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RGIII — Race, Football & Foreclosures

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has been much in the news during the past week, first for an on-field knee injury and then because of questions regarding his group identity.

ESPN sports commentator Rob Parker, who is African-American, wanted to know whether Griffin was “a brother or a cornball brother?”

“We all know he has a white fiancée,” Parker said, according to ESPN. “There was all this talk about he’s a Republican, which, there’s no information at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper as to why he has an issue. Because we did find out with Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods was like, I’ve got black skin, but don’t call me black. So people got to wondering about Tiger Woods early on.”

Until the injury Griffin was the starting quarterback with the Redskins, but he is more than an athlete of astonishing talent on the field.. At 22, he is someone who has won the Heisman Trophy and — according to the Washington Post — earned a political science degree at Baylor University in just three years.

Stephen A. Smith, another ESPN commentator and also African-American, reacted this way:

“I’m uncomfortable with where we just went,” Smith said in response to Parker’s comments, according to NBC Sports. “RGIII, the ethnicity, the color of his fiancée is none of our business. It’s irrelevant. He can live his life any way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kind of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy.”

Parker has now been suspended by ESPN but the question he raised overtly places on the front burner – again – the issue of race.

50 Years Later

In the 1960s many thought 50 years into the future that race would be regarded in about the same way we might notice height or freckles, characteristics which do not define the totality of who we are as individuals. Many also believed that segregation and racism would be largely gone and entirely unlamented — and that those who supported such views quietly or openly would be profoundly embarrassed if they were still around in 2012.

There’s no doubt that on many levels we have become a more inclusive society.


In 1960 John Kennedy became the first Catholic President, in 2000 Joe Lieberman became the first Jewish candidate for Vice President on a national ticket, and in 2012 Mitt Romney — a Mormon — won the Republican nomination.

With President Obama we have a black man who in 2012 won the popular vote, the electoral vote, the woman’s vote, the Catholic vote, the Hispanic vote, the youth vote and more of the Mormon vote than John Kerry. Here, surely, is continued evidence that we are willing to look at people individually rather than on the basis of their DNA, what book they read, what day they pray or whether they pray at all.

And yet….

Race and Real Estate

Group identity still matters in real estate. Blacks make up 13.1 percent of the population and Hispanics are 16.7 percent but when it comes to FHA mortgages the government tells us that “while FHA insurance was used for approximately 27 percent of all home purchase mortgages in 2011, FHA accounted for 50 percent of home purchase mortgages for African American borrowers and 49 percent for Latino borrowers.”

According to the Center for Responsible Housing, “African-American borrowers were 2.8 times as likely to receive a higher-rate loan as a white borrower, and Latino borrowers were 2.3 times as likely to receive a loan with a prepayment penalty. As noted earlier, there is evidence that many of these borrowers could have qualified for more affordable and sustainable loans.”

In other words, minority borrowers didn’t get the loans for which they were best qualified and as a result have disproportionately-higher foreclosure rates.

“These racial and ethnic disparities show no signs of abating,” says the Center. “Among Latino and African-American households, an additional 11.5% and 13% of loans, respectively, were seriously delinquent, compared with six percent for non-Hispanic whites. Not all of these delinquencies will result in completed foreclosures. But given that the housing market and economic recovery are still weak, more defaults are still to come. It is possible that more than 25 percent of all home loans to African-American and Latino borrowers during this time period will eventually end in foreclosure.”

NFL Future

Today we have Rob Parker who publicly and pointedly wants to know where Robert Griffin fits in a schematic diagram of racial groupings because, somehow, this is important to Parker. More specifically, Parker wants to know if Griffin is a “cornball brother,” a group which is apparently distinctive and different from, one supposes, “non-cornball brothers.”

We have no idea how Robert Griffin will fare with NFL football or in life, but to this point the son of two military veterans is someone who is easy to admire. Now if he would just pass more….

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