Blindsided by White “Saviors” (with Saida Grundy) | Crooked Media
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August 24, 2023
Stuck with Damon Young
Blindsided by White “Saviors” (with Saida Grundy)

In This Episode

On the heels of retired NFL player Michael Oher’s recent lawsuit against the Tuohy family, where he claims that they manipulated him into a conservatorship, University of Boston Professor Saida Grundy returns to help Damon unpack all of the problems with “The Blindside.” Including why the white savior narrative is so seductive (and so dangerous), and how both Michael Lewis (the author of The Blindside) and the Tuohy family have capitalized, for years, on an intentional mischaracterization of Oher possessing severe intellectual disabilities. 





Saida Grundy: The fact that these white people have gaslit America by literally exploiting and trafficking children and then making themselves motivational speakers over it, which again. Visit Leigh Anne Tuohy’s Facebook page. It is absurd. It’s like a shopping exchange for foster children. All the posts are just pictures, mostly Black. It’s it really is. It’s like. It’s like one of those, like buy or sell Facebook groups, but it’s just foster kids. [music plays] 


Damon Young: Welcome back, everyone, to another very special episode of Stuck with Damon Young. So I don’t know if a movie has been able to capture the concept of two Americas the way that the Blindside did, because, you know, in mainstream white America, it was critically acclaimed. It made $300 million and it won Sandra Bullock an Oscar. But in Black America, well, at least in the Black American circles I’m in, the collective takeaway from that movie was this is some bullshit. And to apparently confirmed that our collective cynicism was justified? Retired NFL player Michael Oher, whose story was a single hit movie, recently sued the Tuohy family, alleging that they been defrauding him in the public for over a decade. And to talk about this and also, I guess to get into the popularity of like the white savior narrative, I’m joined by a friend of the pod, Boston University professor, Saida Grundy. We have so much to talk about that we spent the entire episode on this topic. All right y’all. Let’s get it. [music plays] Dr. Saida Grundy a.k.a. Sharkus Garvey, friend of the pod, sociology professor at Boston University. Saida what’s good? 


Saida Grundy: What’s good, darling? I just want to say thanks for having me back on, because now everyone who doesn’t know me knows that my voice sounds like an incarcerated Muppet. 


Damon Young: [laughs] Well, you know, we’re both still recovering. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: We were both in Birmingham kickin it together at NABJ. We had a great time. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: But, you know, we both brought back a virus. 


Saida Grundy: We got a red state parting gift. 


Damon Young: Yes, yes, yes. 


Saida Grundy: And I think that’s on us because going to a Waffle House twice in a row for two nights. Like, basically you have a 100% rate of contracting something. 


Damon Young: Yes. 


Saida Grundy: So it was either hepatitis A through Z or COVID. Yeah.


Damon Young: But the waffles were banging though.


Saida Grundy: I’m not disappointed in our meal. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And that was my first time in a Waffle House in 20 years. So it lived up to my expectations. And my expectations weren’t hot. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: So there’s a movie, The Blind Side, which is about a offensive lineman, Michael Oher, who was eventually drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, you know, had a decent career. 


Saida Grundy: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And it goes into, I guess, what happened with him when he was a teenager. 


Saida Grundy: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Where he was, quote unquote, “adopted” by a white family who were boosters for the University of Mississippi. 


Saida Grundy: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: Right. And he ended up living with this family and going to Ole Miss. He ended up getting drafted into the NFL. And this was a heartwarming story for some people. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: And Sandra Bullock famously won an Oscar. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: For her depiction of what’s the woman’s name, who she played. 


Saida Grundy: Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy are the couple we are talking about. 


Damon Young: Yes, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy. 


Saida Grundy: Who are white Memphians themselves. 


Damon Young: Yes, Memphian, I love that word. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. [laughs]


Damon Young: It almost sounds like amphibious. 


Saida Grundy: It does. Which is how they came, I believe, in contact with Michael Oher, who was also from Memphis. 


