texas, seems to think he gets to determine how and when it's appropriate for a black man to express himself. Not only that, but he also gets to determine who has and has not suffered from racism: "[W]hile racism exists it certainly hasn’t resulted in [Howard] personally suffering too greatly." And he criticizes Howard for being arrogant! An offhand, off-color comment at a flag football game pales in comparison to a white man stating in a public forum that he thinks he gets to decide when racism exists and when it's appropriate for black people to speak. I don't know how well Fisher knows Howard (I'm guessing not at all), but even if they were boys and went bowling together every week, the level of presumptuousness here would still be shocking. And it runs throughout the entire post.
Let's take a look at the full quotation:
This circumstance does not call for a dissertation on the meaning of The Star-Spangled Banner. That dissertation is provided (for free, J-Ho) to every second-grader in this country, and while Josh might’ve skipped that day in school (maybe he was smokin’ in the boys room?) the information is certainly available to him. He might learn that the flag is neither white or black, that while racism exists it certainly hasn’t resulted in him personally suffering too greatly, and that whining as if he’s somehow been penalized by being an American is a insult to citizens (black, white and otherwise) who over the course of the last 250 years truly had a reason to be upset, angry and disenfranchised.First, given the chronology I laid out earlier, the use of "250 years" is quite curious, since the United States of America didn't even exist 250 years ago, and it's only been 43 since the Voting Rights Act. Yet, in 2008, a white man from Texas is telling people that "the Disenfranchised Black Man act" (emphasis mine) is "tiresome." Also, nowhere have I ever read that Howard feels he has been "penalized by being an American," but it's absolute fact that he's been penalized for being a black American. If one takes even a cursory look at the statistics, one knows this. Black men are far more likely than their white counterparts to be unemployed, to be incarcerated, to be killed, to die of disease, etc. The depressing list goes on and on. But, no one today "truly" has a reason to be upset or angry. It all happened 250 years ago. And I won't even get into the infantilization of framing this as a second grade education Howard is too dumb to process, or the use of the word "whining" (but I will note that Phil Gramm is also from Texas).
Before I end, I want to return to this word disenfranchisement. The right to vote is not a joke. It is something to be taken extremely seriously, especially in the black community, where people literally died (and not that long ago) for it. If Fisher's breezy (and incredibly condescending) prediction: "I’m taking odds that while Josh talks of supporting Obama, he’ll never actually make it to the voting booth on Nov. 4." is any indication, he doesn't get it. Voting is an expressive right, one that Fisher presumably is okay with (although if you're a black man, Fisher would appreciate it if you check with him first), but it's not the only one. Humor has traditionally been one way that black people have expressed themselves in the face of oppression, laughing to keep from crying. It's one thing for Fisher to not be amused by Howard's comment, but it's a far graver thing for him to attempt (even in his indirect, ineffective way) to silence him.
Maybe for Fisher, the flag and the national anthem mean "soldiers-lives-bought freedom," but is it really that difficult to understand that it might mean something else to a black man from North Carolina? Somewhere where the American flag flew for hundreds of years, while black people were terrorized and abused and denied the right to vote. Somewhere where black men still suffer from great inequalities. That it might not symbolize freedom, but oppression? And even if doesn't signify that, that a black man from North Carolina might be indifferent to the national anthem? Isn't that his right? Can he not express that indifference to friends in what, even ten years ago, would have been a private moment?
I want to be clear that I'm not saying Fisher is a racist, but it is apparent that he has, to use his phrase, "visited arrogant foolishness". How willing should we be to excuse him? If we held him to the standard he uses for Howard, he wouldn't make it. After all, the information is certainly available to him. But I'll be generous and turn his advice back on him: Please swap your sense of humor, your Holier Than Thou White Man act and sense of entitlement in exchange for some humility.
Be sure to check in on the Presidential 21 Tournament, still going on below.