three men appear to have little in common. One is an alleged child
molester, one a coach and the other, a candidate for the U.S. Senate.
But they share three notable traits. They are black. They are famous
or infamous. Journalists and commentators of all sorts say their fame
or infamy came because they are black.
The alleged child molester, Marcus Dixon, supposedly had the support
of a loving family. He was a high school football star in Rome, GA
and an honor student. Hed been offered a scholarship to Vanderbilt
Then it all came crashing down after he had sex with another student,
who happened to be slightly younger than he was and white. There were
accusations of rape, then a trial, then a conviction, then more than
a year spent in prison and finally, a reduction of the charges from
felony to misdemeanor.
Dixons lawyer has said Dixon got convicted in the first place
because he is black. Hed cavorted with a white girl and people
didnt like that. The press jumped on it and a public battle
of words ensued. Dixon and the girl were both teenagers, so how could
this be considered child molestation? It seemed a case of he said
she said. But there in the center of the saying and disputing and
opining was the issue of his race blinking as red as a stoplight gone
berserk. Did the court case go the way it did because he was black?
Were his lawyers just playing the race card? Was the race
is the race card a screen that hides a multitude of junk
with the flare of well-told fantasy?
Nolan Richardson, former coach of the Razorbacks basketball team said
race definitely had something to do with his case. Richardson basically
mouthed off to his bosses, after which they told him he could get
to steppin, so to speak. But then Richardson sued them for discrimination
and the case was thrown out but not before the judge reprimanded the
college that employed Richardson for racial insensitivity (the n-word
was allegedly thrown around from time to time at the old institution
of higher learning).
Despite the judges chastisement of the college, much of the
public focus was on Richardsons accusation, and some of the
opinions of Richardson and black people in general got a little nasty.
Check out this letter to Little Rocks KTHV television station:
I dont think he was discriminated against. I think all blacks
use that when they dont get their way. Wish us Whites could
scream Discrimination everytime [sic] we didnt get what we wanted.
I think its used as a tool and abused. I also think many use
it just on personality conflicts, we all have those and its
That letter assumes that all things are equal among the races in this
country, but most sane people realize its not. However, the
writer of this little gem makes a good point, racism should not be
used as an excuse, and I dont think it is used as an excuse
most of the time. One reason is that racism can be so subtle and hard
to prove. And when a black person thinks theyve experienced
it, uncertainly often creates an extra layer of agony: Did I do something
wrong? Was it my personality or my skin tone?
And sometimes the person knows hes done something very right,
but then someone raises the question of whether a hurdle was cleared
or lowered. Just consider the case of Barack Obama, a candidate for
the U.S. Senate. Technically, Obama is biracial, but theres
been much talk about how hell get a leg up in the campaign because
Obama has tried to downplay his race but commentators dont want
to let him or us forget that perhaps hes getting support from
certain Democrats because hes black. Maybe, they hint, his blackness
is a gift of nature to left-wingers that want to dumb down American
society with social welfare and a diversity agenda that prizes color
So in the eyes of those people, Obamas blackness has brought
the golden goose. But in the eyes of people such as Richardson and
Dixons lawyer, blackness brought doody.
But these kinds of conversations arent really about what being
black gets or loses for folks in 21st century America. Instead, theyre
about using race as a weapon, particularly when it comes to discussions
of black and white. Race is used both to justify apathy about the
sad state of race relations in America and to pummel home the point
that racism still exists.
When I think about how ridiculous it is that race continues to be
a major issue in U.S. courts, schools and jobs, my mind wanders back
to an episode of an old television show called Quantum Leap.
Through some miracle of science, the main character of the show, a
rather inconspicuous white man, was able to jump from era to era,
and land in different bodies. He remained the same inside, but he
just looked like a different person on the outside.
In the TV show, he jumped back to the 1960s and found himself sitting
at a lunch counter in the Deep South. He noticed right away that he
wasnt welcome, but he didnt understand the cold stares,
the jeers and the reluctance of the man behind the counter to serve
him. Then he looked in the mirror, and it all became clear. He had
leapt into the body of a black man.
There I was looking at a white man sitting at a counter. The people
on the other side of the television screen were looking through a
mirror and seeing at a black man sitting at a counter. I had to marvel
at that bold illustration that skin is, after all, just skin. But
in 21st century America even skin can be controversial, simply because
Deborah Young is an Overland Park, KS-based writer. She can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.