Friday, November 7, 2008

The Perils of Facebook

Damn it all, The Common Man was all set to talk about pop culture today (in the form of a What You Should Have Been Watching), when two of his favorite other topics converged in the person of Buck Burnette, the former backup center for the University of Texas Longhorns. Now, football and politics are both good and manly topics. However, like pickled eggs and baby back ribs, the combination thereof only spells trouble in both the near and long term.

In this case, in the wake of Barack Obama's impressive victory on Tuesday night, Burnette changed his facebook status to "all the hunters gather up, we have a #$%&er in the whitehouse." Upon learning about it, UT coach Mack Brown immediately kicked Burnette off the team for a "violation of team rules." Given that Burnette has to practice against any number of premiere defensive linemen who are African-Americans, Brown's decision not only sends a strong message that hate and racism won't be tolerated by the Longhorns and protects Burnette's health.

Where someone gets the notion that this kind of vitriol is acceptable to think, let alone express, is beyond The Common Man. As if Barack Obama were not already a target of hate groups and nutjobs, this kind of idiocy only highlights that racist attitudes have been internalized and normalized in virtually every culture and subculture in the U.S. Every region and every walk of life. Fortunately, the public attention that Burnette's post has generated is an opportunity to highlight and combat these racist attitudes.

As for Burnette, he has been contrite. On his Facebook site, he wrote
"Clearly I have made a mistake and apologized for it and will pay for it. I received it as a text message from an acquaintance and immaturely put it up on facebook in the light of the election. Im not racist and apologize for offending you. I grew up on a ranch in a small town where that was a real thing and I need to grow up. I sincerely am sorry for being ignorant in thinking that it would be ok to write that publicly and apologize to you in particular. I have to be more mature than to put the reputation of my team at stake and to spread that kind of hate which I dont even believe in. Once again, I sincerely apologize."

While it's important to note that it's not just not ok to write it, it's not cool to think or believe that either, Burnette has done all in his power to make it clear he knows he was wrong. And it's entirely likely he grew up in an environment where these jokes were both accepted and prevalent. And given that he's 19 or 20 year old kid who thought a sick joke was funny, The Common Man doesn't want to pile onto his problems. Clearly, his punishment has been severe and he has been chastened. Hopefully, he will use the opportunity to interegate his own beliefs to better understand them, speak out against the kinds of statements he made, and use this time to focus on self-improvement.

Perhaps that is the best The Common Man can hope for at this point, meager though it seems. Racism has the power to ruin all of the lives it touches. Buck Burnette is learning that the hard way, but, on the bright side, he's learning.

Addendum: If Obama is smart (and by now, you know he is), here's what he'll do. He'll call Texas coach Mack Brown and ask the coach to reinstate Burnette after the season's over. After all, Burnette is more valuable in the fight against racism if he can remain active and in the public eye, and tell his story both to kids and the media. And Obama can earn easy points with UT fans. Not enough to win in Texas in '12, of course, but at this point, it's a move that costs him exactly nothing in political capital and would make him seem more acceptable to conservatives.


Kevin (ReturnToManliness) said...

Great post. Obama is the smartest guy in the room (in most cases). I like your idea for what Obama should do. It shows TCM understands both politics and football - a deadly combination!!!

Chris said...

Mr. Man, you had me at "pickled eggs and baby back ribs."

Honestly, I think that Obama The Man would like to respond to stuff like this. But Obama The President/Elect has more important things on his plate. If he takes the time it requires to respond to every poor schmo with a repertoire of racial slurs, then he won't have time to run the country, let alone eat, sleep, and breathe. It's damn depressing, but what can you do?

And as for Texas - the lone star state has made it clear where they stand about insulting the President, whether he be black, white, or whatever. They may not like Obama very much down there, but they'll die before they let a public figure who insults The President of the United States of America (and therefore America itself), go without punishment. Especially when said public figure posted that insult on the Internet for all the world to see. Even if Obama were to make that phone call, I doubt the Longhorns would take Burnette back. Texas and it's Longhorns have a rep to protect, after all.

Can I call you Mr. Man, by the way?

The Common Man said...

@ Kevin,

Good to see you back, Kevin. The Common Man hopes he won't ever have to blog about the combination ever again. It never ends well. But he thanks you for the compliment.

@ Chris

It's certainly true that Obama the Pres.-Elect should be focused on other things. After all, there's a hell of a lot of problems he's going to have to address. But Obama the Pres.-elect is also Obama the politician, and The Common Man can't imagine a smart politician missing an opportunity to score points when it would take him, max, 10 minutes on the phone.

As for Texas, The Common Man has a suspicion that who the president is matters a lot to those Texans who would hold a grudge. Anyway, The Common Man hopes that an entire state wouldn't take it upon itself to ruin the life of a dumb 20 year old for acting like a dumb 20 year old. Especially if that dumb 20 year old seemed anxious to rehabilitate himself.

Finally, The Common Man stands on no more formality than is absolutely necessary for someone who refers to himself solely in the 3rd person. TCM is fine, if you are not manly enough to take the time to write the whole thing out. Thanks for your post, The Common Man looks forward to hearing from you again.