Tokenism, the paper to racism's siopao

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Jalen Rose, the former Indiana Pacers star who is now an analyst for ESPN, is livid at Kevin Love, the former NBA All-Star. Rose has nothing personal against Love. But he thinks Love has no business being on Team USA that is bound for the Tokyo Olympics. He thinks Love is one the team only because he is white. Rose has a word for it. Tokenism.

According to Rose, Love was shooed in because Team USA would otherwise have been so black. If it is not all right for the Oscars to be so white, then it should not be all right either for Team USA to be so black. Never mind if the Oscars is supposed to be about excellence in craft or the Olympics about talent and skill. Hypocrisy demands that reality is too harsh and glaring unless tempered by the shade of human skin.

The 1992 USA Basketball Team to the Barcelona Olympics, the original Dream Team, was the greatest basketball team ever assembled. There had never been a team like that, and never will there be again. Christian Laettner, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson. You can almost cry just rattling off the names.

That team was what a team is supposed to be, a perfect whole made of perfect elements. You accepted the talent and the skills that went into that team without regard for the color of an individual component's skin. One had to be very skin-particular to notice that, in fact, there were four whites in a team that plays a game where predominantly blacks are supposed to excel.

So, okay, maybe Kevin Love is just a token. But so was Christian Laettner in the original Dream Team, unless Jalen Rose had chosen to ignore that fact. But then again, Rose is livid about color. Laettner, while white, was of a different token, brought on board as the face of college basketball in an otherwise all-pro, all-NBA team wanting the gold in a game that was heretofore supposed to be only amateur.

So, much as we admire that greatest of all teams, it was still an example of America doing everything to further its own interests, never mind if it had to "cheat" with an all-pro but for Laettner team. As a result, everything else became token. Ask every single member of every single team that played against it. They played not to win, which was out of the question, but to shake hands, have photos with and autographs signed by their idols.

If the Oscars are too white, packing it with blacks will not make it right because the Oscars is not about color but about excellence. If Team USA is too black, inserting a white as a token will not make it right either, and all for the same reason that Olympic competition is about talent and skill. I wonder who is more racist, the one who hates blacks or the one who curses at everything befalling blacks as a consequence of blackness.

In childhood we would often joke nonsensically. If you are asked "unsay bali sa siopao" and you answer "paosio," the correct answer would be "papel." But if you answer "papel," you would still be wrong because the answer would be "siopao lang gihapon." If the Oscars and the Olympics are for the best of the best, then let them stay that way instead of corrupting them for being too much of one color which has nothing to do with greatness.

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