Brothers Are Brothers, No Matter Where We Happen To Be

By Dr. Boyce Watkins
Updated: December 29, 2006

SYRACUSE— With the “ear boogar” deeply inserted, I stared at the camera, waiting to make another appearance on “Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith”, otherwise known as “The Black Man’s Oprah”.

I watch his show with goofy pride, enjoying the thrill of seeing a black man tell it like it is without having his professional testicles removed. Such is not the life of the rank and file black male, for any peep of “black maledness” will earn you a quick pink slip to match the pink panties you’ve been fitted for in whatever corporate job you’ve decided to take.

But not my homeboy Stephen A.; he gets to wear “the big drawz”, the pin-stripped boxers with the diamond-laced platinum pockets.

We were going to discuss “the fight” which occurred in Madison Square Garden between the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. Of course, black men are the target of the world’s curiosities, as the nation seemed determine to turn one incident into a pathology symbolic of some kind of aggregated failing of hip hop culture.

Personally, I thought it was just a fight, and a good one at that. Who knew that Nate Robinson could tackle so well? I am sure Carmelo has a good explanation for all that back peddling. At least I hope so.

It’s hard to talk about sports without talking about black men. According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, black males make up 62% of all college basketball players, even though they are only 13% of the male population.

It’s not uncommon to watch an NBA game and have 100% black males on the court. I find myself defending black men quite a bit lately, and it’s a pretty thankless job.

“Brothers” don’t exactly run up and give each other love. A quick head nod is the most you are likely to get, maybe a “keep it up bruh!” in an email. Earlier in the week, we were discussing black males on CNN in reference to the beef between Oprah and the rapper 50 Cent.

What some didn’t realize was that my NBA conversation on ESPN was really just a continuation of the conversation about the rappers. Oprah hates “Fiddy” for the same reason that David Stern can’t stand Allen Iverson.

My university hates me for the same reason that black men are incarcerated by the millions in our modern prison systems We all represent the black male bravado, brilliance, power and creativity that America imitates, agitates, anticipates and player-hates, all at the same time.

I’ve found there to be a cyclical interaction among the social universe of black males: The brother on the ball court is not entirely distinct from the one busting rhymes on stage, who is not disconnected from the guy who just got shot on the block.

What’s more, all of us are deeply connected to guys like myself, who sit in lily white universities, law firms and doctor’s offices speaking proper English. Many of us are friends, brothers, teammates and “homies”. Some of us try to escape and pretend to be something else, but at the end of the day, you are always reminded of who in the hell you are.

I have relatives calling to borrow money, the cousin, uncle and father in and out of jail, and the friends who want to become rappers, ballers, fathers, killers, crooks, surgeons or carpenters.

Black men are as extraordinary and dynamic as you can get, whether we are extraordinarily good or extraordinarily bad.

After the CNN appearance, I came home to the zillions of neck-swinging protest emails asking how I have the audacity to insult Oprah. I actually respect Oprah a lot, but I didn’t learn till later that it’s a crime to say she is not perfect.

Perhaps she should change her name to Pope-ra, since some people seem to think she has divine powers. I then read the “you’re a complete prick” emails I received after the discussion on Quite Frankly. Finally, there are the haterologists in my own university, who continue to pray for my sudden, violent and painful death.

I am used to those emails, I just put them in the delete box where they belong. But then, there was the one email saying “keep it up bruh” That is the email I read carefully, and that is the one that keeps me going.

When I support the guy in prison, the guy on the court, the guy on stage or the guy with no job, I am really supporting myself. We are all part of the collective, and in the collective, there is always love.