Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Leaving Early, Pacman Jones, and Hip Hop

Should we, at a restaurant, leave before desert? When the sweetest part of the dinner is about to take place, when the talking comes to a climax, would we just get up, pay the bill, and leave? I find that most people would do just that, when it comes to other things. We went to the Bill Gaither Homecoming concert last night, and I was astonished to see people who had paid good money for their tickets get up and leave with a good thirty minutes left in the concert. They missed some wonderful singing, sweet laughter, fellowship, desert, as I would call it. But they had the overwhelming urge to leave, sensing some need to get out of the Gwinnett arena before everyone else. This type of behavior has never made sense to me. You bought your tickets, knowing where you were to go-in this case being an arena in Gwinnett county-and by buying those tickets, you had acknowledged the traffic problem and should have stayed until the end of the program. The same thing should have be said for sports games. Some of the most exciting plays in sports history have been missed by the people who, sensing the need to beat the traffic, left before the game was over. But even if the game is well in hand by one team or the other, that is no excuse to leave a game you have paid good money to witness. The exception for this is weather or other emergencies, since it is not worth becoming ill to satisfy what I consider a business contract made in good faith between you and the teams (or singers) you go to witness. Of course, my family did leave the OU-USC Orange Bowl in 2005, since we were losing 55-19. But it wasn't supposed to be that cold in Miami, be that physical or psychological.


Today on Outside the Lines, they brought up the issues of racial discrimination in sports. It brought up a very interesting point, connecting together a lot of the current issues that have happened recently (the Imus remarks, the lifting of charges from the Duke Lacrosse team, the suspending of Pacman Jones from the Tenn. Titans.) with an overall argument dealing with underlying issues that have surrounded African-Americans for at least a hundred years. Let me back up and set some background. After the Civil War, there was a debate between two African-American scholars, WEB Dubois and Booker T. Washington. There was a sociological argument in how former slaves should be brought up to the social level of the rest of society. One (and I must apologize, I don't remember which one said what, it's been a long time) said that since the slaves had been brought here against their will, and oppressed by their white owners, that it was up to the rest of society to help them rise financially and otherwise to a position equal to that of the rest of America. The other (and I think it was Washington that said this, I think) said that it was up to the African Americans to educate themselves and earn their way up to the level of their white counterparts. I am greatly generalizing this, but the argument survives today in the platforms of the political parties. I won't go into this right now, but it's obvious what who believes.

Anyway, I thought the points that OTL was making today were very good points, not only from the area of sports, but of all areas of society where the perception of the African American lifestyle is an issue. They brought up Pacman Jones in that the NFL was trying to change the perception that people have on the African American players that make up that percentage of the rosters. It was amazing, an article showing the lineup of NFL players that had been arrested in the past year. 41 players all together, 2 white, 39 black. The image of this made for a remarkable picture in the article Newsweek put together. Why has the NFL and society failed these players? Or more specifically, what makes the players think that they can do whatever they have been charged with (which goes from DUI to drugs to domestic abuse), and do it without any inkling that they are doing something that is morally wrong? It is a shame that two gifted quarterbacks, Payton Manning and Michael Vick (or his brother Marcus) have gone in two totally different directions when it comes to the ethical behavior of the individual players. It could also be argued that African American music, or more specifically, current hip-hop music, would also condone the behaviors that those 41 players have been arrested for. The answer to this came from a newspaper editor on OTL, who said that in music, they are writing about things they are familiar with. This is a common and often helpful way of creating an artistic work. If you write or paint or compose something that is totally unfamiliar to you, it is more of a chance that it will be unsatisfactory to the people who have some more common link to the subject that you are writing about. But why should we except the condoning of behaviors outlined in hip-hop music? Doesn't this make it all the more important to try to stamp out the behaviors and attitudes that make the songs relevant in the first place? The shooting of police officers or the abuse of females are ethical issues (murder and abuse) that need to be rectified. It is this point that either the government should step in and regulate the actions of its people (an option that would be totally undemocratic and would result in major upheaval), or the people who are singing about these things would need to correct the attitudes themselves. If the songs were meant as a corrective measure, like many folk songs were in the 60's, this would not be an issue. However, it's clear that most songs that contain mature elements are almost in celebration of the culture. How can a culture be celebrated if, in the vast majority of instances, that culture is in violation of ethical standards that have been universally accepted?

Further, it is this argument that justifies the suspensions brought on by the NFL to Pacman Jones and others, but that it is only a band-aid to what really needs to happen. In this instance, the NFL office is the government that is trying to regulate the behavior of its denizens. It should be up to the individual players to govern their own individual behaviors. To this end, the ideas I've brought up in past blogs seem to fit in here. The behaviors often seen in people such as Pacman Jones and artists like Bobby Brown only further denigrate the African American race to the whole of America. Which is most unfortunate, for the freeing of the slaves in the 1860's, and the civil rights movement a century later, should have resulted in the uplifting of a society of people up to the standards by which we all deem to live. Martin Luther King Jr. would be appalled at the way some African Americans see their society today. And of course, applying that to the rest of society, Imus thought it perfectly acceptable to talk about the African American society in the way that some of them refer to themselves as. I don't agree with all this, but it happened. I agree with Washington that members of all races and cultures should endevor to follow the ethical values ingrained in every one of us, and individually, follow "the greater good" and make the world not such a cynical place. Such is the path we take through the world of Experience (Blake).

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