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The Paradox of the "Slave Athletic Celebrity",
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This review is from: Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete (Hardcover)Rhoden's aim in this finely written and very readable screed is to explore the African American star athlete's paradoxical dilemma: On one hand, he is worshipped for his athletic prowess and is lavished with millions of dollars. On the other hand, he is beholden to white team owners, white league administrators, and as such is limited to the role of a super-paid lackey.
Some reviewers object to the slavery analogy and the exodus from the plantation to the Promised Land that is heavily used in Rhoden's argument. But Rhoden is correct to point out that the slavery is both spiritual and power-based. Spiritual because too many African American athletes, Rhoden charges, are so busy micromanaging their careers that they have no sense of the broader context, of African American history (one star athlete was shocked with disbelief when he discovered that blacks were once banned from Major League Baseball). Power-based because too many blacks are relegated to "black" roles and forget the larger mission of making more opportunities for blacks in positions of privilege.
Whether or not you agree with Rhoden's analogy, I would argue that the book is nevertheless very readable and entertaining, giving us powerful narratives of how black men, starting with the emancipated slave fighter Tom Molineaux, left America to fight the English champion Tom Cribb and showed whites that blacks' athletic performance defied stereotypes about being dense, ignorant, maladroit, etc. By studying Molineaux, Ali, and other African American greats, Rhoden shows how black athletes who see themselves as symbols of black power help forge the way for other black athletes.
On a personal note, Rhoden, an African American, explains in his own life growing up in Chigaco in the 1950s and 1960s, that sports are a great avenue for learning about race and American history. I am no exception. As a child, I loved Hank Aaron and one day as I read about the way he was bullied and denied white restaurants and hotels, I got a bitter taste of what this country was like for people of color and contemplated the hideous color divide.
Sports is a powerful metaphorical arena for talking about race and Rhoden has done an exemplary job of developing that metaphor in a book that is always engaging and provocative.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 11, 2007 9:35:54 AM PDT
Dera R Williams says:
Great, thorough review.
Posted on Aug 17, 2010 12:15:18 PM PDT
Mr. Philip Kaveny says:
Very strong background info on the author and it helps with my research
Posted on Oct 23, 2011 12:48:08 AM PDT
L Doll says:
Loved this review. Currently reading this book and your review and perspective is pretty spot on.
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