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White men can't jump...or do much of anything else.
February 8, 2002 6:33 AM   Subscribe

White men can't jump...or do much of anything else. "Look how white I am. Am I lame or what? Can't jump. Can't dance. Can't run. Can't dress. Can't hang. It's O.K. I know I'm a pathetic White Guy. I'm at peace with it. In fact I laugh about it all the time. I have to. Black athletes today love to make fun of us White Guys." Does the White Guy have feelings?
posted by Werd7 (46 comments total)

 
Christ. Here we go again...
posted by Fenriss at 6:37 AM on February 8, 2002


Rick Reilly is an idiot.
posted by uftheory at 6:49 AM on February 8, 2002


i saw a segment on real sports about white guys in the NBA. they seemed to take the needling in stride. it didn't seem as if there was some huge racial tension in the league, cuz in the end they all knew it was about how well you played. like the players they interviewed mostly joked about it and also mentioned it was a different story when they stepped off the court...

i guess it's like the difference between getting pulled over because you fit a racial profile and not being let into the stadium parking lot on game day for the same reason. one's kinda funny, the other isn't.
posted by kliuless at 6:59 AM on February 8, 2002


From Rick's bio page:

RICK REILLY, 43, is in his 17th year as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year six times. He is the author of the weekly "Life of Reilly" column that runs on the last page of SI. It's the first such signed weekly opinion column in the magazine's history. Publishers Weekly called him "an indescribable amalgam of Dave Barry, Jim Murray and Lewis Grizzard, with the timing of Jay Leno and the wit of Johnny Carson."
His current book The Life of Reilly: The Best of Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly hit bookstores in mid-November, 2000. The New York Daily News called him "one of the funniest humans on the planet."


Ah, I see, it's a j*o* k*e...this is supposed to be amusing.
posted by xiffix at 7:00 AM on February 8, 2002


it read pretty accurately to me. "white boy" as a term of derision has been pretty strong in the popular media for a while now. why is he an "idiot" for pointing that out?
posted by nobody_knose at 7:00 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm actually kind of proud of white folks taking the needling in stride, not pressing for lawsuits, not screaming racism and not demanding sensitivity-training. Making fun of yourself is good. White basketball players seem to be setting a good example. It'd never occurred to me before.
posted by Karl at 7:05 AM on February 8, 2002


i guess it's like the difference between getting pulled over because you fit a racial profile and not being let into the stadium parking lot on game day for the same reason. one's kinda funny, the other isn't.

?!

Which one is the funny?
posted by rodii at 7:07 AM on February 8, 2002


We have no feelings... remember we are the root of all that is evil in the world today.
posted by auzten at 7:14 AM on February 8, 2002


uftheory: "Rick Reilly is an idiot."

Well, there you have it, case closed. Don't bother trying to explain why what he's saying is flawed -- just call him an idiot. If you can't at least perceive a glimmer of truth in what he's saying, you don't have an open mind. And keep in mind that what Reilly's saying rings true to an awful lot of good, well-meaning people. Now, you can choose to disregard their viewpoints if you want, but if you are truly, honestly committed to improving race relations, you at least have to acknowledge and deal with those perspectives, rather than simply dismissing them as "ignorant" (just as whites have to truly, honestly acknowledge and deal with the fact that racism against blacks still exists).
posted by pardonyou? at 7:14 AM on February 8, 2002


rodii, i guess i should have said a white player (mike penberthy) who wasn't allowed to park in the player parking place, cuz the parking attendant/security guy didn't believe he played for the lakers :)
posted by kliuless at 7:47 AM on February 8, 2002


We have no feelings... remember we are the root of all that is evil in the world today.

Show me one person who is making this claim.
I mean, talk about the guilty fleeing when none pursue. I have yet to see a single shred of evidence that "white men are being blamed for everything" other than the insistence of a few white men that they're being blamed for everything.
posted by Fenriss at 7:52 AM on February 8, 2002


Anyone happen to see Tom (funkmaster) Brady 'bustin' a move' on stage at the Super Bowl celebration in Boston on Tuesday? Point made.
posted by martk at 8:02 AM on February 8, 2002


rodii, i guess i should have said a white player (mike penberthy) who wasn't allowed to park in the player parking place

Aha. That makes sense. I thought you were talking about blacks not being allowed into sports events, which I was having trouble processing the humor of. Sorry for the confusion.
posted by rodii at 8:06 AM on February 8, 2002


My favorite comment by a black athlete along these lines? Muhammad Ali, in When We Were Kings, speaking of the difference between white and black music. Notes that blues is about losing everything, hard times, etc., while country is all happy. As in, he says (breaking into song), "Y'all come, y'all come,' or (keeping the upbeat melody of 'Y'all Come') 'Folsom Prison, Folsom Prison.'"

This is a fine example of an deeply ironic sense of humor. (He actually knew Johnny Cash.)
posted by raysmj at 8:07 AM on February 8, 2002


Fenriss: Susan Sontag: “The white race is the cancer of human history.”

Now, that wasn't hard. Next time, do your own due diligence, okay?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:12 AM on February 8, 2002


Yeah, white males are actually the most scorned and downtrodden part of society, IMHO. The best part about being one, though, is that I don't have to complain about it, march about it, get a chip on my shoulder about it... -and- I'm allowed to laugh about it and make comments in public about it without being chastized.
posted by SpecialK at 8:17 AM on February 8, 2002


Here's another perspective on this from columnist Leonard Pitts. I think he has a point - when us white guys are the majority of owners/managers/coaches, who cares if our dunking skills are laughed at? We still get to decide which players stay or go at the end of the day.
posted by timmy at 8:38 AM on February 8, 2002


"He [Malcom X] began to assimilate the racial teachings of his new religion; that the white man is evil, doomed by Allah to destruction, and that the best course for black people is to separate themselves from Western, white civilization--culturally, politically, physically, psychologically."

--African American Publications
Fourth paragraph
posted by Karl at 8:53 AM on February 8, 2002


timmy: I don't know about you, but none of the white guys I know own any sports franchises.
posted by nobody_knose at 9:02 AM on February 8, 2002


Leonard Pitts' conclusion that you can’t have pity and power requires a shovel to dig through such a huge pile of crap. Example #1; Dork gets picked on by bully. Dork Cries. Bully laughs. Dork has no power and gets no pity. Example #2; Bully falls down flight of stairs. Bully cries. Dork does not laugh at him and asks if he’s okay out of fear of getting his ass kicked. Bully has power and receives pity. Please don’t conjure this to parallel the discussion of the thread. Just note that Pitts is a rambling fool.
posted by Werd7 at 9:18 AM on February 8, 2002


I thought it was a good article — although tongue and cheek, but he gets a point across, and at least raises some valid questions without beating you over the head, or seeming too defensive about it.
posted by designflea at 9:20 AM on February 8, 2002


timmy, the problem is correlating what is "ok" to say based on the relative "power" dynamics between the speaker and the listener. If the speaker holds less power than the listener, does that make racial comments less offensive? If that's true, does it still hold true if a white speaker has less power than a black listener -- would a racially derogatory comment by the white be justified? Or do we not look at this in isolation; rather, based on power across the group, do we assume that in a conversation the black participant has less power? To me, that's intellectually dishonest. Either it's acceptable to use racial generalizations to make a derogatory point, or it's not (I happen to believe it's not).
posted by pardonyou? at 9:47 AM on February 8, 2002


nobody_knowse - As always, it's not the words that are the problem, but the tone and the context in which they are uttered. When, I lived in Miami, I worked in a store where I was the only non-Latino. Of course, I was quickly dubbed "El gringo flaco loco." I've also been in several multi-racial enviornments whre good-natured ethnic joshing went on all the time. Now obviously, this was among people who knew eachother well, but we used it as a way of indicating that we considered you one of the guys, like locker-room bantering. Comments by people like Mike Tyson or John Rocker aren't even worth commenting on.Racism is actions and attitudes not naughty words.

