It is just a subtle reminder to us that we have not yet reached a level playing field or a color blind society. This despite the huge strides made in society as a whole by African Americans. Moreover, despite the huge strides made in the NFL by African Americans in terms of number of coaches.
I thought Jann Murray-Garcia's words in her column last week capture exactly my feelings on the subject:
Many of my more melanin challenged friends have suggested that this should indeed be a non-issue. It is a notion that is tough to dispute. We all want to believe that race does not matter any more. That sex does not matter anymore. And yet it is 2007 and in a few hours for the first time, an African American coach will be doused by Gatorade and for the first time shall be a Super Bowl Champion coach in a league where more than half of the players are African-Americans.
"They won! They won!" I jumped up, cheering as the Indianapolis Colts player intercepted Tom Brady's pass in the final minute of the AFC playoff game. "I've got to call my Dad."It wasn't just the Colts' victory I was celebrating. "Two black head coaches in the Super Bowl when there have never been any before! Dad will be so happy!"
My 10-year-old daughter looked confused, sitting on the couch and following the game closely with the rest of our family. "Canela," I said, stepping back, "they used to think we weren't smart enough to coach NFL football."
Recognition replaced confusion on my daughter's young face. Race had consciously begun to matter to her long ago in her young life, as her peers pointed out, curiously and, unfortunately hurtfully, her physical distinctiveness among Davis kids. She also has progressively learned of her ancestors' American struggle for justice, and has engaged in her own.
I had a great conversation with my dad that afternoon, although my celebration was tinged with melancholy. As surely as I was a young kid watching "The Brady Bunch" in the 1970s, I could also be found at my dad's knee, cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers' Franco Harris, Mean Joe Green, Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann. If you'd told me then that I would be 43 before a black head coach won the Super Bowl, I would not have believed you. Especially in an industry (sports) wherein African Americans generate so much revenue for industry executives and owners, a 30-year wait seems ... well, sad.
But welcome into my heart, which I share with you at personal risk, hoping you believe me and wanting you to know. Why are African Americans still so invested in the achievements of people of our racial group, people we don't know? Isn't it time to move beyond that?
And yet as we look broader into the political future we see that in 2008, a full 216 years since the first President was elected, that we will see the possibility that either a woman or a non-white person could potentially be selected as the nominee for one of the two major parties.
And I could go down the list to demonstrate to people the vast inequality between white and non-white and even men and women in a whole range of things. But we all know this.
And so I echo Dr. Murray-Garcia's question: Shouldn't we move beyond that?
And my answer is that unfortunately, we have not. Why? Because we are not there yet. But we are getting closer to the day when we are.
---Doug Paul Davis reporting