I wanted to add something to the discussion over Rob Parker’s comments on Robert Griffin III being a “cornball brotha” – not being black enough, having a white fiance, etc. One piece of evidence for his lack of blackness that Parker didn’t/won’t cite is the fact that Griffin obtained a bachelor’s degree and is almost done with his Master’s degree from Baylor University. I won’t assume that Griffin had the most rigorous journey through the academic halls of Baylor obtaining a degree, but it fits with other indicators that he is of stronger than average character and substance. And this does not fit the stereotype for black players that Rob Parker expects of black-enough athletes.
Rob Parker mentions the outward examples of RG3′s lack of blackness and lack of being “down with the cause”. But why separate that from the other things that make RG3 who he is? Besides the education, we have the name. RG3 – the nickname – is a bastardization of a name which indicates a strong paternal line. He is the Third Robert Griffin. This is rare in general and especially rare in the black community. He knows his father, and his father knew his father, and, more importantly, the mothers involved respected their husbands to the point that they carried on the paternal namesake. That seems only trivial, but look back at Jalen Rose’s comments about the black players at Duke being Uncle Toms. Rose’s resentment, as he told it, stemmed from the fact that he didn’t grow up with his father while most of the Duke players did. For a documentary last year, Rose said:
“I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family, congratulations,” Rose said. “Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL, is a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn’t know.
I’ve been kind of fascinated by Griffin’s name because of what it so clearly represents. It is a direct affront to the accepted values of the black community. I’ve written before about the significance of the name:
I read a lot into RG3′s name – the ’3′ part is a proxy, to me, for a strong patrilineal line which I think is very important here. Compare his strong family name to increasingly common double-barrelled surname. Those names, just like the convoluted first names of many black athletes, are a function of growing up in households and neighborhoods with strong maternal influence. This does not translate well into the realms of men. RG3 is from a military family and probably knows how to interact with a group of men and not develop hurt feelings if he fails or is criticized.
So instead of Parker just dangling the argument that Griffin isn’t down with the cause or black enough, Parker should name the ways in which he is not. He named one – the white fiance. But that describes probably half the NFL. It’s not as if Griffin’s peers are the Muhammad Ali’s of their generation. There are no Jim Browns in the league today. So since they aren’t signaling their blackness with a clenched raised fist, how exactly are they supposed to signal that they are done for the cause? Blackness is then only communicated through style or stereotypical “black” behavior. What has Cam Newton done to show off his blackness? He allegedly stole a laptop from a student while he was attending University of Florida. He was accused of pay-for-play. What has Michael Vick done to show that he’s down? He fought dogs and served a stint in prison. To borrow from Jamie Foxx, how black is that? Black enough for Rob Parker.