Karl - By the end of his life, Malcolm X had abandoned that mode of thought, which is probably what got him killed.Although to be truthful, back in the 1950's and 60's, a lot of white people needed to hear that kind of talk, if for no other reason than to hear how justifiably pissed off black people were. Whether that's true today is open to debate.
posted by jonmc at 10:11 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm a white, straight man. Life is pretty easy, from my perspective. Why?
I've found that racism, sexism, homophobia, and any of the other sickening biases that plague our culture are problems when they create positive assumptions. For example: "black people are poor" is a positive assumption.
As a white man, I have very few positive assumptions. Rather, I feel that people approach me, as an individual, looking for me to show them who I am, what my skills are, etc.
Women, gays, and racial minorities suffer incredible numbers of positive assumptions. Women are weak, have no common sense, put too much effort into their kids and not enough into their jobs. Gays are promiscuous, fickle, and perverse. Minorities are poor, uneducated, violent gang members, or often seen as "foreign investors," looking to take over "our" (nordic male-dominated) economy.

The positive assumptions made about white men are fairly comical in nature. I don't care if you think I can't jump, or suck at basketball period. I can see why pro basketball players would be a little more annoyed. But for me, the fact that I can walk into a situation and be given the opportunity to show who I am, rather than immediately fight against positive assumptions about me.
Perhaps the most annoying positive assumption made about white men is that, as we have seen in this thread, we are all rich tycoons, dicking the little guy over. Maybe it's true that 95% of business execs are white men, but keep in mind that a huge portion of the middle and lower classes are also white men. We are being held down by the same assholes that you identify us with, and that hurts.
posted by zekinskia at 10:16 AM on February 8, 2002


I'm a white, straight man. Life is pretty easy, from my perspective. Why?
I've found that racism, sexism, homophobia, and any of the other sickening biases that plague our culture are problems when they create positive assumptions. For example: "black people are poor" is a positive assumption.
As a white man, I have very few positive assumptions. Rather, I feel that people approach me, as an individual, looking for me to show them who I am, what my skills are, etc.
Women, gays, and racial minorities suffer incredible numbers of positive assumptions. Women are weak, have no common sense, put too much effort into their kids and not enough into their jobs. Gays are promiscuous, fickle, and perverse. Minorities are poor, uneducated, violent gang members, or often seen as "foreign investors," looking to take over "our" (nordic male-dominated) economy.

The positive assumptions made about white men are fairly comical in nature. I don't care if you think I can't jump, or suck at basketball period. I can see why pro basketball players would be a little more annoyed. But for me, the fact that I can walk into a situation and be given the opportunity to show who I am, rather than immediately fight against positive assumptions about me, is a gift that truly puts me at an advantage.
Perhaps the most annoying positive assumption made about white men is that, as we have seen in this thread, we are all rich tycoons, dicking the little guy over. Maybe it's true that 95% of business execs are white men, but keep in mind that a huge portion of the middle and lower classes are also white men. We are being held down by the same assholes that you identify us with, and that hurts.
posted by zekinskia at 10:17 AM on February 8, 2002


We have no feelings... remember we are the root of all that is evil in the world today.

Show me one person who is making this claim.


It's the basic tenet of most courses on "cultural studies" or "post-colonialist theory." And more than one black person has said it to my face.

I agree with the commentors above who said that anti-white racism isn't really as much of a threat as anti-(not-white) racism. But will that be the case forever? And when it's not, will our complacence about stuff like this have set the stage for the pendulum to swing in the other direction?
posted by bingo at 10:36 AM on February 8, 2002


johnmc: "As always, it's not the words that are the problem" & "Racism is actions and attitudes not naughty words."

It'd be nice if that were true, but it's not. In fact, words are frequently deemed "racist" even when the intent is clearly not. Let me try two examples, one personal and one newsworthy. First, I recall a discussion in a law school class about whites' use of the "n" word. The issue was whether there is any context in which a white person could use that word in a way that wasn't improper. The unanimous answer by the several African-American students in the class was: Absolutely not. The intent was totally irrelevant -- even if a white person in a group of blacks wanted to use that word in the same way the other blacks used it with each other, it was wrong.

Second, recall the white aid to the mayor of Washington, D.C. who was forced to resign after he used the word "niggardly." There was no evidence that the speaker's actions or attitudes were racist at all -- in fact, the word means "miserly" and has no historical racial connotations whatsoever. That didn't stop the outcry that he be removed from his job on the grounds that using such a word was "racially insensitive."

