I’ve heard similar stuff about Hill. At Duke, Hill was a two-time NCAA champion. He’s a seven-time NBA all-star. Hill’s father, Calvin, graduated from Yale and was a standout running back with the Dallas Cowboys. His mother, Janet, is a Wellesley graduate and a successful businesswoman.
Nothing negative there, right?
But Hill was labeled as some sort of goody two-shoes at the outset of his career because he came from a prominent black family. As if being from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, would have enabled Hill to dunk any harder on Alonzo Mourning. The whole thought process is just so wrongheaded.
To understand how African Americans got here, you have to remember where we’ve been. When most doors were shut to us, success in athletics provided blacks with a sense of self-worth.
The nation cheered in 1938 when boxer Joe Louis quickly pummeled German Max Schmeling, and struck a symbolic blow against Nazism. But the Brown Bomber’s accomplishment resonated more with blacks, I recall older family members telling me, because his becoming the best meant we all were in a sense.
Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. He proved blacks belonged in the game. Has there ever been a finer football player of any kind than Jim Brown?
Even today, as we prepare for the second inauguration of the first black U.S. president, sports remain a huge part of the black community’s identity — probably too much so, especially considering that all Griffin truly owes the entire public is his best on the football field each week.
In the African American community, it’s way past time to stop using the things that define us as individuals to measure who’s black enough. We’ll never all be the same, but we don’t have to attack each other for what makes us different.
For previous columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.