OPINION: Can Racism Literally “Blind” You?

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The Answer

Last night I watched No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson. It was part of this ESPN movie-documentary series that the network runs.

For those unfamiliar with Allen Iverson, he’s a basketball player most popularly and recently of the Philadelphia 76ers.

For those unfamiliar with his trial, well, in 1993 Iverson was convicted of the crime of “Maiming by Mob” which was actually a Jim Crow-era law put on the books allegedly for the protection of Black people against possibly attack by large groups of people, probably white.

What happened to Iverson was that he had been in a bowling alley when a race-based brawl broke out.

Iverson, already a high school basketball and football star, was the most easily identifiable of all the people in the bowling alley.

Allegedly, Iverson was at the center of the fight. As the fight escalated, chairs were thrown.

Iverson and three other young men, all Black, were convicted of the “Maiming” assault. This was a felony conviction. None of the whites that participated in the fight were even charged.

During the documentary, a grainy video of the fight was shown. You can see lots of scrapping and you can actually see more than one guy run up into the melee to throw chairs.

Now, I had seen this video before. I remembered that the first time I’d seen the video it had left me both waiting and wanting. What I was waiting for and what I wanted, I didn’t know at the time.

When I watched it yesterday and the narrator explained that Allen Iverson wasn’t actually in the video, I finally understood what it was that I had been waiting for all that time.

Allen Iverson wasn’t in the video.

I had been waiting for his outline to be circled or for it to be explained that he was the guy wearing such and such a shirt but such explanations had never come because they couldn’t.

Allen Iverson wasn’t in the video.

Of course, the video was never introduced as evidence in the trial.

Still, the video itself would seemingly lead the rational mind to at least begin to wonder how a man could be convicted of a crime which video evidence proved that it was impossible for him to commit.

And of course the trial racially divided the city of Hampton, Virginia and of course there were Blacks that thought Iverson was innocent of everything save being born and there were whites that thought that Iverson was guilty of everything including murdering John Kennedy and confessing against Christ and there were all sorts of middling opinions as well, but what I was left most directly to wonder is what became the topic of this blog: can racism literally “blind” a person?

What I eventually decided was that no, racism can’t actually blind people.

What it can do however is make folks so crazy that aside from race, they can’t see anything else.

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