I Cheered for Floyd Mayweather Because We're Both Black Men and I Regret It
And it's deeper than just skin color. It's also the systems that make that an issue.
Art by Noel Ransome
When O.J. Simpson was declared innocent on October 3, 1995, I experienced my first "in yo face" moment, as many black folks did that day. All that hoopla over matching gloves, witness testimonies, and fiber/blood evidence didn't really matter—what really mattered was that this "black man," this ex-football player, pissed off the nation of the "white and privileged," and somehow, he got away with it.
The whole thing was inconceivable in light of the standard courts that shitted on the black and the accused for centuries. His actual guilt in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her boyfriend, Ronald Goldman, became a lesser concern than that triumph, especially over a white-favoring justice system in the aftermath of the Rodney King beating and the LA riots.
In retrospect, you can't be proud of the way some black people like myself—*i.e. especially men*—reacted to the verdict; but you also can't blame them. You can't blame me. We were only guilty of being human in our thirst for a poetic justice that felt deserved.
Fast-forward to a few days ago to the "Fight/Farce of the Century." Two equally arguably pompous, arguably arrogant, arguably douchey men entered the ring. You had Floyd Mayweather in one corner, a convicted serial domestic abuser, and in the other, Conor McGregor who was criticized for racist comments leading up to the fight, knowingly using that kind of language so promoters would benefit. Picking a favorite between these two is like choosing between a roach and rat. You'd rather both go away, but you are going to side with the lesser pest. So I chose Mayweather because he was black. Not because he was some great athlete, which is the argument that some white journalists hid behind.
It's something that needs to be admitted, and I can already hear the hanging question: How are you different from the racist with your bias? Well, hopefully, it's understood that true racism requires a power that can turn a racial animus into someone else's oppression, removing someone from the benefit of equality. So throw that bullshit angle out. If anything, I'll call it tribalism. I'm pro-black as fuck, anti-racist to the max; and anything that falls on the latter end—surrounding tensions included, (Charlottesville, KKK dudes, shitty people in the office)—can hit any black guy like me with a blind spot.
My perspective skewed not only by my skin color, but by the fact that I'm a man, and lack the personal experiences of physical abuse. Those eyes of inexperience make it easy to forget about Mayweather's seven alleged assault incidents, four of which resulted in convictions, including one involving Josie Harris, the mother of three of his children. Or the fact that his oldest son, Koraun Mayweather, once called the authorities on him and left behind a haunting affidavit detailing an attack on his mom. We can also overlook the reality that Mayweather has never shown real remorse or admittance despite being found guilty in the case of Harris. Instead, I, as a black man, found it easy to justify rooting for someone of this character because he had some imagined ego amping significance—a knock against "the man." The greatest boxer of our time, Floyd Mayweather, vs. some part-time racist in Conor McGregor, who seemingly symbolized all the shitty KKK, "many sides" president, tiki-torching bullshit that's been happening over the past few weeks and months.
I've made justifications with O.J., despite his horrible, not so "black and proud" past, and that's on me. Black women, on the other hand, have spent years warning us about these characters as we continued to defend Bill Cosby and his rape allegations, or Michael Jackson and the sexual abuse claims, and R. Kelly and his alleged sex crimes. The stories of these men suddenly become entangled with the tales of our own relationships with white supremacy, our relationships with the system, and our relationships with old status quos that punishes black men significantly more. In the end, some of us will hang on for dear life, refusing to let another person tell us who to believe in. Instead, opting to use the victories of the reprehensible as a middle finger to prior injustices.
At these moments, the last thing we want to read is an op-ed by someone who doesn't understand the fragility that it is to be black—the constant need to elevate those with our likeness beyond the racial barriers that pollute that image. My own mistaken reasons for rooting for Mayweather on Saturday go beyond an article about great athletes getting a pass. When I tweeted "FINISH HIM," and retweeted the memes, I just simply forgot. In my never-ending push to "beat racism" figuratively from the point of view of a black man, I've accidentally grown to settle for a potentially shitty character.
I don't win shit in this way. None of us ever have. We may piss a bunch of white folks off with a Mayweather win or an O.J. Simpson acquittal, but a win is fleeting if it means that our praises sanction disgusting behaviors. It's dumb as hell, especially when we have so many other great black people and athletes who we can look up to. No more supporting trash for the sake of sticking it to you-know-who. They do plenty alright these days of sticking it up themselves.
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