Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Opinion [Print without images]

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Rose-Hill bickering does more harm than good


Grant Hill on Wednesday called comments that Jalen Rose made about Duke in "The Fab Five," the 30 for 30 documentary, "sad and somewhat pathetic."

Hill, who knew Rose as a teenager and played against him in college and the NBA, takes issue with the characterization of him and his teammates and with the comments about Hill's family.

"I hated Duke and I hated everything Duke stood for," Rose said in the documentary. "Schools like Duke didn't recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms."

The exchange has spawned a wide-ranging debate about race and perceptions across media. espnW's Adena Andrews was among the writers who contribute to ESPN who provided their perspective.

According to Princeton's lexical database for the English language, an Uncle Tom is someone who behaves in a subservient manner to white people. Having two hard-working parents, taking advantage of opportunities and having access to higher education -- all the things Grant Hill and his family had -- fit the definition, according to Jalen Rose.

So why didn't Rose think his own teammate Chris Webber, who was recruited heavily by Duke, was an Uncle Tom? Webber had two hard-working parents who made sure to place him in an expensive private school in the suburbs, against his will, so their son could succeed. Hill's upbringing and Duke were foreign to Rose, so like a child he resorted to name calling. But even as an adult on a recent episode of "First Take," Rose didn't shy away from calling Duke players Uncle Toms or shy away from the use of the word toward another black man.

Rose knew he was wrong in calling Hill an Uncle Tom; that's why he apologized in advance of the film's release. If he knew it was wrong, why leave it in? After all, he was an executive producer of the piece. Why take a shot at an NBA fraternity brother on film?

It has led to an educational public discourse, but I really wish as black people we didn't have to put each other down in public in order to make a point. Even Hill's public rebuttal in the New York Times was too much. The two affluent black men could have solved this with a hug and a fist bump. But bickering for the world to see, doing exactly what some racists want to see, does more damage than the initial use of the phrase Uncle Tom in this situation.

• Click here to read the entire commentary