Friday, November 13, 2009
Sammy Sosa's turning white
When I heard that former Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa was getting lighter I expressed enthusiastic support.
Good for him, I thought. We could all afford to lose a few pounds. I was disappointed when Sosa got caught illegally corking his bat and cheating with steroids so to hear him crusading about the importance of fitness was refreshing. It sounded like Sammy was becoming cool again.
Then I was confounded to realize I’d misunderstood. Sosa’s not losing weight.
He’s gaining white.
For some reason or another, natural or artificial, the once ebony-colored Dominican is becoming the color of weakly flavored chocolate milk.
This is a case of historically bad timing because for years black has been the new white.
Despite slipping poll numbers, it’s easy to argue that the coolest guy in America is a proud black man, Barack Obama. Heck, even the world’s most lilly-white sport, golf, is dominated by a charismatic black man, Tiger Woods. It’s a great time to be a race-transcending black celebrity. Just look at the appeal of Denzel Washington, Oprah, Will Smith, Charles Barkley and on and on and on.
In a true cultural phenomenon that’s been going on for years, sissy white suburban kids go to great lengths to act black. They listen to hip-hop, pose like gangsters, dress with slouchy pants and generally behave in ways that lead true urban blacks to want to reflexively beat the crap out of them for the fraudulent mimicry.
And despite the evident health risks, young palefaced females continue to climb into the tanning booths to endure unhealthy doses of toxic rays that’ll transform their unacceptably light skins to darker hues.
And who can blame them? Being born white has artistic burdens all its own.
White’s white, but there is a whole rainbow of dark colors that go along with being born black, from cinnamon hints of the luscious Halle Barry to a light autumn wheat tones of Alicia Keys.
It’s not like that with white people. Complexion-wise, we’re a uniformly vanilla race of Kate Gosselins. Here in Pittsburgh where the sun will be turned off for the next five months, we’re entering a period where all us Caucasian natives will begin to resemble the color of fish bellies.
The one advantage white skin has over black skin -- and for now let’s set aside the pesky issue of still lingering and virulent redneck prejudice -- is that we make a great canvass.
And maybe that’s what’s motivating Sosa. Maybe he wants light skin to better illuminate a tattoo or two.
I’m always fascinated by watching hi-def action from any professional sport that shows the tattoos of the athletes. In fact, it’s the only reason I’ll watch even a minute of the mind-numbing tedium of professional basketball.
Few athletes celebrate skin art better than those in the NBA. And it’s true of both blacks and whites, although you can hardly tell it with the African-American ball players.
Whites like Chris “Birdman” Andersen of the Denver Nuggets are as vibrant as a family pack of Crayola Crayons. His fair Scandinavian skin is decorated with golden crowns framed by turquoise backgrounds, and crimson-feathers that extend from armpit to elbow and give the appearance of wings in flight when his arms are extended in defense.
But trying to decipher the tattoos on the black athletes is like trying to read in caves by candlelight. I pause the action. I cock my head to the side. I squint at the set. I try in vain to figure out what the black on black image is trying to convey.
And, again, the liberal in me rises up and wonders why our black brothers and sisters are forced to endure tattoo shading that looks like Kansas before Dorothy and Toto landed in Oz.
Where’s the vibrancy? When it comes to tattoos, the people we used to call colored now have none.
It doesn’t seem fair. If I were a dermatologist, I’d be devoting my entire career to finding a way to give African-Americans the same vivid tattoo opportunities as Caucasians.
Of course, the whole debate ignores the fact that tattoos, really, just aren’t that cool anymore.
Come to think of it, neither is Sammy.