The National Football League has a new scandal on its hands. This one involves the harassment of Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin by line mate Richie Incognito. The full nature and scope of this harassment isn’t clear, but apparently there is no dispute that, at a minimum, Incognito left Martin a voice mail calling him a “half ni____ piece of sh__” and threatening to inflict physical harm on the player and his mother.
Incognito is white; Martin (as the voice mail suggests) has one African-American parent. In other words, Martin is black under current reckoning.
Martin has abruptly left the team. The Dolphins have suspended Incognito. The NFL has hired a prominent New York attorney to investigate.
I’m going to limit my commentary to one sub-plot in this story. The Miami Herald reports that a number of the Dolphins’ black players have rallied behind Incognito, whom they consider an “Honorary Black Man”:
“Richie is honorary,” one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”
Incognito plays dirty. A few years ago, in a player poll, he was named the dirtiest player in the NFL. He is prone to fits of violence, both on and off the field.
Maybe it’s “because I’m not black,” but I have trouble understanding why blacks would make this guy an honorary brother? Incognito’s acceptance by black teammates probably shows he’s not a racist, whatever language he used in a voice mail. But why not leave any words of support for him at that?
As for Martin — a Stanford man from a well-to-do background — the locker room seems to view him as not authentically Black:
Whereas Incognito apparently was “an honorary black man,” the biracial Martin was not.
Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito.
Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered ‘soft’ by his teammates and that’s a reason he’s not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players. His background — Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people — was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself.
The notion of whites as honorary blacks and/or blacks as “inauthentic” will be familiar to those who keep up with cultural politics. Bill Clinton was said by some blacks to be our first black president. Conservative African-Americans such as Justice Thomas are sometimes said to be inauthentic blacks.
Thomas’ background, of course, bears no similarity to Jonathan Martin’s. He was raised by his grandfather in rural Georgia. Attacks on Thomas’ “authenticity” are driven solely by his unwillingness to adhere to the views the left expects Blacks to hold. This is true whenever such attacks are made in a political context.
Perhaps those who purport to discuss politics in a serious way will retire the concepts of “honorary” and “inauthentic” black, now that they have been invoked to defend the harassment by an actual white of an actual black. But don’t count on it.