Damon Young: Yes. And so the story was broken by a writer for ESPN by the name of Michael Fletcher, who Michael Oher is alleging that the family made millions of dollars off of him and never actually adopted him. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: And made it so that he thought that he was adopted. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: He actually was tricked into signing a conservatorship. And so now it’s a story. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. 


Damon Young: And so when the story broke, I’m going to read the text that you sent me. Okay. You sent me a text, podcast needed about this A.S.A.P. Please. [laughter] Have me on. I have spent 12 plus years ranting about this fucking racist ass movie. 


Saida Grundy: Absolutely. And I am not alone in this. It’s one of those movies where white people love it and Black people despise this film. To me, it was the most racist film Hollywood has put out in the last 15 ish years. 


Damon Young: Oh, wow. Okay. That’s a high standard. 


Saida Grundy: That is a high standard. And particularly because it was so lauded by Hollywood. Every part of it, you know, even I went back and I watch clips this week just to make sure I wasn’t tripping. [laughs] And even if you look at the film cinematically, like if you were like a film scholar looking at the film and you think about the decisions made, like directorially, all the white people are always depicted as having abundance. Like there’s this scene where Michael Oher’s over at their house, and he makes the plate and he’s stealing food from their table, which makes no sense. And they are depicted as like, always, like attractive and luxurious. Remember, Tim McGraw plays the husband in this film, right? So, again, these are choices made because the actual couple is not attractive. So the choice made with Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw in this thing to make them sort of this very appealing white family. And even the scene where they have Thanksgiving at the house now, there’s all of five people at this home, including the kid who’s depicting Michael Oher. When we cut to the scene of their Thanksgiving table, it is just overflowing with food. And these are choices made to depict white people as generous, abundant, overflowing. Right. And choices were made to depict him. Now, you may have heard Michael Oher talk as a human being, very articulate. He’s gregarious, very much someone you would, you know, be friends with. Right. In that film, he’s depicted as damn near deaf, dumb and mute. His teeth are jacked up in a way that is not clear that his teeth were. He almost never talks in the film, almost never talk even when he’s being spoken to. 


Damon Young: Hm. 


Saida Grundy: And so for me, part of the rant is and part of my outrage about this movie. And I’m sorry, Dad, I’m about to use a racial epithet on this podcast, but it’s a big dumb nigga porn, right? That this is white people’s ultimate fantasy about Black athletes, that they are big, dumb niggas. And this family is depicted as having their own pet, big dumb nigga. And so this boy never has agency in this movie. He never has his own intellect. And it was, it wasn’t just a white savior film in terms of it was offensive. It’s proof that white savior films are lies. It depicts this white family as teaching this boy how to play football. Now, I don’t know about you, Damon, but what big motherfucker from Memphis don’t know how to play fucking football? He had been playing football since he was in second, third grade. They didn’t teach him how to play football. 


Damon Young: Yes. There’s two parts of the movie that really like. Even when I first watched it right and when I first watched it ten years ago, there were two parts that really stood out to be. It was like, Yo, what the fuck is happening here? First part, and this is something that annoys me whenever I see this depicted on screen is there is a scene where Michael Oher is in the hood wherever. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. 


Damon Young: And like, there’s some dope boys, the hustlers, whatever, and they’re giving them a hard time. And Sandra Bullock has to like, march through the hood and basically, like, threaten all the hood niggas and pull him out of the hood. 


Saida Grundy: And yeah, because they would listen to that white lady. 


Damon Young: But the thing is, in movies like this, there’s always like, this depiction of, like hood nigga of being like these crab ass motherfuckers who do not want anyone with any sort of talent, anyone with any sort of intellect. 


Saida Grundy: Absolutely. 


Damon Young: To leave, to not live that life when the reality is that— 


Saida Grundy: It’s quite the opposite. 


Damon Young: If you’re in the hood, it’s the exact opposite. 


