In My Opinion

April 12, 2013

In My Opinion: Shaping the American identity


Where is the discussion on recently terminated Rutger’s basketball coach Mike Rice’s privilege? Beyond him posturing a false identity during negotiations with parents, there is no doubt many of the men on his team have family members and/or friends who are gay.

Six degrees of separation is always in full effect. However, his use of the terms “fairy” and “faggot” were an affront to gay people and their allies as well.

What is also worth mentioning is that Rutgers, a NCAA Division 1 program, is not a basketball powerhouse. Many of the athletes playing for this unsophisticated coach did so with insecurities that may have had them enduring his abuse for lack of better options. Being dismissed from the squad could mean an end to their basketball dreams and college careers, at least on scholarship.

What Rice did do was bring to light a behavior that many people may have thought ended with Woody Hayes and Bobby Knight. The question, “Would he do what Woody did?” is rhetorical because we know that any given night people in power sometimes, unfortunately, act like Bobby Knight.

I wasn’t just steamed but fried by Rice’s actions.

Rice’s homophobic rhetoric brings to mind the nature vs. nurture debate relative to same-sex identity. Robert Downey Jr.’s character in the film “Tropic Thunder” posed something profoundly provocative for us to consider when responding to a gay rapper’s denial of his homosexuality. Downey’s character replied, “Everyone’s gay once in awhile.”

What if both nature and nurture are wrong? We all could be born bi-sexual and be moved to our sexual predilection by the unceasing perpetuation of heterosexuality over homosexuality modeled everywhere in our society. If so, those who gravitate toward bisexuality have ceased fighting their nature and won the battle over their nurture while everyone else living heterosexually or homosexually are waging a never-ending war against ourselves.

This should have you curious about how these actions and other actions and decisions taking place in our so-called land of the free are a result of our identity rules — and just how much our identity rules.

J.W. Wiley, PhD, is director of the Center for Diversity, Pluralism and Inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh.

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In My Opinion