I first came across Jason Whitlock's prose after a friend mentioned an article penned by Whitlock that took ESPN's Scoop Jackson to task for suggesting to young African-American school kids that they had a better chance of making it as professional basketball players than they did as sports journalists. The friend also happened to send along Whitlock's infamous interview with The Big Lead, where he referred to Jackson as a "clown" and took issue with his "fake ghetto posturing." Perhaps most striking was his employment of the term "bojangling" in describing Jackson's unorthodox writing style. While many were shocked at Whitlock's lack of nuance or subtlty in criticizing his former colleague, there were those among us who agreed in concept with Whitlock's remarks. Though we may not have entirely agreed with his bombastic tone or use of merciless adjectives, the time had come for someone to call out Jackson.
Jackson's frequent incoherent ramblings on race, misuse of the English language and inability to shake his XXL persona had worn thin. Each week, one was presented with a hackneyed reason as to why white society didn't "understand" or "accept" today's modern African-American athlete. Each week, one was presented with material so poorly written and contrived that Florida QB Chris Leak could have breezed through it. But this rebuttal isn't about Jason Whitlock v. Scoop Jackson. This entry is about David Zirin's lack of insight in criticizing and lambasting Whitlock for having a series of "Bill Cosby moments" (Whitlock's words). While Mr. Zirin contends that Whitlock's recent spate of columns have only exacerbated white America's ingrained racist attitudes towards African-Americans, in fact, Whitlock's words serve as a reminder that there are African-Americans who believe that a drastic change is needed within the black community, that African-Americans can no longer blame others entirely for the problems with which they face.
Mr. Zirin employs the use of a number statistics to defend his stance that we reside in a country of "institutionalized racism and poverty." Let me be absolutely clear: Racism is still a malicious, malignant and persistent problem in this country. Growing up in the melting-pot of Brooklyn, New York did not hide me from its pernicious effects; in fact, it may have even heightened it. But the African-American community is facing a fantastic crucible as we speak. It needs answers, not excuses. It needs role-models, not artifical religious crusaders. But citing the normal, run-of-the-mill statistics is not going to stir the pot that is so needed now.
Additionally, Mr. Zirin takes Whitlock to task for avoiding the scour of "institutionalized racism and poverty" that bedevils the African-American community and placing blame on "kids with baggy pants" in his latest Las-Vegas-based reporting stint. Sadly, Mr. Zirin fails to comprehend Whitlock's targets of derision. Whitlock is not targeting the rebelliously benevolent teenage kid in jeans four sizes too big, but those who repeatedly resort to violence and ignite mayhem. Those like Titan's corner Pac-Man Jones, who has faced charges of assault, vandalism, disorderly conduct, public intoxication and misdemeanor assault all in the past two years. And lest we forget, was also involved in an NBA All-Star weekend melee that has left three people critically wounded due to gunshot wounds. I wonder if Mr. Zirin will use the time-honored "institutionalized racism and poverty" to defend Jones' actions. It would be ironic, considering the riot allegedly began due to Jones'decision to spray the strip-club floor with $81,000 from a plastic bag. $81,000 that could have been used to open a local Boys & Girls Club, YMCA or after-school center in Jones' urban hometown of Atlanta.
It is clear that Mr. Zirin is most upset by Whitlock's controversial descriptions and characterizations of today's black youth. Yet, I ask Mr. Zirin to take heed of Bill Cosby's "Pound Cake Speech," delivered on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Rather than pontificate on this surely monumental event in American history, Cosby delivered a harsh, stunning and utterly provocative condemnation of certain segments and aspects of the African-American community with which he took issue with. Immensely troubled by the rise in single-parent African-American families, senseless violence plaguing the country's urban steets, and a lack of African-American educational achievement, Cosby morphed from the lovable father-figure we grew to love on the Cosby show into a man with little regard for political correctness. Throughout this deeply moving and earnest speech, I hope Mr. Zirin pays attention to the intermittent sounds of applause emanating from the largely African-American audience. While many could have taken umbrage with Cosby's decision to use the event as a platform for such pointed, harsh criticism, it is hard to make out any sounds of disapproval or disavowal. Perhaps it was because Cosby's words spoke directly to the heart of what many in the audience might have felt, though they may have been too scared to express themselves for fear of being a pariah.
Jason Whitlock has decided to use the venue provided him in a way that will continue to produce disharmony and discord amongst the sports journalist community, African-American community and American-athlete community. His thoughts on the current condition of the African-American community in this country will undoubtedly lead other writers like Mr. Zirin to take up arms (pens, I surely hope). And with their words, they will become accountable and responsible for something bigger than themselves. Something constructive, honorable and worth emulating. Something Whitlock's writing has helped to inspire, energize and ignite.
Thank you, Jason.