What did Fisher DeBerry, coach of the Air Force Academy's Falcons football team, say that was so wrong and for which he was reprimanded and forced to apologize? All he did was state the obvious - "It just seems to me that African American kids can run very well.... Have you looked at the NFL .... [and] most college rosters? Enough said," he is reported as saying at his weekly media luncheon a few days ago. He was in deep thought over his team's weekend performance in comparison to Texas Christian University, a predominantly Black team which outran and out played the Falcons resulting in a 48-10 loss.
"The Black athlete, statistically, from program to program, seems to have an edge as far as speed is concerned," the coach boldly said to the media in Colorado Springs, Colorado, after outlining his desire to recruit faster players to help improve team performance. The following day, after being scolded by his superiors, he was again before the media issuing a public apology to any who were offended by his comments.
Who was offended, and what was to be offended about? Were Whites offended because DeBerry's comments caused them to recall the sting of the 1992 movie title, "White Men Can't Jump?" Is it painful for some to look at reality and accept that the college and professional football and basketball teams, once off limits to non-White players in this country, are now overloaded with Blacks, who have elevated the level of skill in those arenas to heights never before achieved when they were for Whites only? Are these the people who were offended?
Partially, but it is interesting that the Rocky Mountain News was able to find Black leaders who were also greatly offended. Rosemary Harris, President of the Colorado Springs NAACP is quoted as saying, "[DeBerry's] comments are too ignorant and too archaic in 2005 for me to dignify with a response."
The city's Urban League head, Deborah Wilson, had this to say: "It's unfortunate that we have to pull out stereotypes ... There were so many ways he could have addressed it ... without having to resort to a racial stereotype. ....In essence, what he said, if you're not Black, you don't stand a chance and you're going to be an inferior athlete. I think that's unfortunate." As the saying goes, "go figure!"
Meanwhile, some are asking if DeBerry's comments are stereotypical if they are, at the same time, true. Good question. If, for the most part, Black athletes can and do outrun and outperform, for the most part, White athletes, why the controversy? What are some people in the United States afraid of addressing when it comes to "race" and the possibility that maybe, just maybe, we're not all alike? Who stands to lose and who stands to gain if such possibility were put on the national table of discussion, scienced up, debated, tested and proven or refuted? Are people of all "races" afraid of something - afraid that groups like the Nation of Islam are correct in their doctrine and teaching that Black and White are, in fact, different and that there are logical and real explanations behind such assertion?
Maybe it is time for this possibility, this issue, this discussion to take place so that numbers of people can be freed from the fear that seems to lead them to willingly become blinded to what, for others, are obvious, glaring and undeniable TRUTHS. It seems DeBerry's eyes have been opened, albeit at the late age of 67, but sadly, he has found that his newly discovered truth has not set him free but has only earned him a position of contempt from those still on the wide path which is filled with many who are fearful of non-conformity and are afraid to accept truths that statistics and history make plain enough for a blind man or woman to see.
- Adeeba Folami -