Column: Fewer Rob Parkers and more Rob Griffins

Rob Woodfork,

WASHINGTON — Like most D.C. sports fans, I was ecstatic when the Washington Redskins went all-in on drafting Robert Griffin III. He’s a tremendous talent, a terrific kid from a solid upbringing and he just happens to be a smart, well-educated black man coming to the town affectionately referred to as “Chocolate City.” If you created a franchise quarterback in a lab specifically for Washington, I’m not sure you could come up with something better than RG3 — nickname and all.

However, my one concern was that some fool would be stupid enough to whip out a ruler and start measuring just how black Griffin is.

It’s happened.

Rob Parker, a disgraced columnist (feel free to read up on some of his career misadventures) who appeared on ESPN’s “First Take,” opined that he’s heard rumblings that Griffin is a “cornball brother” who is not “down with the cause.”

To get the full scope of his controversial comments, Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post has it all here.

First, allow me to echo the sentiments of the preamble to Steinberg’s post on the topic: This whole thing stinks of the typical headline-grabbing, baseless jackassery that is commonplace on ESPN’s “First Take.”

I’ve watched that show off and on over the last few years (call it a guilty pleasure/frustration of sorts) and I can tell you with no measure of uncertainty that this show has been in full-on “jumping the shark” mode for years. Anything you see or hear on that program should be taken with whatever happens to be less than a grain of salt.

Second, this isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with this topic in Washington. The last time a Redskins quarterback had the misfortune of “not being black enough,” I wrote a stinging column about how asinine this whole line of discussion is and how ignorant it makes the accuser look. If you’re interested in the full scope of my feelings on this topic, I suggest clicking here since I can’t repeat it all in this space, verbatim.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you this is a deeply personal topic for me. I am a black man living in America. My mother is what some would call white (although in actuality she’s of mixed descent). Most of my early education came in predominantly white schools, and I was raised in the suburbs. I’ve heard the very words that have been tossed so carelessly in the direction of black athletes such as Donovan McNabb and RGIII, and it’s an unfortunate by-product of being fortunate.

So I certainly identify with Griffin. I too, am a third-generation Robert who wasn’t raised in poverty. Like Griffin, my father served in the military and raised his children to love and appreciate people of all races. When you’re raised that way, it increases the likelihood that you’ll marry someone of a different ethnic background. Just as my father did, and just as RGIII will (his fiancee is white).

That’s why I take it personally when small-minded people such as Parker (or his friends in the barbershop) intimate that a black man is a sellout when he marries outside of his race. That’s why it raises my blood pressure when a black man expressing a desire to be accepted for the content of his character and not the color of his skin is unjustly labeled an Uncle Tom.

Parker continued to make himself look stupid when he made the claim that Griffin’s hairstyle “makes him a brother.” As if that somehow compensates for whatever street cred Griffin may lack for not only going to college, but graduating early.

Allow me to answer the original question asked on First Take: Griffin’s take that he’s a man first, then a black man, is 100 percent correct. Race isn’t a mindset or a way of life. It’s your ethnic background. It should be a source of pride and something you identify with, but it shouldn’t define you. Just because much of society doesn’t see it that way, doesn’t mean RG3 can’t view life through a colorless lens.

Unfortunately, as long as there is ignorance, this debate will rage on. But my hope is that over time, there will be fewer Rob Parkers and more Rob Griffins.

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