Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week you’ve most likely heard about the controversy surrounding comments Jalen Rose made in ESPN’s Fab Five documentary that he also produced. In case you haven’t been following the whole debacle here’s a few details to bring you up to speed. Rose said a mouthful about what he thought about Grant Hill, his family and Duke University’s recruitment process back when the Fab Five were all freshman at the University of Michigan. Rose said:

“For me, Duke was personal. I hated Duke and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited players who were Uncle Toms…

“I was jealous of Grant Hill. He came from a great black family. Congratulations. Your mom went to college and was roommates with Hilary Clinton. Your dad played in the NFL, is a well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter that my mom had to bust her hump for twenty-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn’t know. I resented that, more so than I resented him. I looked at it as ‘they are who the world accepts and we are who the world hates.'”

Rose’s reference to Duke’s exclusive recruitment of Uncle Toms along with him calling Hill a bitch was not appreciated by Hill. The New York Times ran Hill’s retort shortly after the documentary aired. Hill has been praised for his eloquently written response. The privileged who feel Rose’s sentiments were problematic due to the insinuation that Black Duke graduates are “Uncle Toms” have been rather vocal about Rose’s “ignorance.” Others have lambasted Hill for his lacking comprehension skills. Those who believe Hill misunderstood the context of Rose’s statements argue it was a retrospection of how Rose felt as an 18-year-old freshman. It has also been pointed out by a number of articles and commenters that Rose made it evidently clear he was jealous of Hill coming from a “good” Black family, which he obviously thought was admirable.

It’s tomato/to-ma-to as far as I’m concerned. People are debating semantics and context. I’m concerned with the number of people overlooking Rose’s truthful statement about Duke’s recruitment process that has been known to bypass Blacks from poverty stricken backgrounds like the one Rose endured growing up. What sparked my interest more than anything was the mind frame certain Blacks still hold today where being educated, speaking well and coming from a two-parent household is equated to an Uncle Tom. Is this really where we are as a people, still?

How Rose felt over a twenty years ago is apparently still an issue for Blacks as it has stirred emotions in some that have been festering for years.

From my understanding, an “Uncle Tom” is a Black person who behaves in a subservient manner to Whites, or are overeager to meet the approval of Whites. Over the years the loose translation of Uncle Tom, simply put, has been translated to mean sellout. But how success automatically equals a sellout is where the Uncle Tom insult people throw around gets a bit fuzzy. A traditional nuclear family, which by the way, was the norm for Blacks circa 1980’s, now means one is an Uncle Tom? Why are so many Black people still holding on to such divisive ideas?

I understand Rose’s feeling about the poor and disadvantaged being oftentimes overlooked or even hated. His sentiments about the class divide between Hill, a privileged Black teen, being who the world accepts, and him, a poor Black teen who grew up on the rough streets of Detroit, being who the world hates, are very real feelings most likely shared by others who come from similar backgrounds. But we need to reevaluate our mentalities when large numbers of Blacks consider things we should applaud–success, education and speaking well- as definitive characteristics that someone is an Uncle Tom.

In 2010 a 50 state report done by the Schott Foundation for Public Education found an alarming 47 percent of Black males graduate high school nationwide. As a community Blacks cannot afford to hold onto a notion that education has a negative connotation.  While adults argue over who is or who isn’t an Uncle Tom, our children are failing in school and eventually being hauled off to prison cells. Please don’t think drop out rates don’t have a direct correlation to the prison industrial complex, because they do.

Black people really have to realize the divide and conquer methods used during slavery are working well into the 21st century. Psychologically, too many of us have yet to release the chains of mental slavery. Nothing is sillier than the house nigger and field nigger arguing over who is the better nigger.

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  • AOA

    I watched the documentary and I was at first shocked about Rose’s statements. I understood that these were his true feelings… as a young immature 18 yr kid from Detroit so after a while the shock wore off. I can understand Hill’s possible anger over the statements made but if he watched the video I’m hoping with his education he would understand the reason and feelings of the comments made.

    On the other hand, what is wrong with Duke recruiting a certain “type” of player. They have standards, probably higher than most schools. Whats wrong with being highly selective? Growing up in the midwest I wasn’t totaly aware of the UNC vs. Duke rivalry until I got into college. After visting NC to see friends I now understand the rivalry and the difference in the type of student-athletes they recruit. For some reason I’m not bitter or surprised and maybe people should realize that playing a sport in college on a full ride scholarship (as I did) is a privilage and a right. A lot of coaches take into consideration a student-athlete’s background and academic potentional as well as athletic.

  • Jay Tee

    I grew up on welfare and foodstamps in a broken home in the projects. Rather than blaming others and telling my brothers and me that society was out to get us, my mother told us to study hard and make something out of our lives. All of us have did so, worked our way through college (while many of the more privilged kids coasted through college thanks to daddy’s trust fund), and became successful in life.

    America is truly the land of opportunity. While luck may still play a factor, the general rule of thumb is your life is what you make of it. Every parent — black or white, rich or poor — should make sure his or her children know that hard work and dedication will rarely fail to pay off. People may be born into underprivilege, but we all have the opportunity to rise above it.

  • D-Chubb

    Actually, Jalen Rose has a point in one sense, Duke is a very elitist institution. Watch the HBO documentary, Tobacco Road, about the Duke-University of North Carolina basketball rivalry. The attitudes they have toward the more working class UNC students comes through loud and clear.