Emancipation 2016: The Economic Game

By N Oji Mzilikazi

7 August 2016

Power respects power. Economic empowerment/economic success lends itself to accessing power.

Failure of a race, ethnicity or community to be empowered economically ensures they remain powerless, weak, marginalised, exploited, and the footstool of others.

Economics is at the heart of anti-Black racism. Allowing Blacks a place at the buffet table is perceived as a threat to the rights of whites to gorge to their hearts content. Also, has the potential to deny whites their rightful place in the line, send some to the back of the line, and even leave fellow members of the race hungry and destitute.

In keeping with the adage, “Give a person an inch, and they’ll want to take a yard,” whites have long feared that giving Blacks access could find them playing second fiddle. A situation that is totally incomprehensible and unacceptable. Thus, racial discrimination is rooted in economics — and racism enduring support.

Since “whites” determined — set the rules of “the economic game,” racism places limits on the kind of money Blacks make, even when the Black individual is the best at what they do; are at top of their game. Case in point: Serena Williams.

Serena Williams is indisputably the best female tennis player in the world, and has been for the longest while. Yet, Williams doesn’t command the sponsorship dollars that usually go with being the best.

Maria Sharapova is not in Serena’s class; doesn’t come close. Serena has 22 Grand Slam titles while Sharapova has 5; Serena has twice the amount of single career titles than Sharapova; Serena has 71, Sharapova 35; and Maria has not defeated Williams since 2004. Serena has had 17 consecutive victories over Sharapova. The last was at Wimbledon 2015. But since 2004, Sharapova has been the world’s highest-paid female athlete. Serena can’t touch Sharapova when it comes to sponsorships.

Sharapova’s win over Serena at Wimbledon 2004 elevated her to tennis “golden girl.”

In embodying the Eurocentric stereotype of beauty; tall, thin, and with blonde hair and blue eyes, Sharapova became — was embraced as the long awaited white hope to save women’s tennis from the clutches of the “Amazonian” Williams sisters; Venus Williams and Serena Williams, and the white face of tennis that fans and corporate sponsors alike were dying for — and what tennis needed.

This March, Sharapova revealed she failed a drugs test. She tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug meldonium/mildronate, a prohibited substance. The admission and subsequent provisional suspension by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) did not phase racket firm Head. It extended its contract with Sharapova.

When a two-year suspension (under appeal) was handed down to Sharapova in June, high-profile sponsors Nike, Head and Evian made it known they are standing by her.

Since “whites” are the ones that sign big money cheques, they have templates as to the kinds of Blacks they want to pay, give their money/donations/charity to, as well as limits as to how much money they are willing to pay.

The December 2014 leaked Sony Pictures emails exposed Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper calling Kevin Hart a “whore” for wanting additional monies to use his social media brand to support a film.

While actors are obligated to do press junkets song-and-dance routines to promote a film, they decide the management, direction and content of their social media accounts like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Just because Hart is Black, Culpepper believes the comedian and actor is stupid as well. Hence,  he should use his social media accounts for free — in service to a multinational corporation that could’ve afford to pay — and most likely paid Hart much less than standard industry practices for the role, simply because he’s Black.

While sports, music and comedy enabled huge numbers of Blacks to make serious money, it is only a certain kind of Blacks whites tend to embrace. Namely, those willing to engage in self-depreciation, show their pearly whites, display ignorance or portray clumsiness to elicit laughter, those that use the cloaks of intelligence, respectability or insightful understanding of complexities to submerge or minimize their blackness, and those willing to chastise other Blacks/the race over its shortcomings and failures.

In short, Blacks whose presence do not puncture the parameters of white comfort. Thus, whites are comfortable with Blacks like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Step forth full of self-confidence, killer instincts, aggressiveness, and radiating pride of race like Muhammed Ali, Venus Williams or Serena Williams; be an accomplished and uppity Black, and the media/whites cannot wait to get their hate on and see that person truly humbled — face prone in the dirt, eating the humblest of humble pie.

In an attack on Venus and Serena Williams, Czechoslovakia born Martina Navratilova lamented, “They have made excuses and not given credit to their opponents. They’re afraid to show any kind of humility. Humble doesn’t mean you’re weak.”

The nature of the beast that is racism is that even when an accomplished Black person is “liked” by whites, racism demands their humbling (honest contrition) as part-payment for wrong-doing.

On the heels of Tiger Woods marital infidelity, golf legend Tom Watson called for Woods “to show some humility to the public.”

