When the normally bombastic sports talker Stephen A. Smith turns out to be a voice of reason during a panel discussion, you know somebody has gone off the deep end. In this case, it was ESPN's Rob Parker, who was discussing standout Washington Redskins' quarterback Robert Griffin III. Parker managed to simultaneously fashion himself as the gatekeeper of blackness and a fool. Asked about RG III, Parker asked his fellow panelists if he was "a brother or is he a cornball brother?"
Say what??? As if he didn't dig a deep enough hole for himself, Rob Parker went on to ask, rhetorically, if Griffin was "one of us, down with the cause." And what is the cause? What makes a young black man black? Does RG III have to wear his pants below his butt and know the complete lyrics to the latest hip hop song to qualify as black with this dipstick? And what did Griffin do to deserve this public slagging?
RG III said in an interview, "You don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin. 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." And for this he needs to turn in his membership card to the black race?
Parker also had a problem with RG III's white fiance, and "talk" he heard about the man being a Republican. All this stuff he heard would seem to imply he's never really spoken to Griffin and asked him any of this himself. No matter. This is sports talk television.
I remember not too far back, there were people who said a senator from Illinois who had the nerve to want to be President of the United States wasn't black enough either. Many of the people who wrote articles about Barack Obama and alleged "he doesn't share our legacy of slavery, doesn't really know the black experience" wish they hadn't put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, sorry).
ESPN said, charitably, that Parker's remarks were inappropriate. They should have been blunt. What he said was stupid, and part of a sports media culture that encourages people with no sense to spout nonsense and get paid. Given the number of black athletes in sports, trash talking about race is inevitable.
Yet one is deeply tempted to ask Rob Parker, "are you a brother, a cornball brother, or just a stupid brother?"