When you and I watch the Olympics, there's three colors we care about: red, white, and blue.
But for liberal sportswriters like the Washington Post's Mike Wise, well, all they can see is skin tone, and they won't let the games pass without moaning about it. Beating the daylights of his hobby horse, Wise began his Feb. 13 column -- mercifully buried on page D7 -- by highlighting perhaps the best-known African-American athlete in Sochi, speedskater Shani Davis and by making lame cracks about the whiteness of the Games:
SOCHI, Russia — COLUMN | Don’t listen to your friends back home saying the Winter Olympics are just for white people who like the cold and vacation in Aspen. This is the most inclusive Winter Games ever. Why, there are Caucasians here from almost 88 different nations.
Actually, I will be here the next 10 days. And in that time, I will encounter no more than a dozen people of African American descent. They are the same ones I see over and over.
Speedskater Shani Davis, Lolo Jones and the U.S. women’s bobsled team, NBC correspondent Lewis Johnson and about three other black journalists, one of whom I sang backup for in a Salt-N-Pepa karaoke gig at the media dorm at 3 a.m. the other night. (I was Salt.)
Maybe it’s because I lived in the District for eight years. Maybe it’s because I spent my formative years in a real melting pot: rural Oahu, Hawaii, where diversity in ethnicity and culture are part of island life. Maybe I’m just used to seeing and feeling comfortable being around a variety of people, many of whom don’t look like me.
Whatever, this place is whiter than an episode of “Downton Abbey.”
Lawrence Murray, an intern for the U.S. Olympic Committee finishing up his masters in journalism at Southern California, ran into a fellow African American colleague the other day.
“He stopped me,” Murray said, referring to an instant level of kinship based on complexion. “He was like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ He’s the only one I’ve seen or talked to.”
When Murray got off the plane in Sochi, Russian police approached, which has to be every foreigner’s nightmare. Except . . .
“They wanted to take a picture of me,” Murray said. “First, one guy would take a picture. Then his friend wanted one, then another guy. That was my welcome to Sochi. My travel partner said, ‘They probably think you look like Shani Davis.’ ”
Now, you are reading this and thinking one of two things: What’s with the white guilt, son? Or, What does race have to do with the greatest athletes in the world competing in their chosen disciplines, most of which just happen to be contested against other Caucasians?
Look, I don’t care about the color of the competitors. And I don’t think the paucity of black or Hispanic athletes should cheapen any gold medal, as if somehow this were a cold-war Olympics that didn’t include some of the greatest sporting nations.
The fact is, despite Vonetta Flowers becoming the first black person to become a Winter Olympic gold medalist as a bobsledder in 2002, despite Davis becoming the first male African American to win individual gold in 2006, there hasn’t been a whole lot of carryover.
Like golf waiting forever for the Tiger Woods Factor to kick in, the USOC and other nations are still waiting for that next wave of racial diversity in the Winter Games.
I do wonder what an athlete like Davis thinks when he shows up at the Games. It’s one thing to understand your chosen sport has international competitions in Norway and the Netherlands and that almost all of your competitors will be white. It’s another thing to show up on the world stage and see that hardly anyone in any sport looks like you.
But speaking from a purely egalitarian view, it would be nice to see a country like the United States have its Winter Olympic team someday more accurately represent the diversity of its population — if only because more people would care, watch, read and give someone such as Shani Davis the attention and love he and his sport deserve.
Otherwise, these Games are going to continue to resemble the inside of a giant snow globe, forever powdery white.
Wow, I hope Wise didn't break his arm patting himself on the back so furiously!
I did not excerpt this portion, but Wise did talk with Davis, who, of course, did not seem to share the patronizing columnist's obsession with skin tone.
But ultimately, this isn't really about what Davis or Jones or any other "minority" American athlete thinks. It's an excuse for a race-obsessed white liberal journalist to vent his racial obsessions and clothe them in a veil of concern about opening up historically "white" sports to a more diverse athletic base, ostensibly because black and Hispanic kids need to see black and Hispanic athletes to be inspired to lace up their skates and hit the ice.
Not only is that a patronizing view of Shani Davis, it's a condescending view of American kids of every color and socioeconomic condition. Wise should be ashamed of himself, but something tells me his pabulum is greeted with an amen chorus by other white liberal sports columnists in the mainstream media echo chamber.
P.S.: As my colleague Tim Graham pointed out to me today, if Wise is really so concerned with diversity, he should look no further than the Post's sports desk, where Jason Reid is the Shani Davis of the bunch.