April 14, 2007

What the basketball team wore and what the lacrosse team wore.

Robin Givhan writes about what the Rutgers basketball team wore to receive their apology from Don Imus: matching red and black warm-ups. What did it mean to dress like this?
The young women had been insulted as a team and they would respond as such. No player, not even the white members of the team, or Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer, tried to delineate herself as an individual -- to perhaps separate herself from Imus's disparaging remarks that reached a nadir when he declared the team members "nappy-headed ho's."
What Givhan doesn't quite say is that if they had dressed individually, people would have talked about their choices. Think of all the potential problems. A lot of current fashions are criticized as looking like something a prostitute would wear. But if they were to plan carefully and avoid the kind of clothes that could be characterized that way, it would be hard to avoid things that would be talked about as unfeminine. The sexist remarks made by Imus and company had portrayed the women as both too sexual and not feminine enough. How can you dress to be seen on camera by millions of people and not feel that you will seem to exemplify the remarks you want negated? You'd have to bring in brilliant stylists and buy new clothes all around. And then people would talk about that.
A few of the young women wore earrings. Others had on a bit of lip gloss. And while they wore their hair in a variety of styles from buns to bobs, none of it appeared to be nappy. (And if it was, so what? Nappy should not be mistaken for unkempt. )
Yes, this needs to be said! The effort to condemn Imus has created an unfortunate inference. Take a moment to visualize black women with beautiful naturally curly hair. It's not something to deny.

Givhan goes on to discuss the way the warm-up suits made the women look "like kids." The baggy clothes, she writes, hid "their athletic physiques" and made them look vulnerable. Interesting. In a way, the whole controversy has eclipsed their strength. We've been hearing about how hurt they are by the old man's stupid babbling. There was another path that could have been taken, the one where you ignore the old clod and treat him as an archaic irrelevancy. But somebody -- were these women the ones who called the shots? -- decided to play it as an attack on Imus, and that demanded that they present themselves as more fragile than strong.
They appeared smaller than one might expect of such successful athletes. They looked like kids, and they seemed vulnerable, like a chain of fold-and-cut paper dolls. They only needed to hold hands to complete the image.
Givhan contrasts the Rutgers team to the Duke lacrosse team, which just happened to step back into the limelight simultaneously, as the criminal charges against them were dropped. For their press conference, they wore jackets and ties:
David Evans's suit was a gray pinstripe and he wore it with a geranium-colored paisley tie. Collin Finnerty was wearing a navy blazer with chinos and a preppy striped tie. Reade Seligmann wore a blue button-down shirt with his suit and tie.
They didn't, of course, dress identically. (Not like these guys.)

Givhan notes that when the rape charges against the lacrosse team members were made, people judged them harshly because they were seen as "white, privileged and entitled." And now, appearing before the press to accept the public acknowledgment of their innocence, they wore the clothes of the "white, privileged and entitled." Evans made a point of talking about his privilege: he had the money to hire lawyers he needed to fight the injustice, and what about those who do not?
Privilege had helped him to claim a victory. He wasn't trying to hide it, pretending as if it didn't exist or apologizing for it. Only making the reasonable observation that everyone should be lucky enough to have it on their side.
Gracious of him to take that route. Yet it must be said: he had legal advice! On his own, he might have wanted to attack people for thinking ill of him out of prejudice against white, privileged guys. It was much better to show concern for the less fortunate. His statement processes the experience exactly the way prospective law students write their personal statements on admissions applications!

But yes, these are young people who deserve our good thoughts. As the WaPo headlines the Givhan piece: "In the Eye of a Storm, Beacons of Composure Rutgers, Duke Students Acquit Themselves Well." My personal stylists and legal counsel advise me that I should take that tack. But, hell, I'm blogging here. Life is more complex than that. Nevertheless, I wish all these young people well. And if they end up in law school -- I bet some of them will -- I hope they come to my school.

25 comments:

Richard Fagin said...

Law school? Good grief! No thoughtful, intelligent young person deserves that kind of prison sentence! It was hard enough on a crude, closed-minded 40 year old trying to hold down a full time job.

Actually, for the Duke lacrosse boys, law school would be a snap. After facing down a very long prison term, they'll well understand there are far, far worse things in this world that getting called on in contracts class.

Omaha1 said...

Perhaps we can connect the "Imus" and "breastgate" themes with this story, by making the point that one's selection of clothing really does send a message. Dress and comportment can help to refute or reinforce your position.

Paul Zrimsek said...

If you're really determined to make a Breastgate tie-in, you could also point out that Feministing continues to be a citadel of nonsense.

igbalonigbanlo said...

On the 'nappy hair' issue, I've found that there are not too many black people in this country that are comfortable with their natural hair, hence the "good hair" (referring to straight hair or any progression towards caucasian-like hair) comments one is wont to hear among these folks. I might be wrong but that to me sounds like an inferiority complex issue to me. Is it solely a holdover from the past or is there some other factor at play here?

Omaha1 said...

igbalonigbanlo, maybe they are just like most other women and want to look different than they do naturally. There's a reason we spend millions every year on expensive cosmetics and hair care products, and it's not a race thing.

Ann Althouse said...

Personally, I love curly hair. For example, I loved the way American Idol contestant Nadia Turner looked, especially her fabulous hair.

Freder Frederson said...

What Givhan doesn't quite say is that if they had dressed individually, people would have talked about their choices.