Saida Grundy: Exact opposite. [laughs]


Damon Young: Where if you are someone that has some talent, if you’re someone who is a gifted athlete, if you’re someone who is not about that life, the hood niggas are going to kick you the fuck like yo, get away from us. 


Saida Grundy: Ask Jalen Rose. Right. Ask any athlete from the hood, they will get you anything you ever need. 


Damon Young: Yes. 


Saida Grundy: Because at that point it’s like they are the boosters, they are the hood boosters. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And so this idea that, like, not only was she protecting him from poverty. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. 


Damon Young: She was protecting him from, like, just the hood nigga, you know what I mean. The thug. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. 


Damon Young: When again, when, if you are from the hood, you know that. Yeah. Fuck, people will pick on you. People will make fun of you, whatever. But when it comes down to it, if you have talent, if you are gifted, if you are an athlete, if you are big, they’re going to be like, Yo, let that little nigga do his thing. Don’t get him involved with this life. 


Damon Young: Absolutely. 


Saida Grundy: Get the fuck up away from us. You don’t want to be involved with this shit. 


Saida Grundy: You are a protected class as far as the hood is concerned. 


Damon Young: Yeah. So there’s that scene which again, I immediately go, this is some bullshit. And then there’s another thing which is finding its way around Twitter right now where there’s a Black woman who works for the NCAA. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: Who is basically like the cynic is like, yo, so you’re telling me this family just like plucked you out the hood. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. These fucking Trump loving ass white people just. Yeah.


Damon Young: And is giving you a bed and is making you go to Mississippi and you know, they’re not influenced you in any way? And she’s depicted and you’re talking about choices, right? As being like the antagonist, as being like the evil. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. Yeah. The naysayer. Right. Exactly. 


Damon Young: The naysayer. When she’s the one who is actually looking out for this kid’s best interests. 


Saida Grundy: Absolutely. 


Damon Young: You know how fucked up you have to be for the NCAA to be the good guys. [laughs] You know what I mean?


Saida Grundy: Yeah, for real. You know, it reminds me, you know, a film I thought was equally egregious, and yet it was done by a Black filmmaker was Precious. Because both of these films depict Black families as completely defective and incapable of raising their own children with love and care and attention. And in the Blind Side, you know, one of the reasons that it was so personal for me is my godfather was former president of the National Association of Black Social Workers. And in the eighties and nineties, you remember those Oprah episodes, they were really big on scrutinizing transracial adoption. They were not for banning it necessarily. I mean, I have people in my village who I think are very responsible, transracial adopters, but they were very critical of it because remember, in the eighties, we have, you know, kids on TV who are, you know, this idea that Black kids are better when they’re adopted by white people, that white people’s families equal love and Black people’s families equal particularly it was an anti it was a misogynoir. Right. It was a peculiar about Black mothers being defective, which Precious goes out of its way to make Black mothers look defective. But in the Blind Side, we see that pairing with not only are Black people defective, and apparently this boy doesn’t even have any extended relatives, which again, not a Memphis possibility. He doesn’t have a grandmother, He ain’t got a grand daddy, he ain’t got no uncles, no aunties, nothing. And that somehow this family is better for this kid only because they’re white and wealthy than his own family. Right. And so we get a Ronald Reagan wet dream, which is that Black people are defective and messed up in their family unit, which we know not to be the case. First of all, we were so defective, why did we raise all their kids? It was our grandmothers raising their kids. Right? I bet you Leigh Anne Tuohy had a Black domestic growing up. I bet you right. So the very people who raised their children were called defective when we try to raise our own children. Right. And so this film, there’s multiple layers we need to deal with the Tuohy family, which I have found out far more about in this past 48 hours than I ever did. And then there’s the film and its choices. So we can dissect both of those, if you like. 


Damon Young: And there’s the film, right? Which again, you know, Sandra Bullock, won an Academy Award for the film, it made hundreds of millions of dollars. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah, over 300 million, I believe. Yeah. 


