Etan Thomas Builds a Bridge to Jason Whitlock

May, 11, 2007
5/11/07
2:40
PM ET

Jason Whitlock means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. He has his fans, his skills. He works hard and makes his points. I believe he also -- like a million media types -- sometimes gets a little zealous about being contrarian, finding demons where they are not. (Did he have to criticize Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer for this?)

Easy for me to be even-keeled about Whitlock, though, right? I'm white. He's directing most of his fire at young black people and hip hop culture -- which Whitlock sees as essentially identical to prison culture. He attacks hip hop regularly and savagely, ruining things everywhere for nice hardworking kids with big headphones and baggy jeans.

In the minds of young black people, Whitlock is on a track to join Bill Cosby somewhere over at the Uncle Tom/blame the black people end of the political spectrum. (Charles Barkley is petitioning for admission, too, although somehow when he says "black people are f*&$#% up" (PG-13, duh) it comes out with love.)

Wizard big man Etan Thomas recently spoke on a panel at Morehouse College alongside Whitlock, and chatted with him afterwards. Thomas says he and Whitlock see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but feels Whitlock is lacking an ability to inspire empathy from his young black audience. Thomas attempts to explain all that in an open letter to Jason Whitlock on SLAM.com:

You heard the one student get up during the question and answer portion and ask you how you can pride yourself on "amening," as he called it, all of the negative things that the media says about not only us, but the entire hip-hop culture. Hip Hop is not all negatively charged, prison culture embracing, gangster rap music, as you seem to think.

The perception that you are on "their" side is constantly growing. I know that this is not a label you want. Interestingly, you seem to be unaware of this because when I told you that you came across worse than Bill Cosby, you looked at me with eyes of disbelief. Not only did you say that this was not your intention, you vehemently denied those allegations. You looked at me as if I had said something utterly ridiculous.

The audience couldn't hear your point about us taking ownership, respecting each other, immersing ourselves in positivity while rejecting the negative stereotypes that are prevalent in society. They couldn't receive your message to abandon any aspect of our own culture that is, in your words "anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro drug-dealing and violent."

They couldn't hear these things from you because it appeared as though you were not on their side.

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