Wednesday, January 30, 2008

LZ on the Race (and Race)

This afternoon, Page 2's LZ Granderson made a pitch for African-American athletes to cast a vote in this upcoming election, citing predominantly the rise in prominence of half-term US Senator Barack Obama.

A quote he credits Rocket guard Mike James with, "When you see a black man with a legitimate chance to be president of the United States, how can you not be excited?", just about sums up Granderson's apparent point of his column.

An obvious omission in his piece is any reference to issues that would be of interest or importance to the athletes whose apathy bewilders him. Part of the reason is that these, as he describes them, "politically detached millionaires" would likely be surprised with where their interests lie. I think the author knows this. So why bring it up? Therefore, I feel LZ is insulting them by insinuating they should be excited simply based on a candidate's skin color. He cites a quote by Newark mayor (and former Stanford TE) Cory Booker (ed. note: go watch Street Fight by Marshall Curry), "Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Arthur Ashe, Ali -- there are a whole bunch of black athletes who went through hell to bring more racial justice to sports," while in the same breath advocating in the political forum the very thing they fought to overcome - judgment based upon their skin color rather than their ability. (Booker himself in his first effort to become mayor of NJ's largest city was attacked for his skin color - for not being dark or "black" enough).

Unfortunately, race is a major issue in this election, namely in the Democratic primary. Much ado has been made of the impact that Obama has had on the Clinton dynasty's stronghold on the African-American voting bloc. Gender has become another critical issue. Yet, you don't see Granderson criticizing for WNBA'ers for their lack of enthusiasm for the political process in the wake of Sen. Clinton's equally historical ascension as a legitimate female contender.

This race is problematic. Namely because both candidates likely lack credentials or experience to lead the free world. Yet, the likes of Bill Richardson, Mark Warner and others can never compete with their celebrity, or is it their distinction and media attention they garner as a female and African-American?

Granderson is a very intelligent and thought-provoking columnist, but in this case he pitches subjective ideas. He does, however, recover and make a real point when he notes, "...but in this day and age you get the feeling that most who are absent from the process choose to be. Like it or not, they are simply exercising their right not to vote."

For those disinterested in politics and uninformed on candidates and issues to simply pull a lever or push a button for a candidate based on perceptions related to gender or race is the antithesis of what the civil rights movement (and feminist movement) were all about.

Voters should be color-blind and guided by their principles. Similarly, they shouldn't vote for an individual based on his or her gender (or her husband's accomplishments).

To his credit, Obama should excite voters. He is a dynamic and energizing speaker. While this doesn't enhance his lack of experience, it (and not his skin color) should enhance the interest of the electorate. The responsibility, in turn, lies on the public - to educate themselves beyond the sound bites.

No comments: