Sunday, July 29, 2007

Michael Vick: Racism versus responsibility

July 29, 2007 02:43 PM

Posted by Kym Platt


Photoshoped image of Michael Vick attacked by a pitbull. Image by Futternut.

There’s been much controversy surrounding the case of Atlanta Falcons football player, Michael Vick and the allegations of animal cruelty that lead to his arrest. Police found all the makings of an illegal dogfighting setup on his rural Virginia estate.

–”The case began April 25 when investigators conducting a drug search at a massive home Vick built in rural Virginia found 66 dogs, including 55 pit bulls, and equipment typically used in dogfighting. They included a “rape stand” that holds aggressive dogs in place for mating and a “breakstick” used to pry open a dog’s mouth.”

Not surprisingly this story is tinged with racial overtones. The mostly white animal rights activists have called for the NFL to bench and fine Vick even before his trial has begun and Vick’s supporters, most of whom are Black, are claiming that this case has all the signs of smear campaign targeting a prominent Black athlete.

Michael Vick is a successful and wealthy young Black athlete and many in the Black community believe that because of his stature and fame and his Blackness, he is being made an example of and is suffering from overly harsh public censures that has lead to many of his endorsements being dropped. Nike, Reebok, and Donruss trading cards were among the first companies to drop their sponsorship of Vick and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to end there. Many believe that because of the severity and barbarity of the allegations leveled against Vick, the footballer will be essentially blacklisted.

Lots of articles are circling the Web with varying takes on whether Vick is being figuratively lynched in the public eye and the support of Vick is predominantly Black.

A Community Hug?

–”Not everyone is prepared to abandon Vick, however. About 90 people gathered at a community center Friday in his hometown of Newport News, Va., in a show of support for him. The event was billed as ‘A Community Hug for Michael Vick.’” “We’ve got a young man who has risen to great heights,” the Rev. Marcellus Harris, who helped organize the gathering, told the Newport News Daily Press. “If America can dump him, they can dump any one of us.”

–”But some black parents wonder whether Vick’s race has heightened negative attention.” “And for some African-American parents, the issue of race is as essential to a conversation about Vick as moral questions of right and wrong. At issue is not simply the indictment or the catalog of missteps the Atlanta Falcons star quarterback has accrued in the last six years. It is the belief among some that, as a black man with a staggering paycheck, notoriety, unique talent and personality, Vick has always been something of a target.”



This is not a matter of race or racial injustice. I, a person of African descent, cannot stand with those Black supporters of Vick and claim that this is unfair treatment based on the color of Vick’s skin. It’s a shame that many in the Black community are unable to look beyond their own history of racial injustice to see and understand that dogfighting is a tragic and inhumane activity that causes unbelievable pain and suffering and even death of innocent animals all for the amusement and financial profit of humans. Dogfighting is barbaric and an inability to see it as anything other than that is reflective of a community that has lost its sense of empathy, compassion, and humanity.

I hesitate to draw parallels between the exploitation of animals and the exploitation of Black people. For instance, I would never call the cattle industry, an industry that keeps captive and breeds cows solely for human consumption, slavery but it is similar; in that sentient beings are held against their will and used for economic profit.

The debate isn’t whether or not successful Black public figures are targets for racial injustice in this country. Historically, that has been proved true, but that doesn’t mean that Michael Vick, or others like him, get to act with impunity harming animals or people for financial gain or entertainment. This kind of carelessness and total disregard for living creatures is pathological. At what point do we in the Black community say enough is enough? Historical suffering and racial oppression of Black people does not mean that we can behave in inhumane ways. Racism is no excuse.




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