After John Henson was racially profiled by a local jeweler, and after he laid out his anger about this racial tragedy on Instagram, his employers, the Milwaukee Bucks, reacted in a traditional way. Initially, they called the alleged incident “troubling“. The innate advantages of privilege is that you can use the word “troubling” to describe a racial injury. It is an injury that will never do you harm as you are the beneficiary of a culture in which you are never locked out of jewelry stores. You can drive a car with a dealer plate and not be questioned. For the people of color who have to deal with racial injuries in real time, it is not “troubling“. It is wrong, unfair, psychologically degrading and it leaves scars that no bandage can heal.
Bucks ownership are trying to wrangle a new arena on the backs of underserved communities and a county already spiraled in debt. What happened to John Henson on Monday was a public relations event they didn’t need so they brought the owner of the jewelry store in to meet John Henson. They wanted Thomas Dixon to see what a truly wonderful person Henson is. Henson is everything good, everything not worthy of how he was treated; he is special.
Henson, from all appearances, seems like a bright and caring professional whose NBA career has never been marked by anything but the highest character. And yet, there was a sense that the Bucks were singling Henson out from the rest of the racial profiling crowd. Since when do victims have to prove they are good enough to be treated the way they should be treated in the first place? When they are black men. When they have to unravel the excessive layers of bias and prejudice to reveal the two groups that exist in opposition to one another: the ones who are special and transcend race, and the ones who never will.
Reflexively, the Bucks allowed Dixon to believe the problem of racial profiling is conditional and has nothing to do with race at all. The problem with racial profiling as a construct is the problem with an estrangement culture whereas we keep doors closed and peek through windows. It is separateness. Dixon didn’t know John Henson. If he did he would have opened the door for him. He wouldn’t have called the police. Historically, this is as far away from the truth as you can get because the jeweler and his employees knew everything they needed to know about John Henson, a tall black man. He was identified by his skin, and empathy was absent, and humanness was absent as Henson was primarily thought to be dangerous.
The Bucks, in their statement, said they understood racial profiling was a significant issue in the country but not reflective of the Milwaukee community, the second poorest in the nation, according to CBS News. So Milwaukee is an outlier? Racial profiling is applicable everywhere else but Milwaukee is immune? Does Milwaukee have the racial profile vaccine? Or, perhaps it does not happen to the black and privileged in Milwaukee, it happens to the poor and powerless.
The Milwaukee Bucks owners are hedge fund guys. Their experience with the consequences of bias and prejudice is limited, while their experience with advantages and the benefit of the doubt distinguishes them from many in the impoverished city they represent.
The Bucks employees, those that don’t park cars and sell brats and beer at halftime, are millionaires. On their behalf, it’s necessary to ease all tensions, especially in the business community whose sponsorships the Bucks need. The Bucks don’t blow anyone away with their attendance; they were 27th in the league last year out of 30 teams. But, this is primed to be a promising season. Jabari Parker will be back at some point this season. Greg Monroe was a big off-season get. Jason Kidd in his second year is expected to do great things. Giannis Antetokounmpo is an athletic marvel. The last thing the Bucks need hanging over their head is a sociological unifer other than beating the Chicago Bulls. Best to bring all sides together, make nice, so on the surface this racial injury seems obscured even if the undercurrent remains and the illusion is in tact.
photo via llananba