[Robert Griffin III]'s black. He kind of does his thing but he’s not really down with the cause; he’s not one of us. He’s kind of black but he’s not really the guy you’d really want to hang out with because he’s off to do something else. -- Rob Parker, ESPN (12/13/2012), on "cornball brother" Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin IIIBlack people have achieved freedom from slavery. We continue to beat back Jim Crow. We have persevered through economic turmoil, war, homegrown terrorism (Stand Your Ground, Baby!!!), and George W. Bush. We have gone from illiteracy at the end of the Civil War to a high-school graduation rate of eighty-four percent in 2010 [.pdf]--two percent less than whites. Almost twenty percent of us graduate from college every year. We have achieved in every human endeavor around the world.
It is high time we were granted the ultimate freedom: the freedom to be individuals--the freedom from each other.
The stereotypic persona of black America fashioned by the powers-that-be rings ever more false as time passes. Rob Parker's characterization of Robert Griffin III grates because it perpetuates the worst of what this nation has been. It is ignorant, prejudiced, arrogant, and small.
A life fashioned according to one's own tastes and talents is the pinnacle of achievement. A life lived thus is the essence of "the pursuit of happiness." Such a life defines the word "individual"--a title each and every one of us deserves. It is long past time that we stopped buying stereotypical, "one-size-fits-all" images of each other. I don't just mean that racially; I mean it for every classification used to divide us one from another as Americans and as human beings. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't just talking to white people when he said: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Black. White. Brown. Yellow. Muslim. Christian. Jew. Atheist. Man. Woman. Gay. Straight. Liberal. Conservative. All those strait-jackets fall away when you take people one-at-a-time. The pursuit of happiness is one of this country's founding principles. Each of us has the right and the responsibility to live our lives as we see fit and each of us deserves to be judged on that and on that alone.
Parker says that Robert Griffin III isn't "down with the cause." I wonder what "cause" Mr. Parker believes that one of the most celebrated, most accomplished young men in the country isn't "down with." I can identify a "cause" that Robert Griffin III and I share: race is not an excuse for anything that you can control. No excuse for bad grades. No excuse for running afoul of the law. No excuse for failing to follow through on commitments. No excuse for failing to make a positive contribution. No excuse for not taking responsibility. No excuse for failing to do your best. That attitude means--more often than not--you are "off to do something else" other than "hang out."
All the racial and sexual and gender and religious "issues" that we're supposed to care about are just distractions from the real problems we face. We are born alone and we die alone. We have the right to fashion our own lives as we see fit.
I've been black all my life. I know how to be black. I don't need anyone to tell me how to do it. Neither does RGIII.