ESPN has added the Fab Five to their critically acclaimed 30 for 30 series. The documentary about the 1991 -1993 Michigan Wolverines basketball team highlights the journeys of Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, Chris Webber, and Ray Jackson. Those players were freshmen in 1991, and would later be better known as the Fab Five. They introduced rap music and baggy shorts to America on one of the biggest stages in sports.
The documentary was produced by Fab Five member and ESPN basketball analyst Jalen Rose. It didn’t take long for Rose to become the star of the documentary (I don’t blame him. If you give me control of anything I’m taking over. You could make me the co-producer of a cooking show, and within two segments I’m doing my comedy act). He displayed ultimate transparency when taking about his childhood, Michigan, and decisions he made.
When talking about his teams’ battles against Duke. Rose stated that he hated Duke, and “… felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms” (can we retire the slur Uncle Tom? I mean as Americans we have a better imagination than that. Let’s hold a poll and select a new term. I would argue that any slur made popular before 1980 should be retired Barry Sanders style). He believed they only recruited black players that came from well to do families. This made him resent Duke University and the black players that played for them. Since the airing of the documentary these comments have sparked a controversy, and even prompted Grant Hill to make a response.
Now I’m not going to regurgitate the angle that has been stressed all week, or condemn Rose for his comments. It was how he felt at the time. When someone decides to talk about their past, you want to hear the truth. Unless you’re asking your wife how many people she had sex with. You want to lie, and not say 15 (15 is way too many).
I want to talk about what this comment exposes. First it exposes the resentment that surrounds Duke and the type of players they recruit. To be honest they do recruit a certain kind of black player that has been successful for their university (I wrote about this: Black at Duke, or Maybe Not). I don’t blame them for that. That’s their propagative. In addition since 1990 they’ve led all schools in National Championships, and have consistently put players in the NBA. So, it works for them. However, despite their resume, they’re still seen in the black community as a school that only recruits white players. It’s the same feeling that surrounded the Boston Celtics until the mid-90s.
Rose’s Uncle Tom comment also exposed a dirty little secret well known throughout the black community. It’s a class issues that highlights the idea that well off black people. Somehow become jaded by their reality, and lose their black identity. Now I would argue that this isn’t true. If you are black in America, you know you’re black! At the same time someone could argue that there are indeed black people that disconnect from their identity. I would agree with that statement. However, there are people among all races that disconnect from their identity. Those people are the exception. Let’s not make the exception the rule.
No one should see black individual as a, “sell out” because they want to further the black community, by educating themselves and promoting the idea of a nuclear family. At the same time people in a single parent home, that aren’t as well off, shouldn’t be look down upon as not worthy. Everyone’s black experience is of equal value to the black community and society as a whole. The real sell outs are individuals that don’t take care of their responsibilities. People that walk out on their kids, rob people, kill people, and/or spend their life in and out of prison. Those are the individuals that should be resented throughout the all of society. My man Chris Rock spoke to this brilliantly during his comedy special Bring The Pain, in a segment better known as, “Niggas vs. Black People.”
I hope the issue of class in the black community ceases to become an issue. Instead let’s focus on the true sell outs.
-Kortney Shane Williams
Comedian and Writer