By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Starting a few weeks ago I began to jot down random notes here and there for a potential piece on the NFL Draft which begins Thursday night. It was not going to be anything like the mock drafts so well-written and thoroughly researched on here from Adam Hoge and Dan Durkin.
No, mine, as some might expect, was going to be completely low-brow and satirical. “Mocking The Mock” I planned to title it. The Bengals would be drafting defense attorneys, the Raiders would select a wax statue in a jogging suit from Madame Tussauds, the Jaguars would take a capuchin monkey to compliment their organ grinder.
But two things happened Wednesday night that put the kibosh on that. One was becoming aware that the great parody Twitter account @FauxJohnMadden had already been doing the same thing, team by team. The other was the aftermath of Joel Ward scoring the series-winning Game 7 sudden death goal for the Washington Capitals against the Boston Bruins.
Just as the overtime period in that game began, a simple phrase entered my head—“Obama defeats Tim Thomas.” The President resides in Washington. Bruins goalie Tim Thomas is not a fan of the President. Should the Capitals win, I had (in my mind) a great joke on hand.
Minutes later, Washington indeed scored, and I tweeted the joke. Like most of the jokes I make that I think are brilliant, it went largely without much fanfare. Such is the plight of the unappreciated genius.
I kept one eye on Twitter and the other on one of the restaurant TVs (which had the volume down as it usually does). The immediate postgame interview was with a Capital player who is a black man. Since hockey is about fourth or fifth on my list of sports expertise, let alone Washington Capitals hockey, I didn’t know this player’s name. I saw some tweets by hockey people praising a “Knuble” guy.
Ah, so this player being interviewed must be Knuble, I concluded. So came my next tweet, “Wow, I didn’t even know it was Knuble that scored at first. That Obama joke takes on a whole new meaning in retrospect.” Then came the “No, it was Ward that scored” responses. Fine, I’m a hockey idiot.
Either way, my initial joke now had a racial undertone to it, albeit an unintentional one. I was subsequently accused of racism, which didn’t bother me because I stopped long ago trying to show people the difference between “racial” and “racist.”
Then it began.
My guy @brianphickey first shed light on it in my Twitter timeline, retweeting “people” who were calling Ward the n-word. Only a few at first, but I was disappointed nonetheless. I guess I wasn’t surprised, though.
Then I was informed of the real volume. And those are just some of the tweets that use the n-word. Who knows how many decided to use other epithets.
It takes something really off-the-wall insane to irk me. Usually mild racism or your run of the mill ignorance gets no more than an eye roll from me. But I was troubled now.
I thought about responding to these scum individually, but what use would that do? Insulting the intentionally stupid does not cure them. They’ve been exposed on Chirpstory and Deadspin, and I hope their complete disgustingness makes its way to their respective employers (if they have one—my guess is many of them are too dumb to hold a job and blame the Nazi Communist N-Word Barack HUSSEIN Obama for it). I hope their parents are publicly shamed because know this—racism is taught, usually at home. It is not genetic, encoded, or epiphanic.
I’ll spare you the psychoanalytic stuff about racists having inferiority complexes, subconscious penis envy, and all the other science that proves what pathetic people bigots of all forms are, especially since I doubt those people can comprehend much of the written word. I won’t get into the Catch-22 of cheering for people of color on one’s favorite team when things are going well, but when hard times fall turning that athlete into a scathing word.
Obviously this is not my first taste of racism. I’m not so naïve as to think bigotry can be cured anytime soon, but I would like to think it can at least be kept out of the one thing that is supposed to be just and good—sports. I guess that would be naïve, though, right?
The idiots will always slither through the cracks, poke their heads out of the gene pool that the intelligent of society just can’t seem to fully chlorinate. It would be easy to just wish death on racists, but nothing gets solved there either. Racists procreate. No eulogy in history has described someone as a racist, since for some reason death writes the most fictional of biographies. Thus, the behavior is condoned or ignored. And it continues in others.
The worst are the internet racists. He and she who hide behind a computerized cloak on message boards and pseudonyms on social media. They spew their stupidity and then get off on the backlash because negative attention is better than no attention for their starved, warped souls and psyches. They may not be as dumb as the people who use their real names and spit hatred, but they certainly are more cowardly.
I found myself staring out at one of my classes of freshmen today (I’m still fascinated in a way when a group of kids does what I tell them to do). Fourteen-year-olds. In a class of thirty-two, nine of them are persons of color. Everyone in the class was scribbling away at their assignment on Michael Palin’s Hemingway Adventure as the film played.
My eyes focused on one black kid in particular. He’s small. I mean, really small. But he’s a champion gymnast. It’s something he works incredibly hard at despite our school not even having a gymnastics team, and it’s paid off because he’s damn good at what he does. He’s also damn good at his class work—an A+ average in what I will say is not an easy English course I run.
He walks into my class every day with a look on his face like he’s about to speak before Congress or perform neurosurgery (which is good practice, because I bet this kid someday will do at least one of the two). That expression bothers me so much sometimes that I make it my mission to make him crack a smile. Never a missed homework assignment. Got one B+ on an exam and his parents told me he was so furious that it had ruined his perfect average. I’ve never personally heard a bad word come out of his mouth.
I watched him go back and forth between piercing the screen and his paper with his eyes, and something awful hit me. I realized that no matter what this kid does, how hard he works, how polite, tenacious, or studious he is, to a significant number of people he will always be a “n____r.” And if Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals was any indication, success will make it even more so. For many, that’s just the default conclusion. That concept had never been so tangible to me before.
Pretending that another adult had called me out of class, I stepped into the hall to wipe away a few tears and fight back more that tried to come. At what I cried, I don’t exactly know. I don’t know if it was just for that one kid, or if it was for his classmates of color, or if it was for my white students—past, present, and future—most of whom are tremendous kids without a hateful bone in their bodies (yet). I don’t know what any of them really go home to, and I fear for them all.
Maybe I cried for me because I, too, am a coward. Sure, I preach the greatness of several African American authors and the real message of Huck Finn and The House on Mango Street and threaten any affront to someone based on race, creed, color, faith, or sexuality with what students have begun to quote from me as “an academic scissor-kicking.” But when I leave that perfect world of the classroom? I sit silent as racial slurs fly around my head at the bar or at a party. I feel something twist inside me, but I don’t say a word, or maybe I even crack a fake smile so as not to seem bothered. Who am I to rock the boat?
Maybe I cried because I’m at a loss. I know no cure, and as someone who likes to be in control of his own situation, I can’t even begin to reach the pedals or turn the wheel.
I hate that I must share the same air with the people who would resort to racism to express frustration over a sporting loss. I hate that they must so irrationally hate.
And what will I do? What I’ve always done when I see the awful of this world. The only thing I know how to do.
I’ll make jokes. As Jon Stewart said in regards to the brilliant book A Practical Guide to Racism, “As everyone knows, there’s only one thing that can end racism: laughter. Or fire.” I’ll keep trying the former. And I’ll continue reading works like that and The Onion, and I Am America and So Can You, and the blog Stuff White People Like.
I’ll mock the adult stupid, probably in futility. I’ll expose my students to what ignorance—willful in particular—is and continue to teach them, often through humor, how inane and sad it is and hope that at least one of them walks out of my class each June a better, more enlightened person, and that they will conclude that—as they would say—“Racism is so gay” (I’m fighting the homophobia battle, too, unfortunately).
I won’t win the war, I know. I probably won’t make life any better overall for any persons of color, one… no, wait, two of whom are my friends. But I know I’d rather laugh than cry.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.