Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Accross the Vick Divide

The media has done it again! They have found yet another issue with which to polarize our country. And as usual, the issue has strong racial undertones. The issue for which I'm writing about is the Mike Vick dog-fighting fiasco.

ESPN conducted a town hall meeting concerning "The Vick Divide". Even in the title, ESPN has implied (or screamed) that there is a deep division between those who support Vick and those who have condemned him. Much like OJ Simpson's legal troubles (the first time), an African-American sports hero is supposedly condemned by whites and unconditionally supported by blacks.

ESPN's program did little to disprove this polarization. By allowing brief amounts of time for each panelist to share his/her two cents on the topic, ESPN reduced the Vick story to even more soundbites, ignoring the complexities of race and animal rights surrounding the story. They even used some of those same snippets in the following program, NFL Tonight to further the polarization and simplify the controversy.

The sad part for me is that there are serious issues left out of the debate, and those topics are being ignored by the groups that need to address them the most.

The race divide is the first and foremost issue that is ignored by white people. Like the OJ case, many whites refuse to admit that race may play a factor in their condemnation of Vick. It is difficult for us to see how Vick could have been influenced by his cultural upbringing. This background does not excuse Vick's heinous acts, but it does provide a context that helps one understand his mot
ivation. Understanding can help people feel empathy, not something I'm hearing much from his critics.

Of course, I would be remissed if I didn't address the same problem with much of the black community's inability to see the guilt in what Vick (or OJ) did based on their own racial bias. Sure, black men have been disproportionately sentenced to all-too-harsh jail sentences over our country's racist history, but that doesn't mean Vick's crimes should be ignored.

Who cares whether or not Vick plays football again. He made some pretty poor decisions and will pay for that in jail time. Of course, he won't attend anything that resembles a serious prison, but he will serve time nonetheless. Football is the least important thing here.

The important fact that is lost in this debate is that dog fighting is a deplorable practice. 48 states consider dog fighting a felony, and it's illegal in the other two. This means that regardless of how the public judges Mike Vick, he broke the law. Dog fighting is wrong.

Of course, just as ESPN (and the rest of the news media) cannot properly address the breadth of the Mike Vick case, neither can I. No blog post is able to fully demonstrate the nuances of race relations, animal rights, issues of class (yes, Vick's ridiculously rich), or any other divisive subject brought to light by this case.

All that I want is for the media to stop polarizing our country. Stop dividing us into Republicans and Democrats (of which I am neither). Stop making every issue, like the Vick case, a black or white issue. Not everything is wrong or right. The world is way more complicated than Coke or Pepsi, sunshine or rain, chocolate or vanilla, etc.

This is not the only topic the media uses to polarize society, but it's the one I wanted to rant about tonight. I just wish the news media could be as privy to the nuances of controversial issues as this guy.


FilthyRenditions said...

This is quite a nice post. I have not heard much about this, but do think that you have raised a very important point. A sensational media cannot investigate without bias. Race relations make money in the USA. The people that I truly feel sad for, are the black men that were convicted of crimes that either they didn't commit or that were punished to harshly while we were focused on OJ.

ks said...

thanks for writing this...I agree with you completely. And I've had to hear about this everyday for the past several months here in "the ATL." There is so much undiscussed, misunderstood, and misrepresented by the media, that it causes: greater divides, harsher discussions, and even GREATER misunderstanding by the general public. I heard people (white people) say that Vick should be strung up and hung for what he did, which was GREATLY disturbing to me. (allusions to lynching, anyone??) While I HATE the idea of dogfighting & I know he broke the law, why would it cause people to say something as awful as that? The media is why. Long live Jon Stewart. (I also read your blog by the way. #71 is me!)