... the same people that tried to blackball me
Forgot about two things: my black balls.
In popular culture, black masculinity is often contested in the arena of sports. Think of Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali—two powerful black male athletes whose assertions of self, sexuality, and political independence brought them into direct conflict with the U.S. government. Or think of Hank Aaron, whose pursuit of Babe Ruth's venerable homerun record brought him piles of racist hate mail.
All of this history sprang to mind for my yesterday when I read an article in the New York Times about the ongoing Barry Bonds trial. Bonds, who long since passed up both Ruth and Aaron as the career leader in homeruns, is on trial for perjury, accused of lying to a grand jury in 2003 about whether or not he ever used steroids.
I don't listen to a lot of sports talk radio or talk much about sports myself, but even from my rather distant perspective, I'm aware that there are a lot of white people in America who revile Bonds in much the same way that many whites in the past reviled Jack Johnson and Muhammad Ali. I also get the sense that many of them are licking their chops at the prospect of Bonds' getting cut down to size in this trial.
There's something unseemly about it—this white desire to see a black man punished for getting too big, literally—that puts me in mind of a fatalistic comment made by the poor black sharecropper Trueblood in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man: "no matter how biggity a nigguh gits, the white folks can always cut him down."
Kanye's lyrics notwithstanding, the people who are going after this black ballplayer have not forgotten about his black balls, whose size may soon become a piece of forensic evidence in the trial, according to the Times article:
Jeffrey Nedrow, an assistant United States attorney, asked (Larry) Bowers, the chief science director of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, how steroid use could affect a man’s testicles.
“It’s been well documented that you could have testicular atrophy,” Bowers said, before putting it simply. “They will shrink” ...
While listening to that testimony, some jurors knitted their brows or even giggled. When they return to court Monday, though, they will learn the relevance of that information.
Kimberly Bell, Bonds’s girlfriend from 1994 to 2003, is expected to testify that she noticed a marked decrease in the size of Bonds’s testicles while they were dating.
This is surely one of the more absurd turns in recent American jurisprudence. At the same time, it's hard not to see it as merely the latest variation on the well-rehearsed theme of America's uncomfortable relationship with black manhood.