Damon Young: It was extremely popular and this sort of narrative. It’s a popular trope in American cinema where you have the noble white family, you have an educated, uncouth Negro or whatever who finds its way. You know, they they meet somehow. Sometimes it’s depicted where the white person goes into the hood and teaches them, you know what I mean? Teaches them math with like hip hop lyrics and basketball stats. And then sometimes it’s like, okay, you have this white person who pulls the Black person out of the hood. So you have the movie, but then you have the actual, like reality of what’s happening right now. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: And I think that we should actually just read some of what Michael Oher is alleging in this suit. So I’m a just read verbatim some of the stuff that I have in front of me. The 14 page petition filed in Tennessee alleges that the Tuohy’s never adopted Oher when he was in high school legally and instead had him sign a document for a conservatorship three days after his 18th birthday, thus giving them legal authority to make business deals in his name. The petition alleges that the Tuohy’s struck a deal that paid them and their birth children millions of dollars from the Oscar winning film that earned more than 300 million at the box office. And Michael got nothing. According to the lawsuit, Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February of 2023, when he learned that the conservatorship to which he consented on the basis that doing so would make him a member of the Tuohy family in fact, provided him no familial relationship with the Tuohy’s. And so Oher’s petition asks the court to end the conservatorship barring the use of his name and likeness, full accounting of the money that Tuohy’s earned using Oher’s name and pay back what they owe Oher, as well as punitive damages. 


Saida Grundy: So, you know, for all of the Tuohy’s claims that, you know, this seems a very deflective thing they’re doing, which is why it’s easy for me to believe that they’re manipulative. So Michael Oher’s claim is about conservatorship. And they’re saying we never, you know, made a lot of money off the movie. [laughter] He’s not even talking about the legal case is about conservatorship, which many an attorney will tell you there is no reason for a completely mentally capable, physically capable, employed adult to be in a conservatorship. Right. We learned this from Britney Spears. In fact, I think the phrase that lawyers use is I’ve never seen a person with a job be in a conservatorship because the whole point of a conservatorship is you wouldn’t even be able to work. You’ll be that incapacitated. So they keep deflecting this thing. Right. The fact for me is that the conservatorship exists. That’s why I feel so strongly about Michael Oher’s claim. Why is there conservatorship at all if this young man wasn’t being manipulated and they didn’t just tell him that this was a way for him to be in their family, they did say, you know, this is the only way to adopt an adult, which, again, is manipulative because adults can’t be adopted. But there’s also how they told him was the only way he would go to Ole Miss, which is bizarre, since I believe Ole Miss was already recruiting him. So they fully manipulated this man. 


Damon Young: Now, let me read the counter from the Tuohy’s. Attorney. Martin Singer issued a statement on the Tuohy’s behalf that called oversight claims outlandish and said that the idea that the family ever sought a profit off of Mr. Oher is not only offensive, it is transparently ridiculous. In reality. The Tuohy’s opened their home to Mr. Oher, offered him structure support and most of all, unconditional love. Singer’s statement said they have consistently treated him like a son, one of their three children. His response was to threaten him, including saying that he would plant a negative story about them in the press unless they paid him $15 million for clarity sake. That quote is from article also written by Michael Fletcher of ESPN. So.


Saida Grundy: The love was literally conditional. If you’re saying sign this or you won’t be in our family, then the love is literally conditional. 


