Cam “The Black Man” Newton, in case anyone had any doubts, is a Black man. One could say that he is unapologetically a Black man. Cam Newton was unmistakably a Black manchild, when he played little league baseball out of a DeKalb County, Georgia Park in a prominently Black community.
He was undoubtedly proud to wear the jersey of the Birmingham Black Barons to honor a team of Negro baseball players who played in a segregated league because Major League Baseball owners refused to permit Black baseball players to compete alongside white baseball players.
The 26 year-old Newton was definitely a Black student in the predominantly Black West Lake High School in College Park, Georgia, where he learned the quarterback skills he now displays on Sunday afternoons.
Hardly anyone believe that Newton was anything other than a Black young man when he was run through the campus judicial system at Florida State University. I’m willing to bet 9 will get you 10, that everybody knew Newton was a Black quarterback when Alabama Alums ran Cam and his dad through the ringer over the methods Auburn used to recruit him.
There was no question when Newton accepted the Heisman Trophy in 2011 that he was a Black man on the brink of making a whole lot of money.
I had not paid much attention to Cam Newton prior to an October 2012 football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons. I had been aware of his exploits as a budding little league baseball player and of his prowess as the quarterback at West Lake High. I dismissed the rumors that he had stolen a computer at Florida State.
The allegations smelled a bit fishy to me. After all, Newton’s dad was a well respected minister of the gospel in the metropolitan Atlanta area. He came from a middle class home and would not have a need to steal an electronic device.
Also, I dismissed the Auburn allegations involving his dad and the recruitment of Newton. I know how easy it is to get people to believe the worst when you toss in the possibility that a Black man is the culprit. Essentially, I believed that Newton did not deserve the bad rap he was getting, but he was not on my radar as a person that we would be hearing more from at a later time.
On this particular Sunday afternoon in 2012, I was in Naples, Florida working as a Precinct Captain for the reelection of President Barack Obama. My precinct office was in the home of a white family who had in previous elections voted Republican. However, they had a grandchild who had contracted cancer. The family at the beginning of this century had lived a life slightly above middle-class.
By 2012, they like most Americans, had seen their income and savings evaporate as a result of the George Walker Bush economic meltdown in 2008. The family was unable to obtain insurance to properly care for this grandchild because of the pre-existing condition rule followed by all insurance companies prior to the Affordable Care Act.
Before his death, the grandchild had made the grandmother promise, that she would support President Obama, because he had done the research and found the only way for him and others in his situation to obtain the health insurance they needed was for the implementation of ObamaCare.
For this reason, they opened their home to me to use as a satellite office. They fed me well and often threatened to sic their huge German Shepherd dogs on me, if I did not show the proper respect for their home, whatever, that meant. I took it to mean that I may be working to reelect the President of the United States, but I was indeed a Black man in their eyes.
On this particular Sunday afternoon in October the television was turned to the Carolina vs Atlanta game. Newton was working his trade, throwing bombs, scrambling, dancing and prancing, or as the kids say, doing the “dab.”
Suddenly, the white woman of the house exclaimed, “I hate him! I just hate him!”
“Why,” I asked?
“I hate him,” she bellowed, blood rushing to fill up her cheeks, eyes bulging!
“Why, what is it about him, I queried?
“I just hate him,” she said emphatically!
“What did he do,” quizzically I asked, while focusing on the television screen to see if I could discern what had caused her outburst?
“I just don’t like him,” she intoned in a white woman’s snarl.
At that moment, I had no doubt that in the mind of this white lady, Cam “The Black Man” Newton was indeed a Black man playing quarterback on a high level in the National Football League. And those taunts about sicing the dogs on me were a real possibility. After all, I sauntered in a bold intellectual “dab,” like the free Black man that I am, throughout a white household, where the dogs had been trained to attack Black men who approached the premises.
As Black men we have to perform our jobs expertly in spite of the hatred that is hurled at us, usually behind our backs, by white people. At the end of the day, like Newton, I had a job to do in Naples, Florida, and that was to improve Obama’s vote total in Collier County, Florida from the eight percent he received in 2008 to ten percent. Mission accomplished, I flew out of town. I’m awaiting Newton’s performance next weekend.
So when Newton told reporters during his weekly media session at Bank of America Stadium., “I’m an African-American quarterback that may scare a lot of people because they haven’t seen nothing they can compare me to,” he spoke nothing but the truth, about how white Americans , some of whom he has never met, feel about him.
I applaud Newton’s unflinching declaration that he is a Black man playing a white man’s position better than anyone (Black or White) has played it up to this time. Given Newton’s cultural upbringing, why should he sublimate his identity just because he will quarterback his team in Super Bowl 50? Why should he pretend that America is a post-racial country and that white people are not afraid of black men whether they flaunt a “dab” or no “dab?”
Perhaps, race relations would improve for the better, if more black athletes, entertainers and politicians were as unapologetically Black as Cam Newton.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com