A lot of Filipinos, friends and otherwise, have expressed their disappointment and sheer disgust for Floyd “Money” Mayweather on their respective interwebs interfaces. And rightfully so.
Manny is an icon in contemporary Filipino culture. He’s a great fighter. Sometimes people misunderstand why he’s a congressman, and sometimes I think its because he’s got money and therefore, following Filipino corruptionary, he should have some power.
Still, young and old, FilAms, Filipinos in the Philippines and Filipinos everywhere, really, love him because he put us, our face, our country back in the American popular, mainstream culture like no one has been able to before.
The contention around the anticipated and suspended-in-sports-promotion-purgatory Mayweather and Pacquiao fight has always been about race and masculinity. I remember a conversation between me and an African American friend of mine, and he said, “I love the Pacman! Manny is an amazing pound for pound fighter, but…I gotta go with Money Mayweather because we gotta stick together.” I said, “Right, right.”
But what ain’t right is when people are racist and say racist things. And Mayweather did that. And that’s wrong.
ESPN writer, LZ Granderson, writes an amazing commentary about, 1) how Mayweather’s apology is an afterthought and insincere, and more importantly, 2) how his racist epithets are excused by Black organizations and Black leaders because he is, in fact, Black. Granderson makes a good argument that highlights how people of color, not just Black folks, internalize and distribute racism as well.
But this whole debacle is also dripping with homophobia and masculinity.
Jamilah King of the trusty and always on-point Colorlines also provides a provocative commentary on the situation highlighting that Mayweather apologized for everything but his homophobic slurs. And why would he? All he was criticized for in popular media and the surrounding technologies was his racism, not so much on the homophobia he so effortlessly used and probably immersed in as an athlete.
The practice of hegemonic masculinity in this particular incident is through violence, homophobia and sexualization of another man. And it is all informed by the different ways brown men are pitted against one another in a roped cage for the amusement and entertainment of others. This is no current phenomena. It’s an old trick in the white supremacist, patriarchal, heternormative book: divide and conquer.
The racialization of masculinity in boxing has had one of my friends call it, “The Oppression Olympics.” Everytime 2 brown men are slated to fight one another in the ring and they happen to be Black versus Filipino, or Mexican versus Filipino, or Mexican versus Puertorican, there always seems to be this triumphant claim to nationalism and ethnicity that have people ready to ‘rep their set’ and say disgustingly hateful things to the ‘other.’ We (Filipinos) all participate in this, especially during a Manny fight–thinking that if we all send him good thoughts all at the same time that it’ll make him stronger. Or if we chant his name at the same time from our living rooms in California to Tondo to New York and Hong Kong, that his opponent will hear us and he will collapse from our global booming voice. But really, at that moment, we’re really hoping that the other (insert ethnicity) contender will lose and all we can see in our narrowest target is that contender, their brown face, their nation, their people. And we want them to lose.
This affect of hate and pride, puffed up chests and grunts are part of a masculinity that can only be a loose iteration of hegemonic masculinity, a masculinity of power, capital, control (political and economic). It’s about a horizontal violence against other ethnicities. It’s about a violence that not only puts a contender to the ground for 10 seconds, but its about a violence that reduces that contender’s body into the weakest being: a homosexual, an effeminate, the feminine, the deviant.
But, then I pause, and really ask, for whom is all this hatred stirred up for?
It’s really a produced and reproduced cycle of people of color exacting hate and violence on one another because they are who one another sees in the ring, in the streets, in the bodegas, in the neighborhood. I wish I could say that Mayweather’s remarks about Manny can stay in the business of boxing ring, but unfortunately, its bigger than that.
And perhaps, someone, should remind both Mayweather and the Pacman that regardless of if they fight or not, violent masculinity is still tearing up my brothers out there in the street, day in and day out, uStream or not.