ESPN, which apparently has nothing better to do than drudge up pointless racial debates that go nowhere, decided to do a story on Michael Vick this week. But since a simple story wouldn't be "buzzy" or "now" enough for the network, they decided to go one step further and photoshop the QB as a white person (shades of Eddie Murphy's heyday) and title the article "What If Michael Vick Were White?"
The problem with the "switch the subject's race to determine if it's racism" test runs much deeper than that. It fails to take into account that switching someone's race changes his entire existence. In making Vick white, you have him born to different parents. That alone sets his life trajectory in an entirely different direction. Thus when this hypothetical white Michael Vick ... wait, I can't even continue that sentence in good faith. I mean, who would this white Vick be? That person is unknowable. When you alter his race, it's like those Back to the Future movies where someone goes back in time, inadvertently changes one small thing about his parents' dating history and then the person starts to disappear. If Vick had been born to white parents, you wouldn't even be reading this right now. That Vick would have had radically different options in life compared with the Vick who grew up in the projects of Newport News, Va., where many young black men see sports as the only way out.
The article, written by Toure, is actually a fairly nuanced look at how being an African-American is an indelible part of both Michael Vick's personality and his approach to football. It's fairly pretentious as well, but I digress. The problem, of course, that is all of that nuance is obliterated by both the headline and the idiotic photoshop job of White Vick. The article itself seems to reject those two elements entirely, and that's no accident. Toure has already taken to Twitter to criticize ESPN for writing the headline and doing the image without telling him beforehand:
I wrote an essay about Vick & race. ESPN the mag titled it & added art without me (normal procedure). Judge me on the story not the art.
My essay on Vick is nowhere near as inflammatory as the pic of him in whiteface which contradicts me saying you can't imagine him as white.
I had no idea they'd put a pic of Vick in whiteface. Makes no sense w an essay saying it's impossible to re-imagine him as white?
I asked them not to call it "What If Vick Were White" but they did.
You can see Toure's frustration with the whole thing, because this was supposed to be an intelligent and thoughtful look at Vick but, thanks to the editors at the four letter, was turned into an exploitative, attention-grabbing piece designed to produce only the dumbest arguments. And it will produce dumb arguments. Colin Cowherd already has a dozen of them loaded into his holster. ESPN shouldn't ever be allowed to do anything.
UPDATE: They changed the image back to black Mike Vick.
UPDATE 2: Now he's white again! I'm so confused.