Damon Young: So apparently I also read some stuff today that basically said in Michael Oher’s, in the book that he wrote, I guess a few years ago, I forget the title, but in his first book, he does state that he was never adopted by them. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. And remember, the film goes out of its way, the film has an actual theme. There’s all these, you know, white people on the Internet talking about, well you know, the film never implied he was adopted. No. The film literally has a scene in which Sandra Bullock says. Do you want to be a part of this family? So again, decisions were made somewhere across the producers of that film. Michael Lewis, who wrote the book about it, and the Tuohy family who were influencing Michael Lewis and the book about it to put that scene in the film. So they grossly misrepresented themselves. The other thing, we need to understand about the Tuohy family, which I’ve never wanted to put hands on a white woman so passionately since, Emmett Till’s murderer lied about, you know, Emmett Till ever having ever whistled at her, etc., which is also really sick because you are sexualizing a child. But we’ll get back to that. [music plays] The Tuohy family are fast food franchises. They’ve made hundreds of millions of dollars off of fast new franchises in Memphis. And we need not guess where those fast food franchises, what neighborhoods they’re in. Right. So they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars of of making sure Black people don’t have proper food. They also were in several bankruptcies with those businesses. Right. So the Tuohy’s somehow can’t manage their own money. And even Sean Tuohy is report is saying, oh, he’s had like one, if not two near bankruptcies with his businesses. It is clear to me that they were subsidizing their income with this bullshit motivational speaking about Michael Oher. So Leigh Anne Tuohy’s entire business. Is this evangelist white woman Republican thing about how she saves all the Black children. That’s how they were making their money. They couldn’t apparently keep their money off of these restaurants. So their entire second line of income, their cash flow. Because remember, when you are leveraged that much for restaurants, you’re not really cash rich. Right? You’re over leverage when you need a cash injection. Speaking deals is the way to get it. This is how they were funding their lifestyle. 


Damon Young: Yeah. And so it’s tricky because, again, if Michael Oher has said in his first book that he knows that he was not adopted legally. Right. Then I guess what we’re really getting at is just this just larger context of misrepresentation where the Tuohy family, despite that being a truth, has allowed this misrepresentation of their relationship with Michael Oher. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: To continue to allow them to make money off of him, off of his name, if. 


Saida Grundy: Not deliberately misrepresent it. Yeah. 


Damon Young: Yeah. I’m very curious how this plays out, because I think there’s large implications here, too, not just with this the movie, not just with adoption, but also with football. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: With the dynamics in here with like football, college football in the South. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: And how this is not an irregular sort of thing. 


Saida Grundy: No, it’s not. 


Damon Young: When we’re talking about like the multimillion dollar football programs that are mainly in the South. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. 


Damon Young: Right. And the type of boosters that they have, the type of support that they have now. You know, things are a little bit different now where athletes are able to make money off of their likeness. 


Saida Grundy: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And that that changed the game. But before that, you had all of these boosters who would find ways around. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: You know, the NCAA.


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: And ways to funnel athletes to certain schools. And, you know, we can’t pay you, but maybe we could give your mom a job for 100 K a year, working at a car wash. You know what I mean? 


Saida Grundy: Boosters have always been this gigantic loophole around NCAA regulations. And that’s if the NCAA is really enforcing their regulations. Right. So boosters remind me of what super PACs do for political parties, right? Super PACs basically aggrandize the amount of money you can put behind candidates, which that would otherwise be capped right by individual contributions. Boosters sort of do the same thing for a football program. Now, being a Southerner, as I am, you know, being from Kentucky, not that Kentucky has a storied football program, but I am part of the SCC in terms of my Southern identity. My first reaction to watching this film when it came out all those years ago was why isn’t the NCAA investigating this? This is a violation. You cannot tell me that is not a conflict of interest. Remember, Leigh Anne Tuohy is an Ole Miss grad. That’s where she met Sean Tuohy, who he played basketball there. It’s unclear if he ever graduated. It’s such a white man thing that you can go on to be a multimillionaire without finishing college. But he plays basketball at Ole Miss, she’s a cheerleader, can’t make this shit up. And there is almost intrinsically a pressure to make sure this boy goes to Ole Miss. Now, that to me is the most exploitative form of a booster, right? Which is like this is a quid pro quo. Yeah. I’m going to give your mom a job at my factory. I’m going to make sure that, you know, you have a private plane to get down to the combines or what have you, you’ll get out to you know, your your train’s down in Southern California. But all of this shit is with the understanding that come signing day, you will go to my alma mater, right? These are how boosters work, and it is the literal commodification of Black children. Let me tell you, as a Kentuckian, this why, you know, John Calipari is a really unique white guy. And he said something that I’m like, very few coaches say this. 


