Last Tuesday Whoopi Goldberg joined the list of celebrities and athletes who have shamefully made excuses for NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s involvement in dog fighting. It started with Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis, continued with New York Knicks star Stephon Marbury and Academy Award-winning actor Jamie Foxx and, just when we thought no one else was foolish enough to come to Vick’s defense, one more log was thrown into the firestorm by fellow Academy
Goldberg, who replaced Rosie O’Donnell on ABC’s The View, used a portion of her daytime television debut to make an excuse for Vick’s behavior, saying, “There are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of the country.”
As ridiculous as this claim may be, she continued on to say that Vick is from the “Deep South” and that she’d be more disappointed if Vick were from New York. Of all the comments made by these four individuals I found the statements by the two Academy Award winners to be the most disturbing.
Weeks ago, Foxx said: “It’s a cultural thing, I think,” and “most brothers didn’t know that, you know. I used to see dogs fighting in the neighborhood all the time. I didn’t know that was Fed time. So, Mike probably just didn’t read his handbook on what not to do as a black star.”
In dissecting these claims, we must first state the obvious: Dog fighting is against the law in all 50 states. So in saying dog fighting is a “cultural thing” or “there are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of the country,” you are saying that in a particular part of the country it is socially acceptable to break the law of the land – not to mention the law of human decency – by participating in the deplorable act of dog fighting. Stating that a person from New York is more likely to think dog fighting is a cruel practice insinuates that Southerners are more likely to disregard cruelty to animals, which is an insult to Southern folks collectively. Goldberg’s additional claim that Vick is from the “Deep South” is extremely questionable. Like many people, I was unaware that Newport News, Va., a mere 180 miles south of Washington D.C., is classified as the “Deep South.”
Foxx’s comments that most “brothers” were or are unaware dog fighting is a federal offense and that Vick should basically know what laws he should not break as a black celebrity fall nothing short of being an embarrassment to law abiding African Americans nationwide. It seems to me as though he’s saying this kind of behavior is more likely to be tolerated inside the black community and that as a black celebrity Vick should know what he can and cannot get away with.
I understand everyone has their own personal opinion – which they have a right to discuss behind closed doors – but it is wrong to get on television and negatively generalize an ethnic group, even if you are a part of it, on a very sensitive subject nonetheless.
I am very disappointed in Goldberg and Foxx for their comments. They have risen to the national stage of excellence within their professions. Like it or not, these people carry the weight of the black community on their shoulders anytime they are in public or giving a statement to the media.
Yet when commenting on a very serious subject they failed to use good judgment and actual facts when commenting. I love Goldberg and I love Foxx, but they really dropped the ball on this one. They deserve every bit of media attention they have received.
Ryan Watson is a graduate student in mass communications.