The first published comment attributed to Danny Ferry seemed to me a tasteless and mean-spirited attack against Luol Deng. But, today, I read Ferry's entire comment describing Deng as someone who "has a little African in him (sic) "He's like a guy who would have a nice store out front and sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back."
As an NBA player (retired) who traveled extensively in North and West Africa and made tons of wonderful African friends, I was horrified. This was no longer a slam against Deng the person, but against Deng, the African and, by not so subtle implication, all Africans and all descendants of people from Africa.
I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject of racial prejudice, but my experience over my adult years leads me to believe that once one is prejudice against a race, it is damn hard to nearly impossible to rid oneself of the prejudice (This may or may not be true of all types of prejudice against religions, women, gays). Certainly, Ferry's prejudice will not disappear after a couple of months of "personal healing" as Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koomin suggests.
Not only is Danny Ferry's prejudice disgusting, it is also steeped in ignorance of Africa and the African people The continent of Africa is divided into many countries that are made up of many races. Of the races that are Negroid, there are hundreds of different tribes exhibiting hugely different cultural and social constructs. I am sure there are a great number of psychological factors that create a racially prejudiced person, but Ferry's ignorance of Africa is proof that stupidity is one of those factors.
I wonder how all my African-American friends and fellow NBA players feel about Ferry's comment, for surely they all have "a little bit of African in them." Just as all my Irish-American friends have a little bit of Irish in them, and being a Russian-American, I have a little bit of Russians (not to mention Tatar) in me.
Danny, you need to take a couple of years off, not a couple of months off, and go live in Africa among people whose live are no less worthy than your own.
I know one thing for certain, if I was a black player for the Atlanta Hawks I would not trust Danny Ferry or any person he hired. And based on CEO Koonin's slap on the wrist discipline of Ferry (long process of healing, my buttinski) I would not trust him either.
Bottom line: there is no room for prejudice in the NBA.
Speaking of Africa, here's a poem from my recent collection: Sweat: New and Selected Poems About Sports.
In the Summer of 1963, 64, and 65 working for the United States Information Agency, I traveled to a number of West African Countries to coach their basketball teams. I returned in the fall and winter of 1983.
For Enid Buchanan
I remember thinking back that this was country
of hot dog stands and transistor radios playing
rock and roll, and that the palm trees must have been
imported from Los Angeles, and the tin roofs
were like umbrellas over a beach of slums,
with open sewers, and the streetlights in Monrovia
worked only if the spirit moved them and evil spirits
were at work to make the poor poorer and the rich richer
But, what the hell, I was young and in love
in this land of poverty with one of the rich girls,
with a beautiful set-shot, who played on the Women's
National Basketball Team. Her house was like the one
in the movie Mogambo, white pillars, wrap-around
veranda. Her father was the Secretary of the Treasury.
Much later, back in the States, already retired
from the NBA, I read that her father had been shot
along with others by Sergeant Doe and his gang.
I refused to believe she too had been shot,
so I told myself that she'd escaped and was living
in Switzerland on the money her father had embezzled
from his poor country and that she was still beautiful.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.