ETA: This piece by journalist Tomas Rios is a beautiful discussion of these issues. I highly recommend reading it. I can only add that *of course* we all understand that he’s playing a part. But ironic racism is still racism and should, in my opinion, be identified as such.
Today, Chael Sonnen, who is about to be crushed by Jon Jones on Saturday , decided it would be okay to touch an African American reporter’s hair. No, really. Here is the video.
I don’t know how many white people understand how rude and unacceptable this is. (If you didn’t know before, now you do. Don’t do it.) However, as my friend Tim Marchman notes, Chael’s behavior in this instance is part of a larger pattern. Is he deliberately using (barely) coded language and behaviors to generate an ‘edgy’ image to increase his popularity among certain segments of the MMA community? Today I’m not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt (not that it’s up to me). This afternoon, while waiting for the El, I encountered a man screaming “Wait and see! White people will come out on top in the end!” at a group of African American men. The expressions on their faces reminded me how utterly naive I am about how often incidents of blatant racism occur. I don’t know what else I can do to combat them, other than call people out when I witness such behavior*. Hence this post. It’s feeble enough, I realize, but if there are other things to do or say, please let me know.
Last time I saw Jones in Albuquerque, he took me off to the side of the mat after class. With a twinkle in his eye, he taught me a throw that he knew I’d never be able to pull off, just for fun. And though I can’t talk about it (it’s not my story to tell), he did something very, very kind for a family member of mine. I will always be a fan of his.
Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to Saturday’s fight.
*I also make an effort to include discussions of race, ethnicity, and privilege in the anthropology courses I teach. Does it do any good? I’m not sure. I hope so.