by Jason Whitlock
Updated: March 27, 2008, 3:52 PM EST
The cover of Vogue's April Shape Issue features Lebron James and Gisele Bundchen. (AP Photo / March 13, 2008)
Would someone please write a handbook? "What Will and Won't Piss Black Folk Smooth the **** Off" would be an international bestseller.
I'm black, and I'm pissed off most of the time, but I wouldn't leave home without the handbook. Not in these racist-ly confusing times. I can barely keep up with when I'm supposed to be disappointed as opposed to offended as opposed to being pissed smooth the **** off.
Right now I need to know where this LeBron James-Gisele Bundchen-Vogue-cover controversy falls. And just who am I supposed to be mad at, LeBron, the photographer, the editors at Vogue or Tom Brady?
Maybe they're all to blame. Maybe that's the point of this whole mess. Or maybe they're just as bewildered as I am.
According to the allegations, King James looks like King Kong clutching Fay Wray on the latest cover of Vogue, and the image, according to potential handbook writers, "conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man."
Hmm, to LeBron and his handlers, he looks like LeBron clutching a pretty white woman on the latest cover of Vogue, and the image conjures up the idea that LeBron can race up court with a basketball and a supermodel.
I agree with LeBron. The photographer captured him exactly as he is. You know, when he covered his body in tatts years ago, mimicking a death-row inmate, LeBron invited people to jump to the conclusion that he's dangerous. Yeah, that's the way the image-is-everything game is played. Ink is a prison and gang thing. Don't act like you don't know the origin of the current fad.
Vogue put a mirror in our face, and we're complaining about the reflection. Half the black players in the NBA take the court each night in front of white audiences tatted from neck to toe like they're shooting a scene for Prison (Fast)Break.
When David Stern insisted on helping these players with their image by implementing a dress code, many of the players and their media groupies screamed racism. You see, showing up to work in a white T and iced-out (heavy jewelry) was their way of showing loyalty to their boys in the 'hood, a shout-out to the corner boys and girls.
And any time someone with common sense points out that athletes are making fools of themselves and feeding negative stereotypes, he or she is shouted down as a sellout, racist or out of touch.
Just look at how much heat the NFL takes for trying to stop Chad Johnson from bojangling. This is why a handbook to clear up the confusion is so necessary. When Johnson slaps in his gold teeth, dyes and cuts his hair into a blonde Mohawk, dances a jig in the end zone and makes life absolute hell on his black coach, that is fun and good for the game.
But when King James apes King Kong it is a terrible blow to the perception of black men.
Would we be having this discussion if LeBron struck the same pose on the cover of Ebony while holding Selita Ebanks? Think about it. And if we wouldn't be having the discussion, what does that say about us? Are we only bothered by negative images of black men when the primary/sole consumer of the image is white people?
Vogue ain't for us. Tyler Perry's new movie, Meet the Browns, was produced with us in mind. It had a great box-office debut, coming in at No. 2 with a take of more than $20 million. It also broke records for negative black stereotypes and simple-mindedness.
We ate it up, and I've yet to hear much of an outcry about a romantic comedy built around a single mama with three baby daddies, her loud-mouthed, weed-smoking, gun-toting Latino best girlfriend, a deadbeat daddy, a drunk sister and a deceased father who was a pimp-turned-preacher. I could go on. This list is endless.
Rather than reading and hearing universal condemnation of Tyler Perry, the drag-queen moviemaker is being hailed as a genius for recognizing what attracts us to the movie theatre.
I'm telling you we need a handbook. We need something athletes, entertainers, black and white folks can easily refer to when deciding how to react to the images we choose to project. The chapter on rap-music videos could be studied at major universities across the globe. I'd like for Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Exploitation Television, to pen that section when he comes off the Clinton campaign trail.
LeBron James is a kid, and his talents as a basketball player and absence of a father allowed him to "grow up" rather than be "raised." His stated goal is to be one of the richest men in the world. Like Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, he is a child celebrity interested in increasing his fame and little else.
He's in very good and very deep company when it comes to being unconcerned with and unqualified for the job of representing black men in a positive light.
Hell, given our current state of confusion, I'm not sure Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could handle the job.
Jason Whitlock can be reached by email at Ballstate68@aol.com.