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Stephen A. Smith, Michael Eric Dyson Both Right on Black Plight

by Todd A. Smith

Win, Lose or Draw

          It seemed like Manny Pacquiao had a 2004 bout with Juan Manuel Marquez in the bags in the very first round.

          Pacquiao had knocked Marquez down three times in the first round, but Marquez rallied to finish the 12 round fight and miraculously earned a draw.

          When sports journalist Stephen A. Smith used Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s recent comments on prejudice to address self-accountability in the Black community he delivered several early blows that floored the competition, but his adversary eventually battled back to earn a draw with his argument on systemic racism in America.

          The debate between Smith and Dyson proved that both perspectives are correct, but Smith’s view of self-accountability is what is needed in Black America, not a reminder that we are victims of systemic bigotry from the dominant culture. 

As a community we have to realize that although we are victims of discrimination, in the grand scheme of things no one cares and we have to overcome racism by doing for ourselves and not necessarily trying to change the attitudes of others.

          When Cuban spoke out about the prejudices that all of us have he was just being honest.

          He stated that if he sees a Black guy wearing a hoodie at night, he’s going to walk to the other side of the street.

          Likewise, if he sees a White guy with tattoos all over his face and a baldhead, he’s crossing the street again.

          Although he was out of line to use the hoodie reference in light of the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, his point that we all have prejudice in us was correct and we have to be open and honest about it.

          Dyson was absolutely correct when he stated on ESPN’s “First Take” that Cuban’s mentality could be the genesis that leads some to take the same course of action that George Zimmerman did and kill an innocent child. 

However, ending that mentality will not end the condition of the African American community, which is consistently one of the poorest and least-educated demographic groups in the entire world.

          Even if we remove systemic racism from the world, if our young brothers and sisters are not prepared to be successful in the world, racism is not needed to hold them back.  They are doing a fine job of holding themselves back on their own.

          We live in a dog eat dog world.  Unfortunately, nobody cares how much discrimination you have faced.  Nobody cares how much you’ve struggled financially.  And nobody cares that you grew up in a dysfunctional home or your father was in jail or your mother was on drugs.

          We live in a world in which everyone has Goliaths to fight everyday, so sob stories usually do not have happy endings.

          There will always be racism and all other forms of discrimination in the world, so we have to deal with it.  No one said life was fair and Smith eloquently, and hopefully effectively, preached a much-needed sermon on self-accountability.

          Smith argued about the importance of presentation and looking the part in order to succeed in corporate America.

          He emphasized the importance of speaking proper English and refraining from statements like “You know what I’m sayin.’”

          The renowned journalist talked about the fact that some African Americans have succeeded by challenging the status quo like LeBron James and Jay Z, but stressed that they are the exception to the rule.

          Smith stated that Jay Z and others have not lived the American dream like he has; they are living a fantasy turned into reality, which only one in a billion get to experience.

          To his credit, Dyson did not dismiss the need of self-accountability.  He spoke of the institution of racism that labels Black men as thugs and gangsters just because of their appearance.

          The professor and ordained minister pointed out that a Black man only has to wear a hoodie to be suspicious, while a White man has to go to great lengths by placing tattoos on their face.

          He also brilliantly pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barack Obama looked the part professionally and spoke the King’s English but still faced racism and discrimination.

          While I agree more with Smith’s method of addressing the plight of the Black male, Dyson was absolutely correct with his method as well.

          For years, we have debated what is best to address the problems of the Black community.

          Some like me agree with Smith and self-accountability, while others agree with Dyson and the need to end systemic bigotry.

          Could it be that both courses of action are needed for the Black community to reach its full potential and greatness despite our individual preferences?

          America needs to eradicate all forms of bigotry against people of color, but our brothers and sisters must be prepared to take advantage of all opportunities when the day comes when we are totally judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin.

This article was published on Friday 30 May, 2014.
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