Monday, February 2, 2009
The Superbowl and New Definitions of Black Men
In all of the praise heaped upon Coach Mike Tomlin of the Superbowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, not one reference that I heard referred to the fact that he was an African American coach. Although Tony Dungy, Tomlin's mentor, was the only other African American football coach to accomplish this feat, the only reference to Tomlin's demographics merely mentioned that he was the youngest coach to win in this 43 year old popular event. Mike Tomlin is a very impressive leader, possessing at the relatively tender age of 36, rare insight, wisdom, professionalism, and character which immediately commands respect from all who come into contact with him.
Tomlin gives some of the credit for his opportunity as head coach to the 2003 Rooney Rule, which was put in place to address the lack of diversity in the NFL coaching ranks. There have been 11 black head football coaches since the rule's inception. While Rooney may have opened the doors for other minority coaches to enter the NFL, it is no secret that NFL teams with coaching vacancies are looking especially for those coaches black or white, that fit the Tomlin mold - young, professional, principled, focused, competent, and articulate.
One of the unintended benefits to the Steelers Superbowl victory may be that it has brought mainstream recognition to an additional image of contemporary black masculinity which counters the thug/gangsta/hypersexualized/urban predator expression. The success in combating anti-social behavior, low educational performance, high incarceration rates and the negative ways that young black males perceive themselves and are perceived by the mainstream media, may be achieved not just by boycotting or protesting against hip-hop culture and pop appeal alone, but by continuing to provide alternative positive images of black male expression such as that of Tomlin, President Barack Obama, and others.
The solution to many of our social and economic problems may come about merely when blacks are no longer a curiosity in positions of authority and institutions where their presence has been a rarity.