ESPN's Jalen Rose's Racial Comments Honest, but Offensive and Divisive

Greg StarddardContributor IIIMarch 19, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 15:  NFL player Terrell Owens (L) and former NBA player Jalen Rose arrive at the 2009 ESPY Awards held at Nokia Theatre LA Live on July 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The 17th annual ESPYs will air on Sunday, July 19 at 9PM ET on ESPN.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for ESPY)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Jalen Rose knew his comments would hurt people, but he may have underestimated the gravity of the words he spewed on national television last week during ESPN's "Fab Five" special. In fact, if I never hear the words "Uncle Tom" again in my lifetime, that would be just fine with me.

Those words are just like a handful of other unfortunate words in our vocabulary that spark anger, controversy, and images from a time in history none of us in the United States are happy about. Rose knows this, and he should have been mature enough to choose his words more carefully. ESPN also knows this, and should have been more diligent in its editing process before the program aired.  And yes, Grant Hill knows this as well since he was the intentional or unintentional target of this racial slur.

I don't know Grant Hill. Never met him. But I used to live in the Reston Virginia area where he starred at South Lakes High School as an All-American Basketball player and where his family still resides. I still get my hair cut by the same barber in Northern Virginia, outside of Washington D.C., who cut Grant's hair during his high school days and when he attended Duke. I've played basketball with one of Grant's high school teammates. 

I don't know Grant Hill, but I like everything he stands for. I admire his professionalism and the way he has carried himself in life. I don't, however, subscribe to Jalen's theory that Grant should be criticized racially because of where and how he grew up.

For Jalen to suggest Grant and other African-Amercian Basketball players are somehow less than deserving of their heritage and ethnicity is ludicrous and downright stupid. It's offensive. It's demeaning. It's cruel. It's divisive. It's inaccurate and a few other things the editors at wouldn't allow me to say. Jalen has since come out and said that's just how he felt at the time, and now he appreciates what Grant and Duke University Basketball stand for.

It seems Rose believes black ballers at Duke are trying to be white ballers and that's why they accepted scholarships at Duke. Jalen, you attended one of the finest academic institutions in the country. Did you not learn anything in the classroom at Michigan?

I'm not mad at Grant because he grew up in a stable household with two parents. I'm not less than impressed with Grant because his mom went to school with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.  I'm not throwing darts at Grant's picture because his dad was an outstanding NFL running back. Grant came from a a family with a solid foundation emotionally, financially, and intellectually.

Good for him.

I hope one day all African-American kids, and for that matter, all children, are fortunate enough to come from similar backgrounds. We can't punish people because they grew up with money and you didn't.

I played high school basketball at a predominantly white catholic high school in Cincinnati Ohio. A lot of my teammates and classmates were bussed in from the suburbs to our high school, which was located in an unincorporated area of the city. Some of these kids came from wealth. Most of these kids came from two-parent households. Mom and Dad were breaking bread with them at the dinner table every night.

I was raised by a single parent, but my mom had a lot of help from my grandmother and grandfather. We weren't rich, and we were far from poor. But I didn't look at my teammates from the burbs any differently from the kids I balled with in the inner city. It didn't matter. My classmates from the burb's didn't look at me any differently because I was only one of seven African-American's in our senior graduating class.

We were all the same, regardless of where we lived.

Jalen's comments were misguided and stereotyped every black kid who goes to a school where his ethnic group is under-represented. Jalen has all but admitted he had a tough childhood. His father wasn't around. His mother worked tirelessly to support her kids and put food on the table. He had it rough. His upbringing wasn't easy and less than  ideal according to the American Dream of apple pie and hot dogs. 

I get it. I understand it. I didn't live it, but I feel him. However, that doesn't give him the right to trash other ballers.

It's rough out there, and has been for a very, very long time in the inner cities across this country. But we never hear about the success stories that come out of neighborhoods similar to the one where Jalen grew up. Every day there are African American children who beat the odds in challenging environments.

In fact, Jalen is one of them. 

Kids who get good test scores, play ball, hang out with their friends, and go on to college or into the working profession. It isn't the picture local or national TV news wants to show you on a nightly basis, but that's another debate.

People like Grant Hill are American success stories, no matter where they grew up or the car they drove in high school. Just because your upbringing is different from your peers, doesn't make you any less of a person than the next guy. 

And the days of slinging slurs are over. No one wants to hear it. And it doesn't matter that you've finally decided that using words like "Uncle Tom" show your immaturity and lack of sensitivity.