I’ve never been to a “black” barbershop. Honestly don’t even know where one exists. If one of my African-American friends came to town and asked me directions to one, would have to settle for Lady Jane’s instead (shameless plug!). Heck, I might as well admit now that I don’t even have a really good African-American friend. So I might not be qualified to address ESPN’s Rob Parker and his derisive comments from Thursday’s First Take; a true bastion of bare bones discourse that our forefathers would have surely embraced.
Parker, an Ivy League-educated black journalist questioned just how “black” Robert Griffin III really was and asked, ” Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?” I don’t even know what that means I thought to myself. He also brought up RG3’s white fiancée and mentioned that he may even be a Republican (as someone who tends to vote Democrat, I’m a little nervous about the things he could accomplish as a young Republican). Parker claims this is the type of fodder found in his barbershops and among his friends.
Immediately after I caught wind of his remarks, I got in line on Twitter to volunteer some outrage. Everyone did. Nobody was defending this. Until The Bull and the Fox opened up their phone lines. A few callers said that the conversations that Parker referenced are indeed happening in the urban community. Then I streamed our sister station in D.C. There was a string of callers identifying themselves as black who were in support of Parker. Feeling adventurous, I even crossed an item off my bucket list by going to Parker’s Twitter page. He retweeted dozens of supportive tweets. I began to question if maybe this issue wasn’t so cut and dry after all.
None of this means Parker wasn’t misguided or downright idiotic to share his comments. Not every thought bubble deserves to be consumed by the masses — yes, even those that would admit to being avid First Takers. Plenty of hateful viewpoints can and do seek out allegiance. There is a hefty responsibility that follows the opportunity and burden of national TV. The 24-hour news networks created the model, ESPN has just tailored it for their own use.
Were the remarks racist? Should Rob Parker lose his job? I just don’t think I’m qualified to venture through such steep and dangerous terrain. I leave such declarative, predictable outrage to the pure and mistake-less. One thing I do know is that a microphone is a dangerous weapon, one that shoots both ways. Sometimes the errant shots fired are the ones that create the most powerful dialogue. If anything, the Parker comments — and the fallout, prove that we are better equipped to embrace the debate than ever before. At least we know what the barber shops will be talking about tomorrow.