This week, Michael Oher, former professional football player and the main character of the highly acclaimed 2009 motion picture, The Blind Side, filed a lawsuit against Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy, the Nashville couple who took the homeless teenager off the streets and gave him a home which helped propel his successful and lucrative NFL football career. Oher is claiming that the Touhys lied and manipulated him into signing a conservatorship, so they could control his money – even though the Touhys already had a net worth of over $200 million. There doesn’t appear to be much gratitude on the part of Michael Oher to the Touhys for everything they did to help him pull himself out of poverty. Apparently, Oher believes that would have happened anyway without the intrusion of the Touhys into his life. The Touhys were only after his money.
This type of ingratitude is not unique to situations like this. Earlier this year, former NFL football player, Colin Kaepernick called his white adoptive parents “racists” because when he was a teenager, they disapproved of him getting cornrows. He had been abandoned by his biological parents, and his adoptive parents gave him a loving and supportive home from which his professional career was able to take off, and the only vitriol he expresses is toward the parents who loved him and nurtured him, and not the “parents” who abandoned him.
This is the same pattern that we witnessed with former President Barack Obama who was raised by his white grandparents after his biological parents also abandoned him. In his book, Dreams of My Father, Obama tells the story of when he first came to the conclusion that his white grandmother was racist after she, a woman in her 60’s, was frightened by a male black panhandler who continued to harass her for more and more money even after she had given him some. Obama reveals his own racism in his retelling of that story because he was upset that his grandmother had been scared of someone who looked like him. His grandmother was judging the person’s actions, while Obama was judging the person’s skin color. But sadly, his book, as the title suggests, is one long homage to his black father who abandoned him was he was still a child, and not to his white grandparents who sacrificed so much to raise him.
Time and again, when a white person helps out a black person, the white person, eventually, is characterized as a racist. That is why the mainstream media is thrilled about this recent turn of events with Michael Oher suing the Touhys. The left-wing media cannot wait to tear down any white people who have the audacity to offer a helping hand to a disadvantaged person who happens to be black, because white people must always be painted as the bad guy, even when they are doing something good. Instead of seeing the Michael Oher story as an example for everyone, regardless of race, to follow – those who can help should help those in need, the left-wing media choses to diminish this uplifting story and expose their racism by calling the movie a “white savior trope”. Robyn Autry, a sociology professor and MSNBC contributor, called the film, “typical Hollywood White savior nonsense, that unsurprisingly made hundreds of millions of dollars… dishonest, condescending and emotionally manipulative.” Other left-wing media sites called the movie, “trash”, “fakery”, and said, the story was “always built in shaky ground.”
So, the same people who continually call for higher taxes, expansion of government, and restriction of rights in order to help disadvantaged people of color, are painting the Touhey’s who actually helped a disadvantaged person of color, as racists. Instead of the Touhys actually giving Michael Oher the help and necessities to turn his life around, the left would prefer the government increase the taxes on the Touhys under the guise of helping poor people and then allow all that extra tax money to get misspent and squandered in the social services bureaucracies without ever getting to the poor people it was intended for.
What would they have said about the Touhys if as they had been driving down the road in their SUV toward their large home, they see a homeless black student who goes to their children’s school walking on the shoulder in the pouring rain, and they drive by without stopping, without helping? People would call them racists if they didn’t pull over and help Michael Oher. People on the left would give their right arms for a video of Donald Trump driving by and ignoring a homeless black teenager walking in the rain. To them, that would be definitive proof of Trump’s racism. In reality, what the Touhys did by picking Michael Oher up was not an extraordinary gesture. It did not make them heroes or some kind of saviors. It is something that most parents would do. If you left a high school basketball game and saw one of your children’s classmates walking down the street at night in the driving rain, wouldn’t you pull over and ask, ‘do you need a ride home? Do you have a place to stay?’ That is what human beings do. It was only after the Touhys picked up Michael Oher when they discover that he was homeless and offered him a place to live.
But situations like this have become one big no-win situation. If a white person doesn’t help a black person in need, he is an ethnocentric racist; but, if a white person does help a black person in need, he is a white savior racist; if a white person says he doesn’t see skin color, he’s a racist; if he says he does see skin color, he’s a racist. The Michael Oher-Touhy family story should not be characterized as a white family helping a homeless black kid; it should be seen for what it really is, a family helping a kid in need – human beings helping another human being. The story of The Blind Side shows how, even seemingly small gestures of help, can have a momentous positive impact on someone else’s life. When we stop laser focusing on race, we will finally start seeing each other as fellow human beings.
But MSNBC’s Professor Robyn Autry sees it differently because she sees these types of stories solely through the lens of race. She wrote, “The White person is the hero, without whom the Black characters, we’re left to believe, would never have been anything.” Following her logic, rejecting the “white savior trope” should mean that black people must reject all help from white people. Black people do not need white people’s help to succeed in the world. They can do it on their own. They are strong enough and smart enough and tough enough to succeed without the help from some self-ascribed benevolent white hero. That’s completely fair.
But that is not what is going on today. Many black people and organizations are demanding $10 trillion in reparations for slavery. In their 2018 report, What We Get Wrong About Closing the Wealth Gap, economists and reparation advocates, William Darity and Darrick Hamilton write, “Blacks cannot close the racial wealth gap by changing their individual behavior –i.e. by assuming more ‘personal responsibility’ or acquiring the portfolio management insights associated with ‘financially literacy’.” Nor do they believe the gap will be closed with “greater educational attainment, harder work, better financial decisions, and other changes in habits and practices on the part of blacks.” They believe “addressing racial wealth inequality will require a major redistributive effort or another major public policy intervention to build black American wealth. This could take the form of a direct race-specific initiative like a dramatic reparations program.”
But where will that reparation money come from? It will not come from the people who actually owned the slaves, nor would it go to people who actually were slaves. That would be impossible – none of them are still living. The slavery reparation money would come from white people because, people like Robyn Autry, William Darity and Darrick Hamilton believe that every problem in the black communities should be laid at the feet of white people. Reparations would be one of the largest transfers of wealth in human history. $10 trillion comes out to $50,000 from every white man, woman and child in the country. My 7-month-old son would be on the hook for $50,000 because he is white and he has owned as many slaves as every other living white person in this country – ZERO.
So, those who reject the “white savior trope” believe that white people voluntarily helping black people is racist, but believe a government forced reparations program where large sums of honestly-earned money is transferred from white people to black people against their will is justice. They actually want white people to sacrifice and give to improve the lives of black people, they just don’t want white people to get any credit for doing so because white people must always be the bad guys.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.