Monday, January 21, 2008

Night of TV + Kelly Tilghman and "That Word"

Wow, what a night of TV on Sunday! I was yelling at the TV half the night--couldn't believe what I was seeing. Hey, it's not every day that you see that on TV! I couldn't stop cheering and yelling out "Talk British to me, baby" and "Say something I don't understand! Then say it again! And purse those perky lips while you're doing it, and adjust your petticoat!" I mean, a Jane Austen adaptation I've never seen before, with an attractive actress playing the part of Catherine Morland? Northanger Abbey was on PBS, and Felicity Jones did not make me angry one bit! Oh, the football games were all right too.

Ha-ha, I've always wanted to pull a dumb routine like that on this blog. Anyway, on to more relevant topics. Recently, bloggers such as D-Wil , Michael David Smith, Awful Announcing, and The Starting Five have been covering the Kelly Tilghman story and aftermath as a serious incident. However, other bloggers and writers are brushing off Kelly Tilghman's use of lynching to refer to how the other players could stop Tiger Woods. (For an amusing parody on such efforts, see here--highly recommended!). They are referring to it as a mere slip of the tongue, an understandable lapse given how long commentators must opine on live TV. However, what bothers me is that I think we may have gotten a glance at Kelly Tilghman's heart, what she really thinks. And no, this is not an effort to pile on a woman who already has received her punishment and criticism. The reason is I have a Kelly-esque story of my own about a slip of the tongue.

It was my sophomore year at a small, mostly white high school (35 kids in grades 9-12), and I was on the basketball team. That is, they let me wear a uniform because they had no other players; don't think I was any good. We were a suburban school, and we went into the inner city to play an all-black Christian school. They were taller and more athletic than us, but we had a secret weapon that we did not fully appreciate until that night. Our 5'7" senior shooting guard, Ricky, who had ridiculous hops (could 360 dunk a volleyball) and a quick first step, decided to try to save our season. He went head-to-head with their athletes, scoring 30+ despite being double-teamed often, and we only lost by 4. Moral victories do exist. We won our next 15? games in a row after that loss.

Anyway, in the locker room after the game, one of my fellow bench scrubs and I were conversing in awed tones about the athleticism of the black players and the boisterous nature of their fans. He said something like "Wow, those guys looked tough and mean--it was a good thing Ricky was on tonight!" I said back "Yeah, I was kind of scared they'd pull a gun on us on the way back to the locker room!" Suddenly, our only black player, a freshman, spoke up. He said "You mean you thought they'd pull a gun because they were black, don't you?" I tried to stammer out that since it was in the middle of the inner city, I thought there would be tough people there, but he gave me a look. He said something else to correct me (I can't recall what, it was a while ago), and let it go.

You know what? My heart's thoughts were revealed when I said that. Why didn't I just say "beat us up" instead of "pull a gun"? Why did I go the extra mile and say something that made no sense in context with the situation? I said it because in my heart, there was an equation that said tall muscular black people + inner city = gang members. And when the left side of the equation came up in conversation, I spoke up and revealed the right side of that heart equation.

The saddest part was, I was completely wrong in this case. That team was one of the classiest teams we played all year, and they made sure to praise our shooting guard after the game for his amazing performance. But I was too busy thinking about size and skin color and the inner city to see the truth. Ironically, later in the year, a scary, violent incident did happen after a game. We walked out of the locker room to see a fan putting one of our star players in a choke hold. Of course (you can't make this stuff up), the fan was a white country boy. So much for me being able to determine the real threats to our team...

My point in telling this lengthy story? It's not about slips of the tongue. It's about a person's heart being revealed. My concern is that what Kelly said revealed a little piece of her heart. It's not that she herself would ever consider lynching a black man, any more than teenage me would ever consider exchanging gun fire with black gangsters. It's that she has been in situations and environments where biased words were said about black people, and she let those concepts get into her heart without questioning the speakers or the ideas. The Golf Channel was right to suspend her for a little while.

I don't want her fired. Lord knows that there's plenty of hate and wrong thinking in all of our hearts, so why should she suffer because hers was on TV? But for the last time, this issue isn't about "sensitivity" or "Sharpton" or "slip of the tongue"; it's about our souls and the sadness and sin that resides within each of us. We don't just need greater racial sensitivity, although that would be a nice start. We need a true soul-cleansing, one and all. I'd say more, but I don't preach without taking an offering, ha, so I'll let it go for now.

For you brave souls who read this far, a treat; watch Mehmet Okur play the old "I'm tired and I need to wipe sweat off my face...AFTER I DUNK ON YOU!" trick. I love playing this trick myself in pick-up ball...only, it's more like a lay-up, and I trip over my own shoes while trying to convert. But other than that, exactly the same!

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