This weekend, Floyd Mayweather will fight Manny Pacquiao in what will be the most highly-anticipated boxing match I can remember. It's so highly-anticipated that people who generally give no fucks about boxing — people like The Wife Person and I — will be making plans this week to not only watch the fight, but possibly (gasp!) pay to watch the fight.
Mayweather is generally regarded as perhaps the best pound-for-pound boxer ever. And, although this fight should have happened five years ago, defeating Pacquiao will cement this legacy. He is also known for being a shitty human being; having been accused of violence against women seven times in the last 13 years.
Yet, although I don't have a rooting interest in this fight, if forced to make a choice at gunpoint, I'd first be confused by this randomly violent act. (And I'd question the decision making process that led me to attend an event where this is happening.) And then I'd say that I'd rather see Mayweather win than Pacquiao. For two reasons:
1. I don't root for underdogs
You know those people who'll have no real interest in college basketball, but will watch Kentucky play Slippery Rock State in the tournament and instinctively hope for Slippery Rock State to pull off the upset? I am not one of those people. Unless I have a particular animus towards the favorite (basically, if it's the New England Patriots) or a particular relationship with the underdog, I do not gravitate towards underdogs. I don't feel a connection to them, I don't believe them winning makes for a "better" story, and I fucking hated Hoosiers. Just as I wanted to see Kentucky go undefeated, I'd like for Mayweather to retire with no losses. I appreciate sustained athletic greatness more than statistically improbable occurrences (upsets) because sustained greatness is rarer. And more fun (for me) to watch.
2. Floyd Mayweather is Black
I am also Black. Manny Pacquiao is not Black. Therefore, although I don't have much of a rooting interest in this fight, if given the choice, I'd rather see Mayweather win than Pacquiao.
The importance of Mayweather's Blackness in my rooting interest cannot be overstated. Because if the roles were reversed — if Pacquiao was the undefeated champion and Mayweather the underdog finally getting his shot — I'd root for…Mayweather. All of that shit I just said about not rooting for underdogs? Kicked out the window. And pissed on while sitting in on the lawn. Blackness is the Big Joker. It's such a trump card that despite my knowledge of his propensity for being a shitty human being — and despite having no trouble discontinuing support for other celebrities exposed as being shitty human beings (hi, R. Kelly) — I know that when the bell rings Saturday night and the fight starts, I'm probably going to pull for the Black guy.
This is where you say "Pacquiao is no angel, either. He's been investigated for income tax evasion, and he seems to have a ridiculously inflated opinion of his basketball talents. You're not breaking some moral law rooting for Mayweather just because he's Black."
And this is where I say you're missing the point. Manny Pacquiao could very well be an actual angel. Like, descended from Heaven with wings and harps and shit. And it would not matter. Pacquiao seems like a nice guy and Mayweather is a caricature of every caricature sports movie villain — there really isn't much difference between him and Tong Po. But Mayweather happens to be Black. And since I also happen to be Black, I'd rather see him win.
This leaves us with one question: Is this racist? If you're a person who believes Black Americans can't be racist — because true racism means you have the power to turn your racial animus into oppression and benefit from inequality — then the answer ("No") is obvious. You could also argue that my feelings about this fight are just an example of tribalism instead of racism. I'm not anti-Filipino; just so pro-Black that this pro-Blackness influences my thought process and decision making.
But, considering the circumstance, how does this make me any different from the White guy who votes for a terrible White politician — a terrible politician whose policies would have a negative impact on his life — just because his opponent happens to be Black? Most would consider that hypothetical voter to racist. Or, at least, biased enough to do an unquestionably racist thing. But I doubt many read my rationale for rooting for Mayweather and immediately thought "Yup, that's racist."
Granted, this isn't a perfect analogy. Who we vote for matters. Who we root for in a boxing match doesn't. But the thought process behind those decisions is close enough. The Blackness possessed by a Black person I wouldn't invite to game night trumps the non-Blackness of a non-Black person I'd not only invite to game night but change the time/date if my original time/date didn't work with his schedule. So, again, is this racist?
Actually, nevermind. Don't answer this yet. Wait until after the fight.