Monday, April 4, 2011

Grant Hill comments from privlege

You may have already read Grant Hill's response to the Fab 5 documentary on HBO. You may have, like I did, read Hill's New York Times Op-Ed, and felt that Hill had a great point. I mean if we are going to say that the children of stable middle class families are Uncle Toms (probably one of the worst things one black person can call another), then we, as a community, are doomed.

But I urge you to not make the mistake of coming to a conclusion without seeing the documentary. And not just the part where Jalen Rose explained why he disliked Duke and its players. Watch the whole thing. Understand where the players involved were coming from (interestingly, Chris Weber did not participate). If you do that, I think you'll come to the conclusion that the documentary was not about Hill or Duke.

Lots of words have been written about the documentary. I'm not going to add to that. I am focused on Hill's response.

I've been learning a lot about anti-racism work. In doing so, we focus a lot on what is called white privilege. It's basically the pass, the benefit, that white folks get just from being white. Generally, I think that we make too much of the racial element of privilege and too little of class element. But that's splitting hairs.

What's not splitting hairs is when someone from privilege watches someone talk about the hurt and pain and alienation that comes from being ignored or marginalized. and thinks that somehow it's about them. It's like when, as a black man, you talk about the pain of not being able to hail a cab, and a white person feels hurt because you bothered to mention it. Or minimizes what you say by mentioning the one time a dark skinned cab driver drove past him to pick up the black man 20 yards further down the street (who may or may not have been there first in any case). It's infuriating.

And it sounds a whole lot like the self indulgent piece that Hill wrote in the NYT.

I agree with the idea that we should celebrate families that manage to give their kids the best of all possible opportunities. We should celebrate those couples who manage to stay together and provide a stable platform for their kids. That's the ideal, and when it works, it's best for everyone involved. But we should also celebrate those single moms and dads and nanas and pop-pops who manage to provide against all of the odds. And we should work hard to make sure that their work is easier not harder. Ignoring or minimizing their pain to focus in the fact that sometimes, when someone is in the position where they can clearly see that their life is harder than yours, they might think ill of you. Especially if their a teenager. And especially if you, or your college, don't do anything to help them out.

And another thing... why did Grant put that piece in the NYT? If he was interested in reaching out to black folks so we could work, together, on some of our issues, then wouldn't The Root, or Ebony or Jet, or or or, have been better? Maybe he was reaching for a different audience, one that was perhaps less black? Is he planning to run for office? Or perhaps he feels that the NYT readership would be a more hospitable audience for his whining, I mean opinion. I don't want to give away anything from the documentary, but one thing it points out is that in America, you can get pretty far exploiting or demonizing black folks. Especially young, black men from the hood.

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