Sunday night’s documentary, much like the “Fab 5’s” two year extravaganza at the University of Michigan, was controversial, entertaining and an examination of culture boundaries not always given proper discussion in the sports world. The two hour program detailed the trials, tribulations and lighter moments faced by the quintent, but the portion of the show centering around the perceptions and disdain the five held towards Duke University has garnered the brunt of the criticism.
Jalen Rose was the most vocal with his labeling of African American players who attended the school, including Grant Hill, as “Uncle Toms.” Now, for those who know anything about African American culture, referring to someone as that term is probably the most contemptuous remark under the sun. Hill, in almost a forced move, responded to the criticism by defending his two-parent househould, the university’s name and the opportunities his parents’ success afforded him in an op-ed piece for the New York Times.
It was a sad and somewhat pathetic turn of events, therefore, to see friends narrating this interesting documentary about their moment in time and calling me a bitch and worse, calling all black players at Duke “Uncle Toms” and, to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me. I should have guessed there was something regrettable in the documentary when I received a Twitter apology from Jalen before its premiere. I am aware Jalen has gone to some length to explain his remarks about my family in numerous interviews, so I believe he has some admiration for them.
In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only “black players that were ‘Uncle Toms,’ ” Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today.
I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children.
I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale.
This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him. [NYT]
The entire exposition was well-worded and easily understandable coming from Grant’s defense. However, it is important to note Jalen made it explicitly clear that the comments which were said reflected his mind state in 1992 while he was a young, wide-eyed 18-year-old freshman at Michigan. Time bestows life’s most powerful lessons and such is the case for Rose. It’s how he felt at the time; simple as that, really. Was he right for thinking such? Probably not, but at some juncture in our lives we have all held stereotypes in our minds which eventually outgrew themselves.
Hell, I believed every Asian was good at math until I met one who made me look like Albert Einstein. Granted, they’re two different situations, but the point I’m attempting to make should be clear. It’s all apart of growing up bettering oneself mentally. When you’re from a less than desirable economic setting and a single parent household with a chip on your shoulder, jealousy is the most prominent emotion for those hailing from more affluent backgrounds. Biggie wasn’t yelling “from ashy to classy” because it rhymed. That’s how he truly felt. It’s not that Jalen didn’t want Grant to grow up with such advantages. He was upset because he was unable to. Living with my mother and grandmother, there were several times growing up where I saw friends with their fathers and became envious. It is completely natural to yearn for what you can’t have after realizing you don’t have it. But I kept it moving. I learned to accept the cards I was dealt and ultimately developed to embrace being “the man” in the house.
The entire situation speaks volumes to deeper, more intense issues which continue to reside over Black America. And truthfully, those matters of concern will continue to present themselves as long as there are disparities in societal hierarchy. On a lighter note, it’s just a shame we’re unable to settle this how my buddy Mychal suggested – a “Fab 5″ Vs. Duke rematch.
P.S. — Jalen posted this link on his Twitter page earlier today which may, or may not, help his case when speaking of Duke and his teenage perceptions. This article centers around Elton Brand’s decision to leave after his sophomore year and an unsettling e-mail he received from an alumni about his decision. It’s eye-opening, to say the least.