The tiff between Jalen Rose and Grant Hill, in my mind, has been one of the most important race-related dialogues to arise in a long time. The reason I’ve held off on saying anything about this issue is because I wanted to witness the fallout and the array of perspectives before I chimed in with my two cents.
It baffles me when people see this back-and-forth as a negative. This isn’t Crips vs. Bloods/Biggie vs. Tupac/Kanye vs. Taylor… no one’s getting stabbed because of this. This is a national debate on race sparked, not by the Cornel Wests and Henry Louis Gateses of the world; this is simply a good old fashion race-dividing dispute between two multi-millionaire hoopers that grew up on opposite sides of the tracks. Both of them are correct, both of them have faults in their arguments, both have been slightly taken out of context, and both have reminded people that there is such a thing as intra (not inter) racial diversity.
In this “Team Jalen” vs. “Team Grant” world that we live in, where it’s easier to just pick a side and run with it, I find myself not doing that and, more importantly, attempting to raise a middle-ground third perspective about race and class.
Jalen has gotten a significant amount of flack for referring to Grant Hill and other Black Duke basketball players as “Uncle Toms”. It’s important to note that, although he said it in the documentary as former NBA player, now hotshot ESPN commentator Jalen Rose, he was saying that in his 17-18 year old voice. That’s how he once felt, and frankly, I am happy he said it.
Am I glad he felt that way? Not really. Do I think Grant Hill is an Uncle Tom? No. Have there been times in my life that the lives of extremely affluent Blacks, or those born with the silver spoon in their mouth, so to speak, have made me envious almost to the point of jealousy and anger? Absolutely.
It’s not right, because those individuals had nothing to do with their well-to-do parents, nor should they be penalized for it, but it’s a natural, jealous feeling to have. Yes I understand that “Uncle Tom” is up there on the list of “things never to call a Black person” (you know the list… 1. “Nigger”, 2. “Uncle Tom”, 3. “Surprisingly Articulate”, 4. “Boy”, 5. “Not Ballin”). With that said, the more that these pent up feelings that Blacks typical bottle up are put out there for all to see, the easier it is to address them.
The funny thing is, while I sit here, sympathizing with Jalen Rose, I very well could have been someone who his 18-year old self might have seen as an “Uncle Tom”. Private highschool, Ivy League undergradate, Ivy League graduate candidate. You know what, I’ll actually go a step further. Before meeting me, 18-year old Jalen definitely would have thought of me as an Uncle Tom. No doubt.
The important thing to consider here is what people are beyond their list of credentials on paper. As much as I love my resume, there’s a part of me that hates it, because there are aspects of my upbringing I can’t express on a single page (11pt, Book Antiqua). Those come out after 5 minutes of talking with me, but if I never reach that point with someone, their entire perception of me may be forever tainted in this cloud of elitism.
I’ve realized this in recent years, but my mom was like a puppet master when it came to my first 18 years of living. Before I was born, I’m fairly confident she knew exactly how she wanted end result Rembert to look, but also knew the small steps along the way that would make that possible. Based on the things I did growing up, it was clear that my mom didn’t want me to end up like Jalen or Grant. She believed in the hybrid product, someone who got the highest calibur education possible, but also was so invested and incorporated in his Black community that he didn’t need Jack and Jill (oops) to be welcomed with opened arms. Going to an elite private school, but spending all of my non-elite private school time in then-6000% Black Southwest Atlanta was not an accidental thing. That’s how you (or at least, attempt to) create the hybrid product.
What we are missing from this dialogue are the voices and opinions of the hybrid products. In this debate, there are Blacks that will disregard anything Grant says the moment he starts talking, because they see him as out of touch (even though he’s not). There are also Blacks that will disregard anything Jalen says the moment he starts talking because they see him as this bitter Black man and a little rough around the edges (even though he’s not).
In order for this extremely important dialouge to be more than simply a 2-week issue, we need more than a back and forth between the “Jalens” and the “Grants”. That 3rd group is out there, I know it because after talking to many people about this issue (especially this lady), I hear it in their sentiments and I know it based on the way they were brought up. Many in this hybrid group lack the platform that the two basketball icons have, but
they’re we’re out there and our ideas on issues such as this (and others regarding race and class) should be heard and taken extremely seriously.
Until that day comes, I welcome more tiffs like this, because they expose issues that Blacks like to sweep under the rug. I commend both Jalen and Grant for speaking very candidly about this and I hope their openness on issues such as this will get more people to let down their guards and say “controversial” things, regardless of the public reprecussions.