Look, despite what many may think, I am not the most racially sensitive guy in the world. I enjoy racial jokes as much if not more than the next guy. In fact, I've got one for ya.
"Why are Black people so tall?"
"Because they're Knee-grows."
See, even I think that shit is funny. I don't trip over some benign stereotypes. I've even been known to encourage a few. Like the one about Black men having larger penises. I have no problem at all with this stereotype. I like chicken and watermelon too. But if I were coming to your house for dinner and you served chicken and watermelon just because you knew a Black guy was coming for dinner then we'd have a problem. Why do I bring this up? The Shane Mosley Fernando Vargas fight.
I was sitting in my living room with my buddy Brian and his wife. The fighters were in their dressing rooms warming up. Max Kellerman walks into Fernando Vargas' dressing room for a pre-fight interview. Everything is going rather predictably. There's the usual questions about fight strategy and his feelings about the significance of the fight then Max asks Fernando about whether he and Shane are friends and if it will be difficult fighting a friend. Fernando answers that he knows Shane but they aren't really friends. He says, "It's not like I'd call him up and ask him if he wants to go out for sushi." at which point max Kellerman interjects with, "Tamales." He actually pulled the microphone away from Fernando right after the word sushi left his mouth to correct him.
My jaw dropped. I looked over at my friend Brian to see if my ears had perhaps deceived me and I'd somehow misinterpreted what the commentator had said. Surely he hadn't pulled the microphone away from Fernando Vargas on world-wide pay-per-view to correct him for suggesting that a Mexican would be eating sushi instead of tamales. I just knew that I hadn't seen that. But that's exactly what had happened. What was even more surreal was that no one else seemed to notice including Fernando himself. He skated right past what to me was an obvious racially biased remark and continued the interview as if nothing had happened.
What's even weirder than that was that Brian and I could not wait to get on the internet to see everyone flip out about what Max Kellerman had said. For weeks afterwards we checked Sherdog.com, we checked the sports threads on BlackPlanet.com and Black Voices. Not a peep. Are you kidding me? I'm not even Latino and I was offended.I was waiting to see if he'd go into Shane's dressing room and ask him the same question and when Shane answered that it wasn't like he and Fernando went out for martinis he would interject with, "Shlitz malt Liquor". Or if Shane were to say that after the fight he'd invite Fernando over for some of his wife's meatloaf if Max would correct him with "chittlins".
I tried to think back to another time in history when that comment could have sailed past with so little notice and had to go all the way back to the seventies. If Max had spit some garbage like that in the nineties he'd have wound up being murdered in effigy in a Public Enemy video. If he'd have tried it in the eighties Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Minister Farrakan would have called for a nationwide boycott of boxing and set up a picket line on his front lawn. Or at the very least Bill Cosby would have done a show about it with some nice little moral about not judging a book by its race. In the new millennium it's no big deal. Have we conquered racism so utterly that we can afford to let little stereotypical comments like that slide or are we just slippin'?
I hear white people laugh about Dave Chappelle's "Nigger Family" skit and actually use the word nigger when relaying the episode. Could you imagine one of your co-workers relaying something he heard on an Eddie Murphy or Richard Pryor album back in the eighties and actually using the word nigger as he did his Mudbone impersonation without getting his ass kicked like he'd slapped your momma? White boys say nigga this and "My niggaz" that like it was cool or something and no one seems to trip. I don't care whether they are talking about themselves, one of their homeboys they grew up with who happens to be black, or just reciting rap lyrics, saying that shit around me will get your ass kicked as well it should.
White house press secretary Tony Snow called racism "no big deal" and intimated that it was little more than an ugly memory. Just because we aren't getting lynched every day and we can vote and use the same toilets as white people doesn't mean that we have suddenly become equal. There are still more Black people in jail than in college. We still make up a disporportionate number of the death row population. Most of us still don't have health insurance. Those of us with solid careers are still banging our heads against the glass ceiling. And don't even bother naming the exceptions. They are so notable because they are exceptions. Name the number of Black or Latino CEOs on the fortune five-hundred list and if you can get past Oprah and the CEO of Pepsi without Googling it I'd be surprised and even then you'd probably only add another two or three names to the list.
We ain't equal folks. Not yet. Racism is still a great big fucking deal. I still get stares when i walk into a nice jewelry store or clothing store and White people still come up to me to ask if I'm a football player or basketball player in search of an explanation for why I'm buying a thousand dollar ring without applying for credit and why I don't want the bigger one with the bagget diamonds "Just like P-Diddy wears."
The stereotypes are still there and they are still damaging. Just because 50 Cent has the top selling album in the country doesn't mean he won't get harassed by the cops for driving while Black in an expensive automobile that uppity-negras shouldn't be able to afford without selling drugs or car-jacking it from some fine upstanding white person. Just ask Wesley Snipes and Blair Underwood. Driving a nice car while Black is still a crime in this country. Watch your ass Fitty.
But I'm straying from the point. We as minorities are getting so timid due to the white backlash against charges of racism and the fear of being accused of playing the race card that we are starting to let too much slide. What if every time a woman filed a sexual harassment suit we accused her of playing the sex card or every time a homosexual cried foul for not being aloud to adopt a kid even though he had a nice home, a good job and a clean record, we accused him of playing the sexual orientation card? This is all silly. Racism does exist. It is alive and well. And every minority, racial, cultural, sexual, or otherwise, should feel free to point it out whenever and wherever they see it. If I see Max Kellerman any time soon I will definitely call him on that "Tamales" comment and if he has anything to say about it I'll kick his lily white ass. In the meantime I'm calling up Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley. The sushi is on me boys.