P.K. Subban may or may not be left off of Team Canada’s Olympic hockey roster for specious, play-related reasons. He also happens to be an outspoken, trash-talking, and allegedly immature black player in a league made up predominantly of white players and white front office personnel. I tweeted:
Obviously PK Subban is too (code word for black) for Canada’s Olympic hockey team.
And followed that with:
That’s a comment on that particular subset of fans, not on institutional racism.
I trust the NHL to not be systemically or subconsciously racist (xenophobic is perhaps another matter), and it’s worth asking me why I send that tweet at all if I feel that way. The simple answer is because it’s the first thing that came to my mind, and that’s 100% true. But on a deeper level, I point out such things for a few reasons. One, I know that the race sentiment is going to pop up somewhere (probably a lot of somewheres) and I feel like I’m disarming the vitriol of the people that would genuinely feel that way about Subban by sarcastically referencing the issue first.
I also get the sense that a large portion of people think that code words, words meant to soften the demeaning or systemic disenfranchising of someone or someones based on their immutable characteristics (i.e. male, female, LGBT, straight, or any race) are fictitious or overblown. I tweet such things because yes, code words do exist, and yes they are an insidious and major part of the continued repression of numerous minorities. After all, if you say a black player is ‘too showy,’ it allows you to isolate their race (in many, but not in all cases) without seeming overtly racist. You can do the same to repress LGBT (Pro-Family) and women (Traditional Values, Family Values, Christian Values (obviously many of these deal with abortion and/or birth control).
It’s a tough line to toe. I don’t think we want to progress into an area where we immediately think of race (or anything else) every time a minority comes into prominence, but at the same time we don’t live in a post-racial America (and certainly not a post-orientation or post-identity America). Where you land, or even where you try to land between the two is an impossible question to answer, but I think worth attempting nonetheless.