ESPN The Magazine thought it was a good idea to do a column called “What If Michael Vick Were White?”
ESPN The Magazine has a column about Michael Vick this week, accompanied by this bizarre image of Vick made up to look like a white guy. The illustration goes with the headline – “What If Michael Vick Were White?” – but both are drawing criticism from the writer of the column that they accompany.
Noted author and critic Touré penned to piece to discuss the race and class issues surrounding Vick’s story, but says that he asked ESPN not to use that picture or headline and was ignored.
Not only is it inappropriate, but Touré says it undermines his entire premise, which is that Vick’s story is not possible without all of the circumstances (race, class, community, family) that have made up his life. Here’s an except from the piece that shows what he means:
The problem with the “switch the subject’s race to determine if it’s racism” test runs much deeper than that. It fails to take into account that switching someone’s race changes his entire existence. In making Vick white, you have him born to different parents. That alone sets his life trajectory in an entirely different direction. Thus when this hypothetical white Michael Vick … wait, I can’t even continue that sentence in good faith. I mean, who would this white Vick be? That person is unknowable. …
If Vick had been born to white parents, you wouldn’t even be reading this right now. That Vick would have had radically different options in life compared with the Vick who grew up in the projects of Newport News, Va., where many young black men see sports as the only way out. [Emphasis added]
ESPN’s ridiculous image did accomplish its goal, which is to get people talking about the story. (The entire issue of the magazine is devoted to Vick.) More perhaps, than if a less incendiary picture had been used.
Fortunately, Touré words pre-emptively destroy The Magazine’s attempt to be clever. It’s a dumb question, that we should all know better than to ask.