Thursday, December 03, 2015

Another venue for opinion journalism

When assembling that list of commentators I follow the other day, I decided to leave off the sports writers. After all, our commercial sports are corrupt, exploitative of the athletes, sexist, racist and bellicose. And yes, I'm still addicted to enjoying them, especially football.

But then I run across chewy morsels in the sports columns, as I did today. And I realize, again, that writers in that entertainment genre sometimes have leeway to inject social commentary where it is little expected in a setting where it may not be appreciated by either its subjects or the audience.

Item: here's a nugget that Peter King of Monday Morning Quarterback and Sports Illustrated dropped in between NFL playoff speculation and an interview with running back Adrian Peterson:

“I’m heartbroken that we are in this situation again, and again, and again. And I cry out with you and ask, ‘Why?’”
—Rev. Amanda Henderson of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, at yet another service for mourning the victims of senseless gun violence, this time in Colorado Springs, when a disturbed drifter brought an AK-47 into a Planned Parenthood clinic and murdered three people, including a police officer, and wounded nine others, including five police officers.

Nothing will be done—nothing whatsoever—unless we as Americans take this issue as a true crisis instead of shaking our heads and saying, “Nothing we can do.”

... We lose too many good people to idiots who have no business carrying AK-47s, in a country without the fortitude to do something about those carrying the AK-47s, or the AK-47s themselves.

Item: and here's Gregg Easterbrook, straying from the foibles and follies of coaches to school pompous academics and authorities about what's coming at them.

Those Kids Today. As graying pundits wring their hands regarding campus protests, it is well to bear in mind that at least as far back as Plato, each aging generation has believed the young are out of whack. When today’s graying pundits were at college, parents were shocked by campus protests. Everything worked out fine, and colleges became better as a result. Most likely this round of protests will improve colleges, too.

Of course some of the complaints seem overwrought — can it really be that science and math professors at magnificent Amherst College refuse to listen to correct answers from black students? Protesters at Amherst, Claremont McKenna, Ithaca, Yale and other colleges may be overselling their complaints but also are warning of genuine problems that require solutions.

Consider the notion of “microaggression.” This term is much-mocked. On the other hand, minority students know that racial judgmentalism often is expressed in code. At college even the children of privilege are attuned to slight expressions of praise or disdain. If white students who never deal with coded racial affronts can easily be upset in the super-sensitive college milieu, and they can, it’s worse for minority students.

Microaggression does not have to be intentional. This Peyton Manning commercial for DirecTV includes “really high voice” Peyton singing “Camptown Races” in a barbershop quartet. To many viewers the scene is just silly fun. An African-American viewer would know that what’s being performed is a minstrel song originally titled “Gwine to Run All Night, or De Camptown Races.” In the original, blackface performers mocked slaves for saying “gwine” instead of “going,” “dis” rather than “this” and so on. The song is historically significant — college groups should perform it. But an African-American might wince on seeing this song in a Fortune 500 commercial (AT&T owns DirecTV), while a white American would be unlikely to have that reaction.

Minority students complaining on campuses today will be among the leaders of the nation in a couple of decades. Society needs to learn to respect their judgment.

Sometimes sport writers can show us ourselves at least as well as more conventionally authoritative journalists.

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails