An Ohio State professor is straightening out his life.
As noted by Reason, Matthew Mayhew co-authored an article last week for Inside Higher Ed.
The topic: “Why America Needs College Football.”
Here’s what he thought he was saying about a game:
As college campuses attempt to find a new normal suitable for the COVID-19 realities, college athletics, especially college football, have garnered much attention. Debates continue about whether players should be required to play this fall season. Although many people have been outspoken about the financial and health ramifications of allowing—or requiring—players to gear up, few, if any, have addressed the essential role that college football may play toward healing a democracy made more fragile by disease, racial unrest and a contested presidential election cycle.
Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart.
As it turns out, his commentary was actually on race. And, in fact, it was racist.
Three fellow teachers told him so.
Therefore, on September 29th, he followed with “Why America Needs College Football — Part 2.”
It doesn’t. I was wrong. And even worse, I was uninformed, ignorant and harm inducing.
Matthew confessed he could have titled his initial piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.”
He’s since learned “that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property.”
He was placing a burden on oppressed people who are at severe risk of being murdered:
I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community.
In computing his fluke, Matthew confirmed the existence of structural racism. And he’s been a real jerk:
[I] have been dismissive of Black lives in moments not athletically celebrated. I have learned that I have taken pleasure in events that ask Black athletes to put their bodies on the line and take physical risks. I have been entertained by Black men who often are conditioned by society and structural racism in ways that lure them into athletics where the odds of making it are slim to none.
As for the degree to which his article “harmed communities of color,” he’s “just beginning to understand.” He’s got a lot of figuring to do as he finds his way through the fog of whiteness:
I am learning that my words — my uninformed, careless words — often express an ideology wrought in whiteness and privilege. I am learning that my commitment to diversity has been performative, ignoring the pain the Black community and other communities of color have endured in this country. I am learning that I am not as knowledgeable as I thought I was, not as antiracist as I thought I was, not as careful as I thought I was. For all of these, I sincerely apologize.
The teacher admitted “it’s not anyone’s job to forgive” him. Nevertheless, he’s asking for it — “another burden of a white person haunted by his ignorance.”
He’s really, really, really, really sorry:
To consider the possible hurt I have played a role in, the scores of others whose pain I didn’t fully see, aches inside me — a feeling different and deeper than the tears and emotions I’ve experienced being caught in an ignorant racist moment.
The obsequious tone of the groveling should be a red flag that there's something seriously awry with this mode of discussion https://t.co/lLRdoCPWhv
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) September 29, 2020
By saying football would be good, the guy injured everyone who’s not white:
To all communities of color and especially the Black community, I am sorry for causing pain by ignoring yours. I really hate the idea of hurting anyone. I hate that I have done this: if I had not ignored the pain of so many, this article would have never been written. I hate that my students have to carry my ignorant racist energy with them at all times. … I hate the fact that I have hurt my colleagues at Ohio State and the field of higher education, especially Black scholars whose careers have been spent studying Black lives. I am sorry for ignoring your scholarship. I hate that I have let down my Black friends and friends of color, whom I love.
The professor thanked those who pointed out his error, and he pledged himself to “antiracism.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, here’s CNN with three microaggressions one must overcome in the fight:
- “Don’t blame me. I never owned slaves.”
- “All lives matter.”
- “I’m colorblind; I don’t care if you’re white, black, yellow, green or purple.”
To hear Matthew tell it, sports are inherently evil:
To be clear, no one should ever put their bodies on the line for entertainment. To be clear, football — like COVID-19 — places Black bodies at disproportional risk.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy be more wrong — he wrote an entire article on how great something can be, and a week later insisted how terrible — almost, maybe, as awful as he.
I’ll give him one thing — he’s fantastic at repentance.
I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes.
For all of you wounded by Dr. Mayhew’s
love like positive characterization of football, hopefully, the scarring will be minimal.
But what now, of all the athletes he offended by dismissing the joy they provide?
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