The Richie Incognito – Jonathan Martin Saga and the Problem w/ Honorary Blackmen

Updated: November 14, 2013

by Davey D

This drama on the Miami Dolphins with players Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin raises a number of questions that go way beyond so-called locker room culture where folks talk greasy to one another which in theory is supposed to lead to the creation of some sort of special bond…There’s an interesting article folks may wanna check out that raises the question about self-defense and Black manhood and how that ultimately gets defined… In short if you ain’t willing to go out like a soldier (translation: get your ass kicked or get hurt or even killed trying) ,you are not a man…

Screen-Shot-2013-11-12-at-9_15_00-AM-300x297The article struck me because I recall being in Boston several years ago for an anti-violence conference.. There had been a rash of shootings amongst young kids 12, 13 and 14.. During one of the workshops we were talking about conflict resolution and how its important to sometimes walk away from confrontations..

During the role play, we had a young man who was over 6 tall act ‘confrontational’.

During the exchange we showed ways to walk away and de-escalate the situation.. As we talk to the students.. it was amazing hearing how many of them perceived walking away as a ‘punk’ and ‘bitch ass’ move’. What was most telling were many of the young girls, some as young as 12 who repeatedly said a real man doesn’t back down and walk away from a fight..

When it was pointed out that perhaps walking away would save his life and stop another person from being shot many of responses were along the lines of  ‘then one just has to die, you can’t be going out like no punk‘..

The 6 foot young man who was only 13, later revealed that he always feels scared and pressured to fight no matter what and was growing wary of carrying that burden.

At the time I thought of the type posturing those young kids along with the rest of us adults, were exposed to when we would see than President Bush along with sitting law makers state in more ‘flowery’ and ‘professional’ tones, how the USA can’t and should not stand down for no one.

To stand down would be a sign of weakness. Those who called for peace were deemed ‘unPatriotic‘, ‘too idealistic’ and ‘not up to snuff’.  It’s with that experience I read this excellent article by Professor Lumoore that addresses this crucial issue of Black manhood and self defense:  Here’s an excerpt;

Within the Dolphin locker room, it seems as if many teammates viewed the Stanford-educated Martin as Carlton Banks and thought because of his middle-class background he wasn’t a real black man and needed to be toughened up. This situation goes beyond petty classism, however; it also highlights a question about black masculinity and self-defense.

To be clear, I am not supporting his critics’ actions, but it is important to try and understand where black criticism of Martin is coming from. Incognito threatened to “s***” in Martin’s mouth, slap his mother, and kill Martin. [Note: some teammates say this was a joke.] In a number of black players’ summation, a real man would have stood up to the racist bully and confronted Incognito like a man.

As Jackie Robinson once said, “The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity.”

While players’ disdain of Incognito reeks of jock culture, it is also clear that Martin’s black critics are operating from a perspective that has historically linked self-defense to black manhood.

We see this connection in the words of Frederick Douglass when he remembered his fight with the overseer Covey: “This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood.”

The other thing that came to mind is this ‘permission’ giving by Black folks to white folks to use the N word and this bestowing of honorary blackness on someone bc they dance well, know the slang or live in the hood.. I recall Notorious BIG telling non Black deejays at my old radio station not to trip about using the N word, that it was a hood word. He apparently saw the non black deejays as hood folks, not regular white folks.. I recall Busta Rhymes being on a TV show saying the N word was not a big deal, signaling to Non Blacks they could use it..

I always found it problematic when folks adorned this honorary black status for things like nightclubbing and hip hop concerts, but then would shed it during times of struggle, extreme oppression and systemic economic hardship… In short its cool to be Black for fun, but not so cool when shyt is hitting the fan..

Richie Incognito aka Honorary Blackman

Richie Incognito aka Honorary Blackman

In the case of Richie Incognito one might ask what’s his stance and contribution to ending voter suppression targeting blacks?  Since he lives in Florida where did he stand on that Trayvon Martin situation? Was he wearing a hoodie along side all those protesting demanding stand your ground laws be repealed or was he suddenly not Black? Was he at the state capitol supporting  groups like the Dream Defenders who sat in the Governor’s office, risking arrest demanding justice around the Trayvon case and a hearing for Stand Your Ground Laws?

Heck actor Harry Belafonte at 84 years old boarded a plane from New York and came down to show support to the Dream Defenders. Did Richie ‘Honorary Blackman‘ Incognito maybe send in a few dollars out the millions he makes to support the cause or was he being Black in the Jay Z sense where he figures his mere presence is enough?

Where does Richie Incognito stand on issues like Stop and Frisk? How does he feel about Black people being shot and killed every 28 hours by law enforcement? How does he feel about one out of 4 Black women living in poverty? We could go on and on..Bottom line if you gonna be Black be Black full time..As for the Black teammates calling him an honorary Black, perhaps they should listen to Malcolm X‘s Message to the Grassroots which was given 50 years ago this week and sadly still applies..

Former NFL great and current sports commentator Shannon Sharpe summed it up perfectly

Davey D is a journalist and Hip Hop activist who is originally from the Bronx and now lives in Oakland where he does a daily radio show –Hard Knock Radio heard on KPFA 94.1 FM and writes a column for the San Jose Mercury news.  Davey D also teaches a class on Hip Hop culture and politics at SF State. He maintains the website Davey D’ Hip Hop Corner which is one of the oldest and largest Hip Hop websites.Reach Davey D at

One Comment

  1. JBBizzle

    November 15, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    That was beautiful was Shannon Sharpe said. We as black people are like an abused spouse/girlfriend when it pertains to white people, “I know he beats me and treats me badly but I still love them.” It’s sad but true and we have gotten weaker mentally and physically also.

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