Damon Young: And John Calipari is the head coach for Kentucky. Just for context. 


Saida Grundy: Which, you know, if we do have a storied program, it’s UK basketball. If UK basketball or a Girl Scout cookie, they’d be Thin Mints. Now.


Damon Young: He’s also from Moon, which is right outside of Pittsburgh. Shout out to Moon.


Saida Grundy: Yes, he absolutely is. And he yeah, he’s one of those great legacies of those Italian coaches in college basketball and high school basketball. All this to say John Calipari said something that I thought was the most earnest thing I’ve ever heard a white coach say. John Calipari said, my wealth, my children’s wealth and my children’s children’s wealth is all built off of Black parents trusting me with their children. That’s how these programs are built. And so if you can get the Black parents out of the way or get them manipulated financially, then you have eliminated the idea that Black parents have to trust you. 


Damon Young: And just to give you an idea of how hypocritical the NCAA can be in terms of benefits, in terms of boosters, in terms of what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. Okay. So, all right, I’m at Canisius. I need to get home. So I think it’s Thanksgiving break. Maybe it’s not Thanksgiving break. Maybe it’s the break that came before Thanksgiving mid-semester break or whatever. So one of my coaches gives me a ride to the Greyhound station. You know, Buffalo’s not that far from Pittsburgh, four hours, eight hour Greyhound, whatever. For whatever reason, my ATM card was not working. I think maybe there were overdrawn funds or whatever reason, so I wasn’t able to buy my my bus ticket. So my coach who drove me to the bus station had to buy my ticket and we’re talking like a 29 or $30 ticket. Don’t you know that he had to make a report to the NCAA?


Saida Grundy: Mm hmm. 


Damon Young: And I was ineligible for like that 30 minutes or whatever of time between him buying it and him making a report or letting a compliance officer know. And then a compliance officer contacted the NCAA, and then them allowing it and okaying it. And he had to do all of that just to buy me a $30 ticket so I could get home. And again, I had to reimburse them immediately, too. Like, as soon as I got home, I had to tell my dad. My dad had to wire money, $30, and he spent like $15 wiring $30. [laughter] You know what I mean, up to Buffalo.


Saida Grundy: The kids don’t know this is pre Cash App. 


Damon Young: So you have shit like that. Right. But then you have other circumstances where, you know, you’ll see like an athlete that’s driving Bend or an Escalade. And again, we’re going back 20, 25 years. And so when you have an entity where you have just so much room for interpretation and misinterpretation and also so much incentive to subvert the rules, then you have shit like this happen. You have shit like the Tuohy’s, you have. You have people like that who are, you know, who are able to take advantage. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: Of this system and find loopholes because people with money are always going to be able to find loopholes, whereas someone like me, my family with no money, you know what I mean? And you hear about that shit all the time, too, where people end up having to miss the entire motherfucking season because of like $15 or because of a meal. 


