Woody Allen Earl Monroe Essay

He kept a journal and over the next few years transformed that journal into this book, which is focused sharply on white spectators' relationship to black athletes, in particular Shields' own identification with Gary Payton, the team's language-besotted point-guard.Through the apparently simple vehicle of a daily diary running from November 5, 1994 to May 5, 1995, and ranging from a dispute between two fans over the sale of a ticket to the national media frenzy surrounding Charles Barkley's jest "That's why I hate white people," David Shields confronts the nature of racism (including his own)--the otherness in ourselves that we project onto strangers.

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He confesses to be ``masquerading as a journalist'' but still expects everyone to come to him.

The result is a book nearly impossible to read and one that proves its point: Americans really must be inept at discussing race if a work as unrewarding as this can find its way into print.

The National Basketball Association is a place where, without ever acknowledging it, white fans and black players enact and quietly explode virtually every racial issue and tension in the culture at large.

In Black Planet, David Shields explores how, in a predominantly black sport, white fans--including especially himself--think about and talk about black heroes, black sca The National Basketball Association is a place where, without ever acknowledging it, white fans and black players enact and quietly explode virtually every racial issue and tension in the culture at large.

Anyone serious about raising the flag of racism has a responsibility to dig into the topic with enough enterprise to ease the reader toward fresh insight. Much of the thin volume has him listening to sports talk radio, passing on the quotes and adding his interpretation.

Such talk is notoriously banal, yet Shields carries on as if he were breaking down ``Ulysses.'' A caller describes a Sonics player as ``a keel on a sailboat''; that is, a steadying influence.

To anyone not giddy over ``facing'' a tough subject such as the ubiquity of race as a subtext of NBA life, the tone- deaf gratuitousness of this and similar revelations should register like the thump-thump-thump that tells you you're drifting out of your highway lane. It's impossible to fathom whom he sees as his audience.

To virtually any black person, his Andy Rooneyesque, did-you-ever-wonder meditations about racism in sports will be self-evident.

Here is the review I wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle when it came out: A Basketball Diary Most Foul Writer's examination of race and the NBA falls far short REVIEWED BY Steve Kettmann Sunday, December 26, 1999BLACK PLANET Facing Race During an NBA Season By David Shields Crown; 223 pages; No matter how admirable his novels and collection of stories might be, the David Shields we get to know in ``Black Planet: Facing Race During an NBA Season,'' a diary-style account of a Seattle Super Sonics season, emerges as the worst sort of con man, one who cons himself into believing he's not conning us.

The problem is not so much the hubris of a writer who is not black taking on race and the National Basketball Association.


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