Last week syndicated radio talk-show host Don Imus was chastised by the National Association of Black Journalists for calling the women's basketball team at Rutgers, which is mostly made up of black players, "nappy-headed hos" among other things.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Imus' comments should be offensive to everyone.
Around the same time, Latino advocacy groups were offended by Newt Gingrich's referring to Spanish as the language of the ghetto.
I could go on, but I think you get the picture: stick a mic and a camera in someone's face often enough, and eventually that person is either going to slip up or purposely say something to tick people off. And in Pavlovian fashion, groups such as GLAAD (which polices images of gays in the media) or the NABJ will issue a statement condemning the language and demanding an apology. If it's really juicy, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson will get involved, as is happening now with the Imus situation.
While I find this cat-and-mouse exchange engaging at times, I always wonder: Why does it appear that a wrong is only a wrong when it's your community being wronged?
When Packer dropped the F-bomb, why wasn't Jackson or Sharpton heard from? Is it possible the leadership at the NAACP doesn't believe a high-profile personality using a derogatory word to describe a group of people is worth addressing? Or is it that the word in question doesn't appear to be directed at the community the NAACP represents?
And where is the voice of GLAAD in response to Imus and his offensive description of a group of black women, or Gingrich calling Spanish the language of the ghetto? Are none of these comments offensive to gay people?
Dr. King said injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. And yet so many of us are content to horde our resources, rather than lend them to the neighboring soldiers who ultimately are engaged in the same fight.
If one of the main goals of these groups is to end hate speech, why do they sit on their proverbial hands when hate is being spewed at someone outside of their constituency group? Like a player refusing to double Shaq in the post because that's not his man, by not aggressively denouncing the displays of hate speech targeted at others these groups are inadvertently undermining their own integrity and success.
And trust me, I know of what I speak. One of the things I've always regretted was not writing about Michael Irvin's comments about Tony Romo.
For those of you who don't remember, back in November Irvin joked that the reason Romo is athletic is because his grandmother had sex with a slave. I found the statement completely offensive, and yet all I did was shoot an e-mail to my superiors. Essentially I gave Irvin a pass. Had Mike Ditka said the reason Donovan McNabb is intelligent is because his grandmother had sex with a slave owner, I'd have been looking for blood.
There are all kinds of ways I can justify the difference in my head. But when you get right down to it, I sacrificed a bit of my integrity in exchange for not biting the hand that's feeding me. If I'm going call people out for being hypocritical, I have to be willing to first look at the beam in my own eye.
So consider this my apology for taking the easy way out, as well as my declaration to never do it again. Social change is the byproduct of personal responsibility and sacrifice, not self-absorption. And believe me, an attitude of "that's not my fight" when it comes to offensive language is nothing but.
LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and host of the ESPN360 talk show "Game Night." LZ can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.