Many people rejoiced when Barack Obama won the 2008 election. Many declared we were in a post-racial America. It didn’t take long before we realized that was all a myth. Racial divisions still run deep in the United States and Barack Obama didn’t help heal them. As much as he seemed to present himself as somebody “above it all,” he never missed an opportunity to get involved in local issues where he could opine on race.
If President Obama stoked the fires of racial resentment, Donald Trump threw gasoline on the fire and added a flamethrower in for good measure. Trump tapped into white-working class anger. Much of it seems to have been driven more by economic woes than racial animus; many Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 had voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012. But an underbelly of ugliness in the form of white nationalists also expressed support for Donald Trump. He knew it, and while he didn’t openly embrace it, he didn’t reject their support either.
This emboldened the white nationalist racists and neo-Nazis to march at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, waving torches and shouting phrases such as, “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!”
They were met by members of the far left-wing group Antifa, who believe they are justified in responding to white nationalists with violence and hatred as well. They claim to be opposed to fascism, but they also claim that Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, corporations, and the police are all “fascists.”
The result was senseless violence, including the killing by a white nationalist of a thirty-two-year-old woman who was protesting peacefully; protesters also inflicted injuries on each other, as well as vandalism and destruction on Charlottesville.
Getting past all of this requires cooler heads and mouths to prevail. Fortunately, just outside the simmering anger is the reality of the absurd. It is great to see because when absurdity shines brightly, all sides are united at least for a few days in the mockery that follows.
ESPN came along to provide that comfort when they made a decision that deservedly drew ridicule from nearly all sides.
An ESPN broadcaster by the name of Robert Lee had been assigned to call an upcoming University of Virginia football game. ESPN, in light of the violence committed in Charlottesville and the debate over Confederate statues and memorials, pulled Lee from calling the game. ESPN believed that, with a name similar to that of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, there might be some issues as a result.
An overabundance of caution might have been prudent if ESPN’s Lee was a fifty-seven-year-old white man with a long beard who participated in Confederate war reenactments in his free time. But Robert Lee of ESPN is likely only in his early forties. He wears a jacket and a tie, as most sportscasters do.
He’s also Asian.
Now I’m no genealogist or historian, but I can guess that Robert Lee of ESPN is not related to Robert E. Lee of Confederate fame. Even if he was, who cares? The only reason the game became an issue is that ESPN made this idiotic decision. Had they said nothing and let Lee do his job, nobody would know.
What’s worse is that if ESPN asked Lee how he got his name, they’d have learned his mother named him after actor and director, Robert Redford.
If you’ve ever wondered what virtue signaling means, now you know. ESPN’s hasty and, quite frankly, ridiculous, effort to show how much they “care” about the feelings of those affected by displays of the Confederacy in the public square is a perfect example.
So, thanks, ESPN, for showing the world the excesses of political correctness. From now on, stick to sports and leave politics to others.
Image: CNN Screen Capture