Because that is obviously not what she meant. They dressed in their team warmups because they were insulted as a team and obviously chose to appear together as a team. Uniforms show singularity of purpose and kinship. That was the image they wanted to relay.

igbalonigbanlo said...

omaha1: you're probably right.

Ann: Nadia's hair looks like it must take a lot to maintain. It looks pretty cool though.

PatCA said...

"...people judged them harshly because they were seen as 'white, privileged and entitled.'"

I just want to talk about the words "privileged" and "entitled," which we hear so sneeringly invoked in race talk by everyone from the NYT or Al Sharpton.

To my knowledge, the parents of the Duke players all worked, which means that they earned their money. Nobody gave it to them because they were white or because their daddies were slave owners. They paid, and paid dearly, for their legal representation. Their lawyers fought hard and moved the case towards a stunning reversal--against the tide of everyday and elite opinion alike that held the players were entitled to nothing less than decades in prison.

So, the next writer to use that phrase should get fired. Let's end racial sneering across the board.

Omaha1 said...

Freder, what if they had worn tight, low-rise jeans and revealing tops? Wouldn't that give some creeps an opening to accuse them of looking like "ho's"? Although I personally could care less what these women wear, I think that they put some thought into their choice of attire and helped to refute Imus' insults.

The matching warm-up suits convey their solidarity as a team, and also de-emphasize their figures, both of which send an appropriate message for this very public appearance.

Ann Althouse said...

Freder Frederson: "Because that is obviously not what she meant..."

Freder, the reason I felt I had to give some credit to Givhan for an insight that I would have happily claimed as all my own is her phrase "to perhaps separate herself from Imus's disparaging remarks."

Maxine Weiss said...

"Naturally curly hair"---Althouse

No, it's not natural. Black hair must be straightened with a blow-dryer, or relaxer, and then re-curled with an iron.

Also, what is so difficult about going to K-Mart and getting some Jaclyn Smith silk blouses, gabardine slacks, and a good pair of hose? You don't need a stylist for that.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

"White, privileged, and entitled"

Whites aren't the only ones who dress like that:

http://www.laweekly.com/general/features/mexican-american-princes-mas-suave/16094/

Peace, Maxine

Omaha1 said...

Maxine, K-Mart clothes fall apart to quickly during the rigors of laundering. Better to shop for good brands and classic styles at the Goodwill or Salvation Army stores.

Omaha1 said...

I meant "too" quickly of course.

vet66 said...

I wonder what rap artists are on their I-Pods? Or should I say 'were on their I-pods?"

Meade said...

Paul Zrimsek said...
If you're really determined to make a Breastgate tie-in, you could also point out that Feministing continues to be a citadel of nonsense.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/93947321@N00/355462436/in/photostream/

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Curly hair requires a lot of care. It's not very far from this to this.

Revenant said...

There was another path that could have been taken, the one where you ignore the old clod and treat him as an archaic irrelevancy.

Yeah, that's the path they should have taken, in my opinion. This whole "meeting to apologize in person" thing is being done to help HIM, not the players. Why should they take time out of their lives to meet with some asshole just so he can rehabilitate his career?

TKM said...

Both teams dressed for the success they were seeking, and it worked. In the case of the Rutgers team, this is sad.

Invisible Man said...

To my knowledge, the parents of the Duke players all worked, which means that they earned their money. Nobody gave it to them because they were white or because their daddies were slave owners. They paid, and paid dearly, for their legal representation. Their lawyers fought hard and moved the case towards a stunning reversal--against the tide of everyday and elite opinion alike that held the players were entitled to nothing less than decades in prison.

So, the next writer to use that phrase should get fired. Let's end racial sneering across the board.


It's kind of hypocritical to condemn racial sneering when you put a topic like slavery in your statement despite the fact that it has nothing at all to do with the issue.

Donald Trump isn't a slave owner and he works to, so his kids aren't privileged?

PatCA said...

Why is it hypocritical to mention slavery? Isn't that implied in the allegations of "white privilege"? Or was slavery not based on race?

And, yes, Trump's kids are not white-privileged, as they and their father work, even tho the Donald inherited money that his father legally earned.

"White privilege" implies privilege based on race. It's quite sloppy and mean-spirited thinking to define it, as you seem to be doing, as living well or being able to send your kids to good colleges, even with money you worked hard for.

TMink said...

The basketball team was insulted, the lacrosse players were the victims of an attempted lynching.

Trey

Bruce Hayden said...

I do think that the Duk LAX players were privileged. Likely no more so than many of us here, but still privileged. I agree completely with Evans' point that because of that privilege, he is not facing jail on trumped up charges. My worry, like his I think, is of all those who don't have that, and do end up serving time for crimes they didn't commit.

I think his conclusions there showed a lot of maturity. He doesn't seem to be looking at it that he deserved to get off because of his advantages in life, but rather, he was lucky to have such advantages, and was therefore lucky to have been exonerated.

Bob R said...

It seems obvious to me that the Rutgers team wore the warm ups to cover their tattoos. The ink was Imus' main point of attack. Since the team didn't provoke this in any way, it is not fair to challenge them. But I'm kind of curious how steeped in the hip hop culture they are.

I watched a chunk of the game with Tennessee and the end of their Duke game, and the hip hop / tattoo connection never occurred to me. Of course, there's no question that the Tennessee team has some really good looking women on it while the Rutgers girls look like, well, power forwards. Perhaps that's another aspect of wearing the warmups. Emphasizing their role as basketball players. Rejecting the role of beauty pagent contestant.