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Don't excuse black athletes for racial hypocrisy
By Jason Whitlock
The Kansas City Star
There's a backup tight end for the Dallas Cowboys who is doing everything he can possibly do to invite self-promotional controversy.
He started his own "television" network on the Internet and uses the platform to stir up trouble. Early this year, the Cowboys fined him $22,000 after he recorded a rap song/video that used multiple derogatory terms to describe black people and gay people.
Now, in the past week, he debuted a video showcasing the "Black Olympics," a Kool-Aid-, fried chicken- and watermelon-eating contest between himself and his brother, a rookie free agent with the Seattle Seahawks.
His name is Martellus Bennett. He's just 22. He's black. He played at Texas A&M. He's accomplished next to nothing in his brief NFL career. He is best known for buffoonery on YouTube's Marty B TV.
For the most part, Martellus Bennett is harmless.
I am not easily offended. Perhaps it's my size and affinity for food, but I take virtually no offense to good-naturedly delivered jokes about food stereotypes. Everybody I know -- black or white -- loves properly seasoned fried chicken. Watermelon is extremely healthy and very tasty. And it wasn't until I was in my 30s that I kicked my Kool-Aid habit.
When people e-mailed me on Friday asking what I thought of Bennett's "Black Olympics," I didn't know what to think.
I wasn't offended. I was sad. I grew even sadder throughout Friday and Saturday as it became apparent to me that Bennett's grab for controversy was being ignored.
I've reluctantly made peace with the fact that black comedians and rappers can make millions of dollars shouting the N-word and lampooning/promoting negative black stereotypes.
If Barack Obama made use of the N-word a death-penalty offense, commercial rap music would disappear and nearly every black comedian would have to rewrite their material. My point is I understand the economic impact of outlawing our (black) self-hate.
What I don't understand is when and why it became OK for a black athlete to milk the same cow.
I assumed that Bennett's "Black Olympics" would cause an uproar among the groups that claim to stand against just this kind of racial exploitation.
Instead, I'm again reminded that we hold white people to a higher standard of behavior than we hold ourselves.
I say that because you know damn well if Jason Witten had recorded and televised the "Black Olympics," CNN would've aborted coverage of Michael Jackson's month-long death to perform a thorough analysis of Witten's entire life.
Witten, a Pro Bowler, would likely be looking for another job.
Witten, of course, is white. And as a white person, we expect him to have enough common sense, decency and respect for his fellow man to concern himself with playing football rather than promoting a Web TV show with silly racial stereotypes.
Pardon my sarcasm. But I've grown irate.
The blatant hypocrisy we've learned to embrace is not only sickening, but it's also self-destructive.
I said this during the Don Imus fiasco, and it's worthy of repeating: In the history of mankind, no human being has ever received more respect than he's given himself.
That bit of history is never going to change. Never.
There is no special subset of human beings capable of treating you better than you treat yourself.
So if Martellus Bennett gets to hold a fried-chicken Olympics and call us the N-word on YouTube without serious objection, so does everyone else.
Oh, we might run the careless and stupid out of a job from time to time. We might even play a role in getting another half-black, raised-by-white-people man elected to the presidency.
But the grassroots, substantive progress we're looking for will continue to elude us.
People see you exactly as you see yourself. The rules of respect are the same for everyone. How you portray and refer to yourself will determine how you're viewed by outsiders. We have the power of self-determination. We too often fail to use it or misuse it.