Sunday, February 19, 2006

Faster than the speed of white...

Yesterday, Chicago South Sider Shani Davis won the first individual gold medal by a black person of African descent in the history of the Winter Olympics.

I know very little about the sport of speedskating, but I do know that Shani Davis is a wonderful Chicagoan who has been a good role model for city kids of color who are in dire need of role models through his school visits and other community work.

From media coverage, I've learned that Davis is a very controversial character in the American speedskating world. Some of it is due to the actions of his mother, who is quite vocal on issues of race in sport, rather controlling of her son, and not usually remotely strategic about either of these roles. However, I'm pretty convinced a great deal of it is the normal "shoot the messenger" mentality that faces anyone who attempts to address realities of race in America.

Let's face it--if "The Emperor's New Clothes" was set in contemporary America, we'd lynch that little kid.

In terms of the perceived feud between Davis and Chad Hedrick, I'd like to look at their comments:

Hedrick has used Davis' victory in the 1000 meters as an opportunity to trash him to the media
.

Davis has responded mostly by complimenting Hedrick, but also questioned, "Maybe if the pursuit was organized better, or if they hadn't brought people over here just to skate it, or if I had been informed about it more than a week before ... If the shoe was on the other foot, would Chad have done the team pursuit if it was the day before the 5,000? We'll never know, but people will do whatever's best for you and that's OK."

The irony I see in their comments is that Hedrick is questioning Davis' commitment to the team because he didn't help Hedrick win an event. Furthermore, in doing so, he openly attacked a teammate in the media. Davis' choice may have been incorrect, but he certainly was trying his best to win. Hedrick's choice was simply to trash a teammate and rival with no possible benefit to his team.

Keith Boykin has some great commentary on his blog about Davis' odyssey and one of the commenters brought up a point that I've often discussed with my friends.

What is the deal with white people thinking that a person of color is "bad" simply because they don't do what people want them to do? Sure, it's fun when people listen to you, or you agree with them, but isn't disagreement a normal state of human existence. When folks in an ethnic majority question ethnic minorities more for not "doing what they are told" we can see an ugly underbelly of ethnic privilege. Basically, they don't like the fact that they don't have control over the people of color.

Fuck that Shani. You make them eat ice and take your gold home, and if part of "America" doesn't support you, there's plenty of us back here who admire you that much more for what you are doing.

Hedrick and five medals is not going to improve the quality of my life. Shani Davis' accomplishments just might in some minor, yet significant way.

Update:
Terrence Says with a blog entry on the Davis vs. White Privilege (and he does it quite a bit more eloquently).

4 Comments:

Blogger Gar said...

You have to wonder what sort of racial politics are playing out in the background with Shani Davis vs the whole US Skating IOC.

I was watching a news special about him and it pointed out that his best friend on the team is Ono. They interviewed Ono about why that is, and Ono just straight up basically said to the reporter, "Let's face it... Shani and I don't have a lot in common with the other kids here. We just naturally became friends". They interviewed Davis and he acknowledged Ono as really the only person on the team that he can relate to.

I think that speaks volumes about the culture of the team and the athletes...

3:46 AM  
Blogger xian said...

That's a great point, Gar. It's the height of privilege that folks like Hendricks assume that just because they don't like Davis, no one else does either.

This situation is a perfect answer to that question, "What do all the Colored Folks stick together?"

We're not acting out of racism, we are acting out of a shared experience of having racism inflicted upon us.

Basically, I can live with and love anyone of any ethnicity who can empathize across racial lines. It just happends that privilege often impairs people's ability to develop that skill.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Terrence said...

Thanks for linking to my commentary. And thanks for your insightful opinions.

Terrence

11:39 AM  
Blogger xian said...

Thank you Terrence, I was happy to find your site. I look forward to reading more of your analysis in the future.

11:50 PM  

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