So I just can't buy the argument that it's only intent that matters.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:43 AM on February 8, 2002


Has anyone noticed the resurgence of the White Guy in the NBA? What the hell? I think some concessions have to be made in hockey as an exchange to return balance to the sports world...
posted by owillis at 10:55 AM on February 8, 2002


pardonyou? - I don't disagree with you entirely. The "N" word is one of those word like the "C" word that's pretty much always offensive.
I was referring to the more-nit picky commentators who seem to think anything other than emily post style racial ettiquette as blatant bigotry.
For instance, I once brownbagged a lunch consisting of a chicken-roll and mayonaisse sandwich on wonder bread and a twinkie. A Latino buddy said "Jesus, you eat like white guy!" I retorted "I'll trade ya for the refried beans in your lunchbox." and we had a good laugh. Some people would witness that conversation and gasp at the "stereotyping" and "ethnocentricity." However, to us it merely meant that we considered our ethnic differences so meaningless and harmless that we could kid about them. Most "whiteboy" type comments tend to fall under the same category, in my experience.
posted by jonmc at 10:57 AM on February 8, 2002


owillis, it's happening as we speak: Jarome Iginla is currently leading the NHL in goals scored. But breaking into hockey was nothing. Breaking into golf? Now there's a story!
posted by pardonyou? at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2002


He [Malcom X] began to assimilate the racial teachings of his new religion; That the white man is evil, doomed by Allah to destruction, and that the best course for black people is to separate themselves from Western, white civilization--culturally, politically, physically, psychologically.
--African American Publications
Fourth paragraph


This is an unfair interpretation of Malcolm X's legacy. I recommend reading his autobiography, which is the story of a man's fight against racism and his evolving understanding of race and race relations. Later on the page that you linked, we learn that "he wrote that he no longer believed that all white people were evil."

Malcolm X revealed a world in which some black people are powerful, some white people are powerless, but in which the balance is tipped in favor of whites.

A lot of progress has been made since the 1950s and '60s. Legal protections and societal changes now discourage blatant racial discrimination. But to imply that white people jokes are evidence that whites are the most discriminated people in society seems ignorant to me. To imply that civil rights activists are themselves racists seems likewise unfair.

Take a look at income, career advancements, police traffic stops, etc., and I think you'll find race-based discrepancies that are far more damaging than a "white men can't jump/dance/etc" joke.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:07 AM on February 8, 2002


Oliver, the
NHL is way ahead of you
Actually, I think it's kind off odd that everyone knows about Jackie Robinson,
but few have heard of Willie O'Ree.


posted by jonmc at 11:17 AM on February 8, 2002


Guys, regarding the Malcom X quote, I presented that only because Fenriss made the wild assumption that no one still believes in "the white devil" which is profoundly untrue to me. (and yes, I've read the autobiography, and realize how X's views later changed.)

However, I lived in Atlanta for awhile and had a pamphlet taped to my apartment door one day by a black preacher who basically said that white people needed to be purged from the neighborhood to improve it, and made some white-devil commentary therein. This was four short years ago!

Not to mention the Susan Sontag article also quoted. And not to mention that photo from Newsweek last year of a Nigerian holding a cardboard sign saying quite plainly, "The White Man is the Devil".

Fenriss' claim sounds like it's coming from someone who needs exposure outside her demographic to see what people are saying.
posted by Karl at 11:53 AM on February 8, 2002


Karl - Nobody worth worrying about believes it. I lived four years of my life in a predominantly black neighborhood in Bridgeport and noone gave me any shit whatsoever about being white. People like that preacher are about as respected by most black people I've met as KKK members are by us ordinary whitefolk. There's hysterical bigots and Maciavellian demagogues in every race,but their an infinitessimaly small and mouthy bunch. If we just let em spew most people will take them for the gasbags they are.
posted by jonmc at 12:02 PM on February 8, 2002


I stand corrected. I never watch hockey and when I see highlights its inevitably with some guy named Yesnetskiy or some such - decidedly non-black. Our next stop: Curling. The brothers are coming, the brothers are coming!
posted by owillis at 12:07 PM on February 8, 2002


jonmc: I don't know if I'm as optimistic as you. There is certainly an undercurrent of belief in the black community of systematic oppresion by the white majority. The problem is, up until very recently it was very true.

For the average black man (like myself), it is very human to wonder sometimes about a system that seems somewhat stacked against you. Even if you believe (as I do) that empowerment comes through pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, the playing field is certainly not level. You have to wonder when the cops who beat King were aquitted or Amadou Diallo gets shot 41 times. Or personally, when a cop questions me on the front lawn of my house while I'm checking the mail.

I'm not saying there are Secret White Guy Meetings where the agenda is set, and the people preaching hysteria and bigotry need to be ignored, but their message probably wouldn't resonate so strongly if the facts didn't line up in their favor on such a semi-regular basis.
posted by owillis at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2002


oliver - Incidents like the type you mention are the exact type of things we should be worried about, racist ideas put into action by those with the power to do real damage to people. If it makes you feel any better, a cop once asked me(an extremely white guy) to show ID on my own lawn. Some cops are perhaps, merely on a power trip with everybody.

True, the hatred spewed by some black leaders may be the hate hate created but it's still hate and most sensible people can see through it. I'm quite frankly of the opinion that the government, media and other institutions like it(and are perhaps complicit)when black and white are pitted against eachother, because it distracts from the fact that they are screwing us all regardless of color.
posted by jonmc at 12:29 PM on February 8, 2002


pfft. everything went down hill once you white people learned to read. then you got some silly notion in your head that you have a right to it.
posted by jcterminal at 1:02 PM on February 8, 2002


Nobody worth worrying about believes it.

Right. That's what I should have said. A single sentence from Sontag (from more than 35 years ago, when things were far worse in terms of race relations) doesn't prove the existence of a dangerous anti-white movement.

If the point of this article is that Mike Tyson is a jerk, well, Mr. Reilly is getting paid to state the obvious. I thought guys being rude and antagonistic to each other was what sports was all about. I'll start worry about the poor, down-trodden white male when he is in danger of something worse than being called "white boy."

And as far as me needing exposure outside my demographic, which demographic do you mean, Karl? I'm a very anglo-looking woman living in a neighborhood which is almost exclusively black. I've never been made to feel the least bit unwelcome by my neighbors. I'll admit that we're talking about Arlington, VA and that things are almost certainly different in Atlanta. But I still fail to see a pattern that warrants all this furor about the oppression of white men.
posted by Fenriss at 1:17 PM on February 8, 2002


I'll start worry about the poor, down-trodden white male when he is in danger of something worse than being called "white boy."

How about "the devil"?

And it's not an oppression, per se, that we're talking about, it's the increasing double-standard of what can and can't be said and gotten away with. It's not an oppressive feeling, but one of disappointment that those people who cry loudest about racism seem to short-term memory when it's time to dish out the racism.
posted by Karl at 2:24 PM on February 8, 2002


>Maybe it's true that 95% of business execs are white men, but keep in mind that a huge portion of the middle and lower classes are also white men. We are being held down by the same assholes that you identify us with, and that hurts.


zekinskia, amen. Poor White Trash is the ethnic group that gets no respect from the Man, nor from People of Color.
posted by otherchaz at 5:04 PM on February 8, 2002


Two thoughts:

First, if you're really against racism, then changing the racial labels within a statement you endorse won't change your reaction to it.

Second, no amount of proselytizing or coercion will indefinitely suspend people's interpretation of their first hand experience.
posted by Real9 at 5:32 PM on February 8, 2002


Third, never draw conclusions in regards to any demographic category after using public transportation.
posted by y2karl at 10:21 PM on February 8, 2002


jonmc hit the nail on the head: There is a huge difference between: (1) Perpetuating Stereotypes and (2) Mocking Stereotypes qua Stereotypes.
posted by davidmsc at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2002


I would love to be judged solely on my actions. I do not hold anyone else resposible for the actions of others. I would appreciate not being told (constantly) that "my people" owe any one group money or an apology for some action. I have not enslaved/oppressed/etc., anyone. I am only repsonsible for me. I hold all of my fellow humans to this bar. If you call me "white boy" I will take it in the same regard as an African-American being called the "N" word...therefore, I will be irritated and may respond by shooting you a sour look. Don't tell me that one word holds more validity than another word, or, one group has the right to be more upset than another if called a certain stereotypical name - you are not me...I am not you- and I do not care to hear about it. I won't call you names if you don't call me names. Name calling is pointless. Racism is stupid. We Americans should be more concerned with being a united country rather than highlighting our differences.
posted by ayukna at 3:27 AM on February 11, 2002


Rick Reilly is still an idiot.
posted by uftheory at 12:35 PM on February 11, 2002


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