Last week, Jason Whitlock agreed to participate in a phone interview with Lion in Oil. During our conversation, Whitlock elaborated upon what he sees as the new KKK, dissected Dave Zirin's, "An Open Letter to Jason Whitlock," and discussed his belief that Major League Baseball has made a conscious and concerted effort to recruit international players rather than devote resources to inner-city communities. Below is a copy of the transcript.
Q: What was the impetus that made you call for another civil rights movement and label a certain segment of the African-American community “the black KKK?”
“I think that to some degree and extent people are misguided and think that there is a lack of dissent in the black community. Meaning, basically, that African-Americans are all good with what is going on in the community. But I hear black people having these conversations all the time. I’m aware that we are not all good with it. Yet, we rarely offer any type of dissent. If we ignore it, it’s only going to get worse. We are going down a slippery negative slope. The hip-hop, prison values.... No one is coming out and saying this isn’t healthy for young people and that these aren’t appropriate values. "
Q: Some say that your comparison of what you define as the “Black KKK” to the KKK that most Americans are familiar with is foolish, absurd and even dangerous. How do you respond to such criticism?
“Well, why don’t we count the bodies? Body by body- The tears are the same and the pain is the same. The violence is just so senseless. The fear that the gang-bangers prey on in the community is the same type of fear generated by the KKK. I understand that this is a strong analogy and I knew some people would be offended. But I’m trying to spark a new consciousness. These gang-bangers are alleging to be pro-black when they really are anti-black.”
Q: I’ve noticed in the last two columns you’ve written involving the African-American community you are quite blunt in describing various problems within it. However, you skirt the issue of offering solutions. What are some solutions that might have a tangible and ameliorating affect?
“I think the most important thing is embracing education. We can’t let kids go to school and continue to be ridiculed for talking properly. Getting an education is not acting white. People are called ‘sell-outs’ for talking properly. Additionally, hip-hop culture has become an expression of prison values. 25% of guys in my generation in the black community are incarcerated because of our country’s punitive drug laws. We can’t keep continuing to build prisons and creating these punitive cages. We have to rehabilitate people. Some people even need to be ‘habilitated.’ Non-violent offenders need to be treated differently than violent-offenders.”
Q: Do you think African-American athletes are partly to blame for some of the ills we are now witnessing the African-American community struggle with?
“No, not at all. We can’t single out athletes. A lot of these kids are coming out of hip-hop culture and don’t know any better. But we are now seeing the major sports shop for talent outside of the African-American community. Major League Baseball has made a concerted effort to shop outside. They are in love with foreign athletes and I think it’s definitely an intentional decision on their part. I think there is some racism to it and also some rejection of the culture.
David Stern, who I think is a very, very fine commissioner, has been bending-over backwards to get guys to see the big-picture. But you have league-owners who are very uncomfortable with hip-hop culture. People will be entertained by whatever color athletes are, but this culture has made owners really uncomfortable. We have to learn to accept that people have a problem with this prison/hip-hop culture. Chris Rock, Bill Cosby talk about it. Black people talk about it all the time, believe me. We have to sit down and talk about this in a serious manner. It’s limiting us and our opportunities.”
Q: Are there any athletes out there today who are working to make the changes that you think are needed?
“I don’t think it’s possible for one person to be able to change everything. I definitely think there can be guys like Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali. But none of the guys are doing that. Yet, sometimes we forget that charismatic black leaders told Ali, Brown, Tommie Smith and John Carlos (1968 Olympic medal winners who famously raised their fists in a black power salute) what to do. These guys were led. No one is leading them today. It’s a failure of black leadership. But we can’t blame athletes. They are too immature.”
Q: Have you read Dave Zirin’s, “An Open Letter to Jason Whitlock.” If so, what are your feelings regarding the comments he made?
“I think Dave’s heart is in the right place. But Dave needs to let black people handle this. We need to have this series of arguments and debates. I say this nicely as possible, but Dave just needs to mind his own business. That doesn’t mean non-blacks can’t help. Obviously, some white people played a great role in the civil-rights movement. I don’t know if Dave just wants to draw attention to his blog or what, but he should just mind his business.”
Q: What is it going to take for African-Americans to have this “conversation” that you consistently bring up?
“I think we are already there. It’s been bubbling. There are prominent blacks out there discussing this. Chris Rock, Bill Cosby, Juan Williams. They are out there. I knew when I gave the Big Lead interview that people were ready for this. I made the decision to go to AOL because of its association with pop culture. I knew I’d have the freedom to discuss this and spur debate. I knew it was just a matter of time before this conversation could happen. It is taking place right now. And I’m going to continue pushing the need for conversation. But now, I want to take it to another level. People need to really think about hip-hop culture. This stuff is straight out of the penitentiary and you cannot live that way out here in the real world.”
Q: While there are prominent African-American sports writers and journalists out there, African-Americans are still under-represented in the field. Two questions:
(1) How did you get your start out of Ball State? (2) What advice would you give a young African-American sports journalist fresh out of college who is hoping to embark on a journalism career?
“Well, I studied journalism in college and worked for the school newspaper. My first job was in Bloomington, Indiana for the Bloomington Herald Times. I made five dollars an hour. Then I moved to South Carolina and covered high school sports for two years. After that, I moved to Ann Arbor, where I covered the Fab Five. As for advice, I would start off by telling the kid to not be afraid to move to another city. Work at a small newspaper and hone your skills. Don’t be afraid to be different and definitely don’t go in with the expectation that the ride will be smooth and easy. You have to be committed.”
Q: On a lighter note, how many times have you seen Brian Collins’ Newslink at Nine Appearance?
“The dynamite guy? Only a few times, actually. But I’m always proud to see Ball State get attention. Any attention is good for Ball State.”