Every so often one of those quotes you see on bumper-stickers makes perfect sense. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” is now having its moment.
Having lost the presidency, the marriage equality battle, the army battle, the Episcopalian battle, white male bigots seem to have drawn the line with the sports locker room.
Men, especially white men, have lived in a world where they have been in charge. Most situations can be resolved with a loud voice, an aggressive posture, a stare down. Amazingly, these men (note: not all men, and not all white men, just these men) claim to be unaware of their white male privilege unless you ask them if they’d like to be black. Or a woman. Or gay. After they pretend to say yes—because blacks, gays and women get everything—they come to their senses and say, “No way!”
White male privilege has been on parade this week.
Let’s look at Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart, who was suspended for three games for shoving a Texas Tech fan on Saturday night. Jeff Orr, the fan, said he called Smart a “piece of crap”. Orr has apologized and said he did not use a racial slur. Smart has apologized. But let’s be clear, this old white guy felt it was totally appropriate to call a young black man a “piece of crap”. I’ve been to lots of sports events, and heard lots of things, but this taunt is more loaded than your run-of-the-mill insults.
Next we move from the court to the locker room. Michael Sam, an NFL hopeful, came out as gay, and NFL coaches, team owners, executives, former players, fans, and sportscasters blew gaskets. The official line was one of support, but the side chatter was one of fear of the dreaded “gay in the locker room”. White guys didn’t have the market cornered on this front, but white guys are the ones at the top of the NFL food chain. Two days after Sam came out, he dropped 70 spots in the CBS draft rankings. I don’t know much about rankings, but people who do point to the “distraction factor”. Being gay will take away from the game. The NFL has drafted players who are criminals. Apparently they aren’t distractions.
Why are white bigots so afraid of gays in the locker room—simply because the locker room is the equalizer.
Look at someone like the late Jack Kemp. Former congressman, pro football player and Housing Secretary under President George H. W. Bush. White guy, Republican, loved and admired by the African American community. People said that Kemp “got it”, that he understood before most that inclusion and diversity should be business as usual. When people talk about the old GOP, the one that worked, they often invoke Kemp’s name. Kemp was a popular pro football player—Google “Kemp” and “shower” and you’ll see an often cited quote about how Kemp showered with more African-Americans than most Republicans meet in a lifetime.
Once you’ve put your life in the hands of a gay or lesbian soldier, or counted on your gay teammate for a block, or showered near each other day after day after day, there’s not much left oppose.
If Michael Sam successfully makes it into an NFL locker room it’s game over for the old bigoted white guys. They failed to lead, the won’t follow. That leaves one option—time to get out of the way.
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