Some more thoughts on a black Michael Phelps

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Some commenters have noted that the "If Michael Phelps were black" question matters because of the racial disparity in terms of drug arrests. You guys know where I stand on the drug war, race and weed. But what has to be proven to maintain this line of though is that a successful, black Olympian caught smoking weed would have caught more hell than Michael Phelps is catching right now. I find it nauseating to ask which millionaire--the black or the white one--has it hardest. But to be clear, the question isn't are blacks and whites treated differently in terms of drug arrests, it's would being black really have made things worse for Michael Phelps?

It amazes me that people think they can answer that question. Lawerence Taylor was a known coke-head who was beloved by fans, and largely, by media also. Allen Iverson has been busted, not just for drug possession, carrying a concealed weapon, threatening two dudes with a gun, and maiming by mob. It's true that Iverson has never been popular with the media. But in his prime, he was one of the most popular players in the NBA. Even in his twilight years, Iverson's jersey is the most popular in the NBA.

There is no real debate about blacks and whites and drug policy. We get the short end of the stick, no question. But seriously, atheletes--at least during their careers--are on another planet. Maybe things would have been worse for Phelps if he were black. I really have no idea. But simple-minded, uncomplicated, flat readings of race into every little thing are silly. The dude lost his endorsement. His friends are being hauled off to jail. I don't understand the point of piling on and saying, "If he were black, he would have gotten the chair.' Who the frak really knows?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2009/02/some-more-thoughts-on-a-black-michael-phelps/6713/