Saida Grundy: Ask any of the Fab Five, right. [laughs] Like they were. And part of the argument about the Fab Five was this NCAA investigation was coming down on a Black man from Detroit who had given gifts to these players. Now, again, this is just hood shit right in the hood. It’s like, oh, these boys are like, you know, they are five star recruits, right? Make sure they got winter coats right. Make sure they got shoes. This is just how we take care of our own. But that was actually criminalized by the NCAA, and they had to vacate many of if not all [laughs] of their other championships. Right. But booster culture is the essence of exploiting children, because what we are talking about is talent, who these are prospective recruits when they’re in eighth grade, as Michael Oher would tell you, and this is part of his frustration with the movie, is that he will tell you he was getting himself up in third grade, taking himself to school, managing himself. These white people did not do anything until it was clear. Right. They came into his life when it was clear that he was going to be a huge football prospect. One of my sort of ethos that I live by is that you will find no more vile a human being than adults who gravitate towards children who are making money. It brings out the worst in any adult you’ve ever been around, right? And so the fact that these white people have gaslit America by literally exploiting and trafficking children and then making themselves motivational speakers over it, which again. Visit Leigh Anne Tuohy’s Facebook page. It is absurd. It’s like a shopping exchange for foster children. All the posts are just pictures of [laughs] mostly Black. It really is. It’s like it’s like one of those, like buy or sell Facebook groups, but it’s just foster kids and it’s all these white Christian evangelists telling her how amazing she is. And I’m like, this is the thing. This is where white women really like, piss me the fuck off because white women have this addiction to making an identity [laughter] of shit where it’s like other white women will gas them up and tell them like, you know, it’s like I was just listening to Scamanda, which is this great podcast. And I realized with this white woman who was scamming cancer for a good 15, 20 years, she needed so badly to have an identity and there’s no more dangerous creature on Earth and a white woman desperately calling for an identity. And this gave Leigh Anne Tuohy, cheerleader from Ole Miss an identity. She was the white savior of these Black foster kids, which she again never adopted a single one of them. 


Damon Young: And so this story, the Tuohy story is almost like a synopsis of just how the NCAA treats and treated Black athletes in general, where everyone around the athlete is making money off an athlete, except for the athlete itself. 


Saida Grundy: Absolutely. Except them and their family. 


Damon Young: Where you surround the athlete in wealth, you ensconce them in money, you ensconce him, with just all of these, you know, we’re going to give you shoes, we’re going to give you access to to like food and facilities and and all of these things, but you’re not actually giving them money. You’re not actually giving him actual money, but everyone else is getting money. 


Saida Grundy: These booster classes are made up of a merchant class of white people. Right. So the Tuohy’s aren’t the only multimillionaires. And I mean, I think sort of the essence of being a booster is being a very wealthy person whose alma mater was an alumni of that institution. These are business people who are making calculation. They see themselves as air quote “investing” in these athletic prospects, and they expect to get their returns and the returns for them. Again, I know this being a Kentuckian, being around the [?] all my life, the returns for them are manifold, so it’s not necessarily a literal cash back into their account, but it’s the resources that beget resources. So it is, oh, you know, I can call up Coach Calipari, I can call up, you know, Nick Saban, right? I can get tickets when it’s not just a matter of can you afford those tickets? Those tickets are very, very limited availability when talking about those season box tickets. Right. I can get those tickets. Those tickets are going to put me in boxes with all the other business owners, all the governors, all the senators of the state of Alabama. These are for them. They are buying into the resources of that athletic program. Right. It is the exact same thing as politics. When you are putting your money behind the candidate, you are expecting that candidate to pick up the phone when the next time you God damn call right, you are buying power. These are people for whom money is no longer the resource. Money has to be converted to other forms of capital, and the form of capital they want is institutional, racial and political power. And they are getting that off of the backs of Black children. 


Damon Young: So who’s to blame for this story, for this movie, for this book, which has so many different holes in it? 


Saida Grundy: Yeah. 


Damon Young: You know what I mean? Who’s to blame for this being a $300 million movie like—


Saida Grundy: Yeah, obviously the Tuohy’s I think particularly Leigh Anne Tuohy. But I think also there’s a white appetite right. So the white public just gulped up this movie. They couldn’t get enough of it because the white appetite for white savior films is just insatiable. Right. I have a colleague, Matt Hughey, in sociology who actually studies white savior films and sort of what makes them white savior films. And I think the next step we can take in talking about white figure films is they are based on lies, right? Hidden figures lie about Katherine Johnson in order to make that movie, I might be one of the only Black women who’s very upset with Taraji because Taraji has made a cottage industry off of playing these white savior movies. Right. Taraji, stop. [laughter] Katherine Johnson, when she was alive, she’s a very lucid, I mean, genius, you know. Woman, Right. Katherine Johnson says, because so Hidden Figures there’s a choice made in that film in which it depicts Black women as frantically running, trying to hold their urine to go use, you know, the bathroom across the campus. Right. Like, you know, the bathrooms are segregated on the campus in which they work. Katherine Johnson says that never happened. When I needed to go pee, I went to the bathroom that was right there, which is the white bathroom. She’s like, I’m not an animal holding my I work here. Right. 


