Every Monday, the Reverends Emmett Price and Irene Monroe join Jim Braude and Margery Eagan for Open Mic on Boston Public Radio. This past Monday, Price and Monroe discussed racist tweets directed at a black hockey player following a Bruins loss.
Emmett Price is an associate professor of music at Northeastern University. Price is the author of The Black Church and Hip Hop Culture: Toward Bridging the Generational Divide. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who writes for Huffington Post and Bay Windows.
Questions are edited and condensed. Responses are edited where noted (...).
Last week it was Donald Sterling. This week it's racist tweets by Bruins fans directed at the Montreal Canadiens' P.K. Subban. What do you make of this?
IRENE MONROE: A lot of folks feel that hockey should remain all white. [Subban] is this guy who takes the win for the team. We like to think that Donald Sterling is of a particular generation. He's in his eighties, we can say, Oh, that's a throwback to the '60s and '70s. But racism always shows its face, even in future generations of folks.
EMMETT PRICE: It was sickening, on so many different levels. One, the racism is absolutely sickening, but the fact that the Boston Bruins [were] the first team that had the first black player in the NHL — these are not true hockey fans! They don't know the legacy of the Boston Bruins. Subban's younger brother is actually in the Bruins organization as a goaltender on one of the development teams. It's just one of these moments where folks aren't thinking, and maybe the way they (...) feel comes up without a filter.
IM: Oh no, they're thinking. They throw bananas at black hockey players as well as black soccer players. So their thinking — it's very intentional.
EP: And the Bruins have a black player right now, Jarome Iginla.
IM: It's sort of like Donald Sterling. Yes, I have black players — they are to do a certain job and nothing more. It's very paternalistic.
Sterling is a powerful billionaire, but these tweets mostly came from young kids. Should we consider the source?
IM: They are the grandchildren, if not the children, of people like Donald Sterling. Why would we not expect them to fling these nasty statements around? Truth be told, whether we want to speak about it or not, a lot of folks feel that basketball and football [are] a 'black boy's game,' and a lot of people feel that ice hockey and figure skating (...) [are] a 'white boy's game.' So we have racialized sports. To see this black guy in what's considered to be a white sport — and do it well — raises some serious issues about, Will this sport be taken over by blacks? (...)
EP: What is the impact? Here, in terms of racism there is no equal playing field. We can't assume in 2014 that racism is gone when it shows up in a Boston Bruins game. It reveals we're not there yet.
Anonymous web comments seem to bring out the worst in people.
IM: I like to say, Well, these are just people on the down-low. I really think that they represent what is a dominant feeling within society, but they don't have the filters [in the same] way much more sophisticated people would in (...) hiding their racist attitudes. What we get upset about is we think that sports is an equal opportunity. This is not something that's saying, We need X number of black men or Latino men on this hockey team — that this really is about athletic prowess. What we really see is, the issue of race crosses every arena we can imagine. Sports is not any more an equalizer than colleges.
The Bruins leadership and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh apologized on behalf of the city. Does that elevate the Twitter users saying these racist things?
EP: (...) You guys had Jamarhl Crawford in here a couple weeks ago talking about the "other" Boston Strong — talking about how, in certain neighborhoods, Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, that whole sense of Boston Strong is not realized — financially, and also in terms of media coverage. Here is another moment where it reveals there are still some racial problems in Boston. Regardless if it's cowards who are anonymous, regardless if they're young people in the basement, or old people in the basement. The fact is that there's still a problem.
IM: (...) Why does this racism show its face? Part of it is that it's structurally within the system. You look at the NBA, most of the owners are white. When you look at ice hockey, any of these sports, the owners, the coaches are white. You'll continually get this sort of behavior. Even if you structurally change some of that, you can't change the hearts of people.
Anonymous handles on social media are a problem here, right?
EP: I don't think it helps at all. I would strongly advocate for revealing user names, handles or profiles (...). That may reduce the number of people who participate, and may jeopardize sales and market opportunities, but I think there's way too much of this cowardice, this incognito [behavior].
IM: I think it's a true indicator. What it's really begging for is what [Attorney General] Eric Holder asked, that we must have this conversation about race. On Twitter we can't do it, on the internet we can't do it. We really have to have a much more integrated and comprehensive discourse on race.
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