I recently witnessed a great game. The Detroit Lions defeated the Dallas Cowboys 31-30. Being a Washington Redskins fan I was thrilled to see the Cowboys lose, but I was more excited by Matt Stafford’s calmness and competitiveness to pull the game off; not to mention Calvin “Megatron” Johnson’s record-setting 329 yards receiving. As amazing as that game was it was eclipsed by Dez Bryant’s assumed tirade on the sidelines as he screamed at Tony Romo and coaches. People immediately assumed that he was being a “diva”, going back to the “old Dez”, making the game about him and being selfish and not a team player. By many regards Dez Bryant was everything, but a competitor that wanted to win, because of the emotion that he showed on the sidelines. Later audio surfaced so that we can hear that Bryant was only commenting on match-ups and how they could win. This immediately created a debate as people like Chris Carter and Keyshon Johnson brought up Tom Brady showing emotion on the sidelines, but there’s no mention of him being a diva, selfish and/or emotionally unstable. Why? Is it because Brady’s white? Is it because Brady has 3 rings? Or is it because of his position? Obviously to some degree depending on who you ask it’s all three, but for the rest of this post I will be “that guy” and address the racial assumptions about African-American’s and passion/emotions.
What does this have to do with angry black preachers?
It seems to be an assumption in American culture that a passionate black man/woman is labelled an angry black man/woman. I think this is by and large due to white culture determining what’s normative as it relates to expression and typically when something makes white people uncomfortable or they don’t understand it, it’s somehow abnormal or excessive (this is a generalization and I know that not ALL white people feel or respond this way). The discussions that followed this game are indicative to what happens even in the church world. A loud and boisterous white pastor is passionate, while a loud and boisterous black pastor is angry and doesn’t speak with “grace”. Why the disparity? Could it be that one may prefer one of his or her own race and that makes it acceptable? I think it’s important that we understand that to some degree we all have assumptions and we tend to interpret circumstances and people through the lens our prejudice. We have to intentionally fight the assumptions we have within to prejudge and assume someone else’s motives. I know, I know you’re still thinking about Dez Bryant and saying he was clearly upset. I agree to an extent about him being upset about losing, but why was his past brought up for screaming on the sidelines? Why was it made personal? Why is Brady given a pass? Some will say you’re making too much of it, but I would argue that’s the typical response to an African-American whenever he or she points out something that causes African-American’s in this country to feel like we have to acquiesce ourselves to white culture at the expense of who we are and how we express ourselves in order to be accepted.
My hope is that we all can begin to see emotions, pain, suffering, etc. as colorless because they are, but if we label someone, let it be through the lens of grace and not our prejudice.
Let it simmer.