As RLP, the author of the piece noted, Woods sexual transgressions “has nothing to do with golf or fans of golf. He cheated on his wife, not on the golf course. Apologies are for him to make his wife and family and those closest to him…”

In 1999, the NAACP called for an economic boycott of South Carolina on account of the State’s insistence to fly the Confederate flag on top of the Statehouse dome/on the grounds of the state capitol, and asked prominent African American athletes to bypass South Carolina events.

Serena heeded the call. Serena boycotted the 2000 Family Circle Cup in Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Serena boycotted Indian Wells for 14 years on account of the boos and racial slurs thrown at her father Richard and big sister Venus, when they came to see her contest the 2001 finals. Venus boycotted Indian Wells for 15 years.

Stardom, the lure of big money and interests of sponsors didn’t matter to Venus and Serena. That is unapologetic Blackness for you.

The historical and economic reality for persons of African descent to that being the best or brightest doesn’t translate into opportunities to make “big, fat, white commercial money” or bankability.

Acceptance in the white world in conjunction with being on top of one’s game is requisite. And that acceptance is dependent on two things and two things alone. The person(s) must have and exude a non-threatening personality and be proponents of the politics of contentment and accommodation.

On April 13, 1997, Tiger Woods won the Masters. In doing so, Tiger became the first African American to win a major professional golf tournament.

Fuzzy Zoeller, the 1979 Masters champion, was recorded saying, “That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not serve fried chicken next year. Got it?” Then Zoeller smiled, snapped his fingers, and walked away. Then he turned and added, “or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

Earl Woods, Tiger’s father insisted, “Fuzzy is a big jokester. He is not a racist. I have heard him say a lot worse on the golf course…

Is it any wonder Tiger Woods could go on the Oprah Winfrey show, ignore centuries of racial classification and the One Drop rule; namely, any person who has one drop of black blood will be classified as Black, and declare himself “Cablinasian” – his coined term to reflect the inclusion of Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian genes that comprise his racial identity? Cablinasian also infers race-neutrality?

Players of every sport are fired, traded, or don’t have their contract renewed. Team owners and players are known to terminate contracts with coaches. Golf is no exception.

Tiger Woods winning ways made Steve Williams, his caddie, a multi-millionaire. Williams was on the bag for 13 of Woods 14 major championship titles.

After twelve years of highs and lows, Tiger and Williams parted ways. In nothing but a display of bad mindedness and ungratefulness, Williams publicly dissed Woods upon Adam Scott, for whom he was caddying, won the Bridgestone Invitational.

At the November 4, 2011, HSBC Champions pre-tournament caddie dinner in Shanghai, China, Williams explained his rational at Bridgestone: “It was my aim to shove it right up that black arsehole.” The remark “left the audience of players, caddies and sponsors aghast.”

Since Williams choose “black” to qualify and preface the arsehole invective, he essentially attacked the roots of Woods’ identity, and by extension the Black (not Cablinasian) community to which Tiger belongs. Luckily for Williams, Woods doesn’t have a single revolutionary bone in his body, as well as feels appeasement makes him a bigger and better person.

Woods admitted to being hurt by the comments of his former caddie, but in Uncle Tom style and fashion declared, “Steve Williams is no racist.”

For all the money Tiger makes, and for all his reticence to wade into the issues of race or to fire returned salvos at racists, whites still do not have Tiger’s back.

Revelations of Woods marital infidelity resulted in major sponsors Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Gillette immediately running away from him as one would from fire. General Motors ended its free loner cars deal to Tiger. And that was just the beginning…

Rumors that the crashing of Woods’ car into a fire hydrant was on account of his wife hitting the vehicle with a golf club. Jesper Parnevik said he hoped Elin Nordegren, Tiger’s wife “uses a driver next time instead of the 3-iron.”

Golfers that secretly resented, envied or hated Tiger used Woods’ marital infidelity scandal to be free with their true feelings. The press was in a feeding frenzy, and there was no abatement in the deluge of hate.  Open season on Tiger hunting was of such, FBI special agent John V. Gillies, the person in charge of the FBI Miami division launched a broadside at Tiger Woods at a chamber of commerce meeting in Boca Raton, Florida.

Tiger Woods’ entry into golf and the Williams sisters into tennis raised both the level of play in the sport, and the attendance records for golf and tennis respectively.

40.1 million people watched the CBS telecast to see Tiger Woods win his second Masters on Sunday April 8, 2001. It was an increase of 33% over 2000, and was the second highest totals ever.

The largest viewing audience was in 1997, when Tiger won his first green jacket.

When NBC broadcasted the final day of competition of the 2000 US Open, Tiger’s participation and subsequent victory provided the network with its highest rating for the tournament since 1981.

