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What he says, and what we hear

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Stop the Presses column by Chris Graham

News item: Michael Vick backs out of radio interview, according to the host, because “he was afraid they might take any part of our interview out of context as he talks to black America.”

So …

What was he going to say to black America that was any different than he was going to say to, I don’t know, white America?

And what would white America have heard out of context, as it were, had he gone through with the interview?

Hmmm …

I wonder.

Message to black America: “Um, you know, I didn’t really do it. YouknowwhatI’msayin’? They’re just out to get successful black men. That’s why all this came down.”

What white America hears: “I did it.”

Message to black America: “It was a conspiracy, man. A conspiracy. They railroaded me. Just like O.J.”

What white America hears: “I did it. Just like O.J.”

So actually, I can see why he wouldn’t want to go on live radio and talk about what he’s thinking right now.

Because we white folks really do just tend to hear what we want to hear.

OK, so we heard him say the word guilty when the judge asked him to offer his plea on Monday.

But … we just don’t get it.

Message to black America: “It’s not like I killed anybody or anything.”
What white America hears: “I’m your worst nightmare.”

It’s just white-people nature.

We did it to O.J., we’re doing it to Barry Bonds, to Vick.

And honestly, we can’t wait for the next African-American sports icon to fall from grace.

Message to black America: “They didn’t have anything on me.”
What white America hears: “I can’t believe they got to my boys that quick.”

Message to black America: “That part about me offering to testify against other dogfighters – I’m not a snitch. Man, no way, nohow.”

What white America hears: “I’m going to sing like Clay Aiken.”

There we go again – putting words in a black man’s mouth.

And notice how we didn’t think to ourselves – “Sing like Ruben Studdard.”
It’s because we think Clay got jobbed that year on “American Idol.”

We don’t think that. We know that.

Message to black America: “I’ve found Jesus.”
What white America hears: “Did he say Jesus? Are you sure he didn’t mean Minister Farrakhan?”

Or maybe Al Sharpton.

And didn’t we white Americans all wonder where Al Sharpton was during all this?

And we haven’t heard a peep from Jesse Jackson for months.

Isn’t that weird?
Message to black America: “I really do hope kids learn from my mistakes.”

What white America hears: “Don’t be stupid like me and get caught.”
We ought to be ashamed of ourselves, white folks.

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Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.

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