This terrific piece by Miriti Murungi. Mirungi’s day job is allegedly to make people laugh their way through Arsenal games on Twitter.
It’s no secret that so many incidents that happen to individuals in the African-American community are often magnified and reflected as emblematic of blackness. Specific criminal acts are always tied into half-assed, out-of-context statistical analyses of crime in the black community. Educational struggles often reflexively become an indictment of “broken” black homes and families. For so long, rap music, despite other art forms also having sub-genres glorifying violence, misogyny, drugs, and material acquisitions, has been inextricably tied to irresponsibility and destructiveness endemic in “black culture.” Within this web of reflexive, lazy association, it’s hard to find the time and space to be an individual without black being attached as the primary identifier associated with behavior.
And a conundrum awaits those fortunate enough to escape the nebulous, systemic, failure narrative attributed to blackness. “Making it” suddenly makes you a de facto spokesperson for “your people,” an example of how the “good ones” behave. And that’s true whether you want the job or not.
As it turns out, regardless of your standing in life, so often, blackness still trumps humanness; it becomes inescapable, even when you turn off the lights and are left with a subconscious pre-programmed with skeptical, undercutting voices from outside that seem to have been played on heavy rotation on every device capable of making noise, as far back as the mind remembers.
This reality frequently sparks reactions that, by now, are all too familiar to those with even a remedial understanding of the burden of blackness in America:
“Why does what I do have to reflect on all my people?”
“Why does what they do automatically implicate me?”
“Why does everything I do have to involve a discussion about the greater good?”
“Why can’t I be an individual?
“Why do I …”
“Why can’t you …”
These themes, which are a very real part of African-American life, echoed in my head, hitting a series of familiar notes, as I was monitoring Clint Dempsey’s return to Major League Soccer.
Yes, I know. My brain making the connection was initially uncomfortable for me, too. But bear with me for a moment.
Without question, Dempsey’s acquisition by the Seattle Sounders is the highest-profile acquisition (or re-acquisition) of an American in MLS history. The deal, reported to be approximately $32 million over four years, which doesn’t include an MLS-record breaking $9 million transfer fee to Tottenham, makes that point crystal clear, even if you want to adjust for inflation … twice. Dempsey has made it in America. And now, every conversation that follows him inevitably involves a comment, if not a full-fledged debate, about the merits of his decision. It’s a conversation that American soccer fans know too well.