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December 17, 2012

“Stupid is as Stupid does!”**

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Ignorance is unavoidable. Regardless of the venue of expression, it is virtually impossible to follow news of any type and not be confronted by ignorance.


Lately it seems that politics and sports have more than their fair share of ignorant spokespeople, and the specific topic of race and racial relations leads the pack.


Race itself is a topic that lends itself to rampant expressions of ignorance. Most of us, regardless of skin color, still struggle with how to deal with sensitive cultural and heritage questions that cross racial lines.


Race-related conversations are complex, filled with emotional tripwires and decades-old biases.


So, in this context, EPSN sports analyst and syndicated sports columnist Rob Parker inserted his racist foot into his ignorant mouth.


Mr. Parker, an African-American himself, opined recently that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (known affectionately as RG3) was a "cornball brother."


You see, in his mind, Mr. Parker is blessed with an expanded ability to interpret just how black another African-American is.


In Mr. Parker's view, RG3 has some serious issues that call into question just how legitimate Mr. Griffin's skin color aligns with his speech and actions.


Rob Parker calls RG3 "kind of black," "not really down with cause," and best of all "not one of us." Scrambling to reorient our brain, we assume it's because RG3 has committed some serious cultural or racial faux pas. He must have done something incredibly egregious to warrant this kind of complete rejection by his own folk, right?


Here's the evidence Mr. Parker offered on the ESPN show First Take: "We all know he has a white fiancé. There was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which, there’s no information [about that] at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue.”


So, a black athlete, a God-fearing, hard working, well educated and amazingly talented football star is engaged to a Caucasian women. Additionally, he may be registered as a Republican.


In spite of his background and circumstances (which are awe-inspiring taken by themselves), RG3 has an issue – according to Rob Parker.


The issue isn't Mr. Griffin's love life, nor is it whatever political party he happens to align with. The issue is that racial ignorance is still rampant in our society and media.


It infects our politics, film, music and sports. We stumble through conversations of race with family, friends and strangers. We trip and fall over words, epithets and images.


According to early reviews, the new Quentin Tarantino western Django Unchained features more use of the N-word than any film in history, as it tells the story of a former slave-turned-gunfighter seeking frontier justice.


Will the film sell tickets thanks to that, or will Jamie Foxx's turn as the film's star be the box office draw?


Back to young Mr. Griffin. There is so much to celebrate about this guy that it seems pathetic we have to allow Rob Parker's ignorance to join the dialogue.


RG3 is self-deprecating and quick to share the glory of a hard-fought football win with fellow players and fans. He accepts responsibility for his failings, albeit few and far between. He achieved an academic degree from Baylor University before he joined the NFL, a relative rarity among rookie players.


Most importantly, he has energized and engaged the Washington DC region in a way that hasn't been matched since the glory days of Coach Joe Gibbs, the Hogs and the Fun Bunch.


Rob Parker may not believe that RG3 measures up as a black man, but in every metric that truly matters, Robert Griffin, III, is the best kind of man.


Rob Parker is just an ignorant analyst.


** With apologies to Winston Groom who wrote Forrest Gump!


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