By Jason Whitlock | ESPN.com
Mass incarceration has turned segments of Black America so upside down that a tatted-up, N-word-tossing white goon is more respected and accepted than a soft-spoken, highly intelligent black Stanford graduate.
Welcome to Incarceration Nation, where the mindset of the Miami Dolphins‘ locker room mirrors the mentality of a maximum-security prison yard and where a wide swath of America believes the nonviolent intellectual needs to adopt the tactics of the barbarian.
I don’t blame Jonathan Martin for walking away from the Dolphins and checking himself into a hospital seeking treatment for emotional distress. The cesspool of insanity that apparently is the Miami locker room would test the mental stability of any sane man. Martin, the offspring of Harvard grads, a 24-year-old trained at some of America’s finest academic institutions, is a first-time offender callously thrown into an Attica prison cell with Incognito and Aaron Hernandez‘s BFF Mike Pouncey. Dolphins warden Jeff Ireland and deputy warden Joe Philbin put zero sophisticated thought into what they were doing when they drafted Martin in the second round in 2012.
You don’t put Jonathan Martin in a cell with Incognito and Pouncey. You draft someone else, and let another team take Martin. The Dolphins don’t have the kind of environment to support someone with Martin’s background. It takes intelligence and common sense to connect with and manage Martin. Those attributes appear to be in short supply in Miami.
“Richie is honorary,” a black former Dolphins player told Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”
I’m black. And I totally understand the genesis of this particular brand of stupidity and self-hatred. Mass Incarceration, its bastard child, Hurricane Illegitimacy, and their marketing firm, commercial hip-hop music, have created a culture that perpetrates the idea that authentic blackness is criminal, savage, uneducated and irresponsible. The tenets of white supremacy and bigotry have been injected into popular youth culture. The blackest things a black man can do are loudly spew the N-word publicly and react violently to the slightest sign of disrespect or disagreement.
Yeah, Richie Incognito is an honorary black. And Jonathan Martin is a sellout.
“I don’t have a problem with Richie,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace was quoted in Salguero’s story. “I love Richie.”
Yeah, the Dolphins are circling the wagons around Incognito. I get Ryan Tannehill‘s defense of his Pro Bowl left guard. He needs him. He doesn’t believe the Dolphins can protect him or win games without Incognito. There’s a popular belief you can’t consistently win football games without a few “thugs” like Incognito in your locker room. Makes you wonder how Stanford competes with USC, Oregon, UCLA, etc., every year. You wonder how Nebraska and Oregon survived after booting Incognito. You wonder why three NFL teams let him go. Maybe he’s not as essential as the myth-makers would have you believe.
But what makes me want to check into a mental hospital is Miami’s black players’ unconditional love of Incognito and indifference to Martin.
It points to our fundamental lack of knowledge of our own history in this country. We think the fake tough guy, the ex-con turned rhetoric spewer was more courageous than the educated pacifist who won our liberation standing in the streets, absorbing repeated ass-whippings, jail and a white assassin’s bullet. We fell for the okeydoke.
We think Malcolm X was blacker than Martin Luther King Jr.
I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve read X’s autobiography a half-dozen times. I own Spike Lee’s movie about X and watch it a couple of times a year. I love Malcolm X. But I’m not an idiot. MLK liberated me. MLK blazed the proper path to respect, progress and achievement. Barack Obama stands on MLK’s shoulders. And so does Jonathan Martin.
Richie Incognito is an “honorary” bigot, standing on the shoulders of Gov. George Wallace. The fact that a group of young black men in the Dolphins’ locker room can’t see that speaks to the level of ignorance unleashed by Mass Incarceration, Hurricane Illegitimacy and commercial hip-hop.
Too many young people have grown up. There’s a difference between growing up and being raised. When you grow up, you’re left to figure things out on your own. That’s why we have a generation of young people who can’t recognize the self-hatred and damage of describing yourself as the N-word. They don’t know what they haven’t been taught. Video games, iPads and headphones can’t raise a child. But those technological advances can entertain and empower popular culture to corrupt.
I don’t know Jonathan Martin. He’s biracial. He was apparently smart enough to qualify for entry into Harvard. He’s huge and athletic. He strikes me as someone ripe to struggle with his identity.
The Dolphins tagged him the “Big Weirdo.” The Dolphins held up Richie Incognito as the ultimate role model for offensive linemen. Incognito was a Pro Bowler. He was a member of the six-man leadership council. It makes perfect sense for a kid like Martin to befriend Incognito and try to fit in. I’m sure they were best friends, for a time. I’m sure Incognito offered Martin physical protection on the football field. It’s standard operating procedure for a prison-yard bully to cultivate a relationship that is equal parts fear, love and disrespect. It’s how you turn a guy out and make him grab your belt loop.
Martin was confused. He probably thought the bullying and hazing would pass after his rookie season. He wanted to fit in and make it in the NFL. The paycheck is incredible. He tried to laugh off the abuse and disrespect. He participated in it. He coughed up $15,000 for a trip to Las Vegas he didn’t want to take.
Finally he snapped. He wasn’t raised to be a full-blown idiot. He was raised to think and solve problems with his mind. He was savvy enough to figure out a physical confrontation with Incognito was a no-win situation. It wouldn’t curb Incognito’s behavior or change the culture inside the Miami locker room. It would confirm it. In order to win the fight, Martin would have to physically harm Incognito. It would not be a one-punch or two-punch fight.
Martin walked. If the entry fee to being an NFL offensive lineman is adopting the mindset of Incognito and Pouncey, Martin wisely chose not to pay it. He has a developed brain and a supportive family unit. He’s not desperate. He has options. People with limited options and no family support may not understand or respect his decision. That’s on them and illustrates the vast impact of Mass Incarceration and Hurricane Illegitimacy.
It’s now time for Roger Goodell to render a verdict on wardens Ireland and Philbin and Cell Block D leader Incognito. The world is so upside down that I half expect Goodell to suspend Martin for conduct detrimental to American idiocy.
• Columnist at the Kansas City Star for 16 years
• ESPN.com Page 2 columnist from 2002 to 2006