Steve Sailer is a brilliant guy and one of the most insightful people going, but every once in a while he says something that is a bit nuts. That’s bound to happen when you spend all day every day commenting about the current scene. Blogging is about off the cuff commentary on a range of subjects. You’re going to get some stuff wrong. Some of that will be comically wrong. Here’s an example:
Michael Vick, who has long been the ultimate in NFL black athlete quarterbacks — an incredibly fast runner with a strong arm — has gotten another $5 million contract to play back up for the NY Jets, a half decade after he served 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring on his property.
I’ve always thought Vick was a sort of symbolic sacrificial victim for white America’s discomfort with its black athletic heroes. In Vick’s rather backward Southern rural culture, dogfighting was considered sporting and glamorous, just as bullfighting in Spain seemed sporting and glamorous to Hemingway 90 years ago. So Vick saw himself not as some evil person, but as a sportsman take a sporting interest in the sport of dogfighting.
Newport News is not rural. It is a small city, for sure, but it is almost as densely populated as San Diego and no one in their right mind would say that’s rural. It’s not Chicago or New York City, but it is not Mayberry either. The best comparison is the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Further, dog fighting has never been popular in the South and it sure as hell has not been on the same cultural level as bull fighting in Spain.
Like a lot of people with no experience of the American South, Sailer seems to be relying upon what he sees on television and movies. Like many his age, television and movies loom large in his understanding of the world. It is an odd thing about Baby Boomers. Despite all that we have seen, they remain, in general, trusting of what is beamed to them thought their televisions.
The real reasons whites have for resenting black football players all sound like racist stereotypes — their lack of preparation for being college students, their high rates of sexual assault on white coeds, their tendency to beat up nerds, their unfortunate rates of sticky fingers around other students’ electronic entertainment devices, and so forth — so those are largely unmentionable in polite society. For whites to get furiously mad at a black jock over dogfighting, however, doesn’t sound racist, so a lot of white anger at black athletes in general was focused upon Vick.
A better answer, one based on something closer to observable reality, is that Americans really love their pets. Everyone can identify with a pet. The idea of Fluffy being torn to pieces by another animal is horrifying. The image of someone drowning Fluffy or torturing Fluffy sends chills down the spines of the typical American. It’s true that black sportscasters rallied to Vick out of racial solidarity. It is also true that most everyone quickly forgave Vick once he served his time and was appropriately contrite.
Otherwise, Sailer is all wrong on this one.