Yesterday, Laker star Meta World Peace caught Oklahoma City Thunder forward James Harden with a mean elbow to the ear after slamming down his third thunderous dunk in front of a packed crowd.
Depending on how you saw it, the elbow was either an inadvertent jab in the middle of a celebration by an amped-up player who scored against one of his team’s biggest rivals, or a vicious reminder that despite his new name and improved demeanor, Meta World Peace had not changed one bit; he’s still Ron Ron from the projects.
Writer and cultural critic Toure thinks World Peace’s elbow shows the Laker star hasn’t really changed from the days when he was more of a brawler than baller.
While Toure often goes on rants I don’t agree with, I chimed in and told him I didn’t think Meta’s elbow was an indication that he hasn’t changed, but rather an unfortunate lapse in judgement.
But Toure wasn’t buying it:
My brief conversation with Toure got me to thinking. While I think many of us believe that people have the ability to change, when the jux goes down and someone makes a mistake or has a lapse in judgment, do we hold fast to our belief that change is possible and dynamic, or do we revert back to the “I told you so” mantra and hold that person’s bad past decisions against them—forever?
These situations—when someone who was doing well suddenly relapses—happen all the time. From drug addicts and convicts, to cheating mates or vegetarians backsliding into a double cheeseburger, people sometimes f*ck up. But while messing up is an inevitable part of living, it’s how people respond to their mistakes that’s really important.
While I’m not inside Meta’s head, he’s come a long way since the “Malice in the Palace” and drinking Henny during halftime. Admittedly, he’s struggled with his tempter over the years, but he’s also been in counseling on and off for the better part of 20 years trying to get it right. When the Lakers won the NBA title back in 2010, many cracked jokes at his shout out to his psychologist, but for those struggling with mental health issues, he helped to open up a dialogue about the necessity of getting help (lest you end up like DMX crying on national TV).
Since then, Meta World Peace has continued seeing his therapist and has become an advocate for others, especially people of color, getting the mental health help that they need. But should all of those efforts be erased because of a “vicious” elbow during an emotionally-charged game?
I don’t think so, but Toure and those who question whether or not Meta’s transformation is real and sustainable would have you believe so; or as Toure puts it, a zebra can’t change its spots.
But it is this sort of thinking that refuses to give convicts a (real) second chance in our society (i.e. a job, reentry support, an education) no matter how hard they work to change, which forces many to cycle in and out of the system for years before they are able to get it right…if they’re lucky.
It is also this philosophy that forces people to hide their own ability to handle life’s challenges because admitting that they are not strong enough, wise enough, or capable enough of handling it on their own will signal some sort of chink in their armor, an admission of weakness.
While there are some people—sociopaths, for example—that cannot and will not ever change, for the rest of us, is change just an ideal we like to believe in or is it something we think is actually possible—no matter how long it takes?
Speak on it!