Leona Allen, deputy managing editor of The Dallas Morning News, who is black, has an interesting piece up on the paper's opinion blog and also in the print edition yesterday, worrying about a fight between two top black Dallas officials last week.
She wonders if black people in Dallas are especially embarrassed about the recent fisticuffs ("The Fight of the Millennium") between Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, age 65, and former Mayor Dwaine Caraway, age 63, because they think the two men were acting out white stereotypes about angry black men.
I respect Allen's take on it, and, as a white guy, I won't presume to second-guess her on black perceptions. But when I started looking at the multiple videos of the radio station prize fight ("Two Big") between Price and Caraway last week, I had a different take. I thought, "Oh my God, these guys are just reinforcing everybody's bigoted unfair stereotypes about old guys."
I mean, look, they "fought" for several minutes. And neither guy had a scratch on him afterward.
Allen is a longtime veteran of daily newspapers. She worked at the Dallas Times-Herald where I also worked, back in the heavy-drinking days of newspapering when newsroom fights were not unheard of. Surely she recognized the other stereotype that the Caraway and Price fight ("The Fast and the Furious") played to — the journalism fight.
That's where you have two guys threatening to kill each other, shouting all kinds of terrible things about each other's wives and moms, talking about how they're going to rip each other's throats out, but they're being held apart by two people pinching their shirt-backs with forefingers and thumbs.
I hate that stereotype. I cringe whenever I see it. I remember saying to a drinking buddy afterward, "Don't you know how this makes us look? All the women were watching, man. Couldn't you at least have managed to pull his hair?"
I forget what he said. He may have been wearing a professionally laundered shirt.
Tell me again what the aftermath was in the Price-Caraway shootout ("Opposites Attack")? Some kid got his throat scratched? And now he's filing a lawsuit?
Oh, man, that sounds like a fight at the Bolshoi Ballet. No, wait. That's a very unfair stereotype. Those dudes throw acid in each other's faces. Ballet dancers are way more badass than Price and Caraway were in their fight ("To Hell and Back").
But let's talk black stereotypes. Maybe from rap, the movies, comedy, literature, I don't know, the stereotype on black guys is that they are razor-sharp and lightning quick in a diss fight. One guy cuts the other with an insult, but before he can even get his mouth shut the other guy slices him up even worse with some wickedly on-target slam. Maybe it's just a stereotype. I don't know. I thought it was real. Now I guess I wonder.
Here's how the diss duel went in the Price-Caraway battle ("Thunder in the Night"):
When the microphone is off at gospel radio station Jesus-KHVN, Price calls Caraway a bitch.
Caraway shouts, "You were fucking my wife!"
Whaaaat? I mean, what? That's a comeback? No, no, a thousand times no. I know I'm just white, but even I know for sure that in a diss fight, "You were fucking my wife" is never a comeback to "You're a bitch." It's like crying uncle.
I probably can't go too far into this area, because it involves cuckoldry, which is a very gender-specific area of insult and injury. Women just don't care about cuckoldry the way men do.
Tell a woman that a guy is a cuckold, and she'll probably say, "Oh. Where'd he go to college?" Either they don't get it, or there's something they're not telling us, which we don't want to know anyway, so, see what I mean? Let's totally drop cuckoldry.
Price and Caraway, you may know, face each other at the polls today in the Democratic primary for District 3 county commissioner ("Playing with Fire"). I do not remember Caraway getting into fights when he was young. We all remember Commissioner Price breaking a few bones and snapping some windshield wipers years ago, early in his career, but those were fights with white people during civil rights protests.
That's totally different. Go ahead, tell me I'm a white stereotype purveyor for saying this, but I never heard any great agony from black people about Price popping a few white folks who got in the way of his picket lines. If that's a stereotype, I think it's one that helped him keep getting re-elected.
Now, there is one stereotype even I will admit is real. I actually had no idea it even existed until I became a father. I remember standing in my bedroom across the hall from my son's room, listening to him and his best friend from down the block, Elliot, playing with their Batman action figures.
I would hear pleasant murmuring and laughing, little guys doing Batman voices and Joker voices, having fun. Then POW! BAM! INSULTS and SCREAMING! One kid runs out of the room with the other one chasing to kill him.
But then if I held my peace, did not intervene but just waited, three minutes later they'd be back in the room again playing Batman.
So one time I am witnessing this phenomenon — happily playing, fighting, happily playing, fighting again — and I have this great epiphany. The light-bulb moment. I think, "This is really amazing. It's a shock. And it makes no difference how smart they are. But the fact is, beneath it all, the entire gender is basically stupid! It's in the DNA!"
It was like my whole life was flashing before me, and all of a sudden everything made sense. Yes! That's why that one thing happened back in school. That's why that other thing went the way it did at the paper. We're idiots!
But that's not a black-white thing. It's way deeper than that. Don't ask me what the solution is, either. I think it's one reason some parents of boys are willing to accept the risk of concussion in sports.
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I know I said we wouldn't talk about cuckoldry again, but it's something we men just have a hard time getting off our minds once somebody else brings it up. If it's OK with you, if you happen to be a woman would you mind not reading any further? The rest of this is just between us guys.
So the other guy calls you a bitch. Got it. Your comeback is not, "You fucked my wife." We covered that already. That is not an effective diss.
This is what you say: "I fucked your wife." You know why you say that, right? Because it's SO CLEVER ("Too Close to Call")!
See there? BANG! One thing you can say about us males. Our ethnicity isn't what makes us idiots.