Thursday on First Take, there was a suggestion that some in the “real black community” might view Robert Griffin III as a “cornball brother,” because of the way he talks, the race of his fiancé and his rumored political affiliations. It was an unfortunate and uncomfortable conversation – uncomfortable because of some of the personal aspects that were opened up for judgment and unfortunate because, well, if RG3 is any kind of brother, he’s a 2012 Brother.
Parts of this discussion reflects an unfortunate, but very real, faction of thought that black folk have had to deal with for years that says you have to talk, look and act a certain way to be legit.
It’s a common sentiment. But it’s an ignorant, archaic sentiment when it’s being lobbed the young kid Griffin’s direction.
This “controversy” came about as a result of quotes from Griffin, published in the USA Today, in which he said he understands his role as an African-American quarterback, especially in D.C., but refuses to be defined by that. Tell ‘em what’s real, Griff:
"For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin,'' Griffin said at the end of Wednesday's post-practice news conference in reference to a question about Martin Luther King, Jr. "You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That's what I've tried to go out and do. "I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don't have to be defined by that. I am aware how much race is relevant to [fans]. I don't ignore it. I try not to be defined by it. But I understand different perspectives and how people view different things. I understand that they're excited that their quarterback is an African-American. I play with a lot of pride, a lot of character, a lot of heart. I understand that. I appreciate them for being fans and not just fans because they're African-Americans.''
What the Kid spit there is nothing but Millennial generation progress, evidenced by these factions of teen and young adults that don’t come with racial baggage, don’t want it.
"We always try to find similarities in life, no matter what it is so they're always going to try to put you in a box with other African-American quarterbacks -- (Michael) Vick, (Cam) Newton, Randall Cunningham, Warren Moon. Warren Moon and Doug Williams really didn't run that much. That's the negative stereotype when it comes to African-American quarterbacks, that most of us just run. Those guys threw it around. I like to think I can throw it around a little bit, that's the goal. Just to go out and not try to prove anybody wrong but just let your talents speak for themselves.''
Earlier in the season, TSL wrote that the black quarterback was dead, that all black men playing the position have the opportunity to be an individual, not one ongoing sports experiment. When Russell Wilson gave newly acquired Matt Flynn his headset and clipboard, we had reach a “moment.” These moments happen frequently now, like RG3 not feeling beholden to some put upon version/idea of blackness and “the cause.” He is who he is. The young man wasn’t distancing himself from those predecessors; he was simply forging his path.
Robert Griffin, III is black. And just because he approaches the racial discussion differently and is not out hosting parties in DC like many other black athletes who’ve been around have, doesn’t make his hood pass any less authentic.
It would be naive to suggest that RG3 should ignore the reality of his race and the undeniable pride that comes with it. Jazz legend Joe Henderson once named an album In Pursuit of Blackness. Blackness is awesome, but blackness, as it loosely defined is abstract and judging other folk’s blackness is extremely arbitrary. RG3 is black. A lot of his fans are black and they’re lionizing him. RG3 could play for those that came before him, but the young man is forging, on his own ish. That’s about the coolest thing a brother can do.