Tiger’s British Open triumph that same year allowed ABC to have its biggest ratings of a Sunday.  So where did it go wrong for Tiger?

First, let’s not read too much into attendance figures. Large crowds did gather in colosseums of the ancient world to see gladiators fight to the death. Large numbers of white folks gathered to see enslaved Black males castrated as well as large numbers of white folks also gathered to see, jeer and cheer Black males being hung from trees, also burnt alive hanging from said trees.

While the motivation behind television viewership or crowds in attendance to see Tiger Woods, Serena Williams or Venus Williams could very well be to relish in their display of brilliance, it could also be they’re looking to see if that day is the day their white opponent(s) is going to step up, defeat them.

Lest we forget: When Serena Williams and Venus Williams were the Number 1 and Number 2 players in the world, as well as meeting in Grand Slam finals, sports and tennis prognosticators started preaching about the impending decline of the popularity of tennis. Then the infection spread among past and current players.

Argentina’s Gabriela Sabatini didn’t mince words. The retired legend of the game felt that the Williams sisters’ power game and domination were “ruining sports, these brutes. Perhaps they hit the ball too hard for the good of the game.”

Amélie Mauresmo, a Williams sisters contemporary opponent had the temerity to say it “was sad for women’s tennis’ and perhaps boring for the fans if there were more all-Williams finals.”

After Justine Henin lost her Wimbledon 2002 semi-match against Venus Williams, she submitted,

I think that maybe the crowd likes also to see the other players in different Grand Slam finals.”

A Grand Slam title is contested by 128 players; 64 in the top half of the draw and 64 in the bottom. Venus and Serena have to be on opposite sides of the draw to have a chance at contesting a final. An all-Williams final is the failure of the field;126 players, including the likes of Mauresmo and Henin, so why the objection — and hate?

When Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova met in finals after finals, there was never perception of the same two repeatedly playing each other as bad for the sport or articulation of same. But two sisters; two Black girls doing so are, according to tennis legend Martina Navratilova, “not great for the game.”

Navratilova made the comment on British television during Wimbledon 2010 as well as, “I hope it’s not both Williams in the finals.

While tennis fans are allowed to make such a statement, Martina Navratilova cannot. Navratilova has been employed as a television tennis analysist/commentator for years. And while announcers are entitled to speak on their dream match-up finals, it’s in poor taste for any one of them to root against any particular match-up. It’s also a disservice to the viewers.

When envy and racism join hands…  Navratilova has a long history of anti-Williams sisters bias.

When Serena defeated Venus in the 2002 French Open Finals 7-5, 6-3, Jon Wertheim of CNNSI wrote, “The sport will eventually suffer if the sisters can’t play more competitive matches.”

In the 1988 French Open Finals, Steffi Graff defeated Natasha Zvereva 6-0, 6-0 in 32 minutes. Are we to assume that although the Graff – Zvereva match was very short; Natasha was double bageled; didn’t win a single game, it was more competitive than the one contested by the sisters? Ah! The subtleties of racism…

The supposed concerned by tennis journalists, tennis commentators and past and current tennis players/opponents of the Williams sisters for fan enjoyment/fan boredom by an all Williams finals match-up is code to execute and express racism.

No professional athlete or sports team ever think of spectators’ enjoyment of a contested match. Their singular concern is winning. If viewers enjoy the battle, great. If not, an ugly win still goes into the athlete/team’s plus column.

Second, the media-bashing and hating on Tiger Woods over his affairs was no different from the bashing and hating on Janet Jackson when Justin Timberlake exposed her breast in the Super Bowl half-time show, Oprah when she endorsed Barack Obama’s candidacy for president of the United States, Serena Williams over her outburst at the US Open, Sean Puffy Coombs/P Diddy/Puff Daddy when a gun was found in his vehicle, Kobe Bryant when accused of rape, and when Michael Vick was associated with dogfighting. The backlash — driven by racism was swift and brutal.

The racial politics of the dollar game is this: Black excellence is despised, Black success is only tolerated — never fully endorsed, and Black success is undermined at the drop of a dime.

Neither making it nor having loads of money is ever saving grace for Blacks. A point hammered home by Gil Scott Heron in the song, Inner City Blues. Heron asked, “Are we stupid or just naive that we continue to believe that money can buy us anything including a slice of the American dream.” On the other hand, prominent whites are given the benefit of the doubt, presumption of innocence, and chances at redemption — and opportunities to salvage their career and make money. Think Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen…

As you go about your business doing what you have to do in pursuit of that almighty dollar; even if that translates into having to downplay your blackness, don’t lose your soul. Don’t use your center!

 

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