Damon Young: Well, the thing is, and you’re missing a part you’re missing a part of that depiction in Hidden Figures. It wasn’t just that they had to run across campus to go pee, it was that the character played by Kevin Costner made a big deal is like, you know what? This is wrong. I’m going to knock down the sign. 


Saida Grundy: Yes. 


Damon Young: I’m ending it right now. And that never happened. That never actually happened. 


Saida Grundy: And there was a Black journalists who actually asked that director, like, why did you put a part into this film That never happened? And the director is just totally unapologetic. He’s like, well, you know, it would just play better, you know, meaning making white savior films is about appeasing white audiences and there is no racial truth in America in which white people, except for maybe John Brown and a couple others in which white people actually put their neck on the lines for us. Right. There are so few instances in which this happens, and yet white savior films put a racist imagination to the white public that white people have always done the right thing. 


Damon Young: Yeah. Like I’m thinking, you know, just getting back to the idea of, like, how did this happen? 


Saida Grundy: Yeah.


Damon Young: You go back to the book, Michael Lewis’ this book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, which is written by Michael Lewis. And you would hope you think that someone who is a journalist, right, would be able to find hope in parts of this story. 


Saida Grundy: And to scrutinize these people’s self-reported story. 


Damon Young: And to scrutinize it? Yes. 


Saida Grundy: The role of a journalist is to be a cynic, right? A cynic has to ask questions you never take at face value what people are telling you. He didn’t even triangulate his own data, which to me means this was never about journalism. This was about him selling a story. And the story was better if he didn’t deal with any of the truth of it. 


Damon Young: The L.A. Times actually has an article written by Steve Almond, who basically, I guess the times when the. Blindside book first dropped, gave it a scathing review. It was like, yo, this is some bullshit. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah, absolutely. 


Damon Young: Okay. And they’re basically saying—


Saida Grundy: We told you so. 


Damon Young: This is this was some bullshit. So please check out that article if you get a chance to. What do you think is going to happen with this case? What do you think is going to happen with this lawsuit? 


Saida Grundy: I don’t know for all the legalese, but I do think, you know, again, to my earlier point, that all the Tuohy’s claims that they never exploited this young man, that they, you know, were nothing but generous. All of that to me, is blown out of the water by the fact that the conservatorship existed. Right. They cannot keep treading on this myth. Why was an adult, an able bodied, capable adult ever in a conservatorship? And why did he not know that he was in conservatorship? So they don’t have, you know, their all their claims, all their PR spin doesn’t hold any water. But I want to also say that Hollywood has a long trend of making these air quote, “feel good” movies that are blatant lies. Eva Longoria just put out a movie claiming that this Mexican man at Frito-Lay invented Hot Cheetos. That never happened. [laughs]


Damon Young: It sounds like you’re making that shit up. I feel like you’re making that— [laughter] 


Saida Grundy: The L.A. Times wrote an entire article about this man. I’m sorry for forgetting his name. In which the L.A. Times is like actually, we really investigated this, and Frito-Lay has been clear like in fact. Let me tell you how Hot Cheetos got invented. Hot Cheetos got invented because Black people in the Midwest liked spicy snacks. And Frito-Lay said, we need to get at our price point the 25 cent, the 50 cent bag at which Black people in the Midwest are going to buy our spicy snacks. So they were already competing with regional snack brands. Right. Which we all know. Again, the hood always had our favorite regional snack brands. Frito-Lay, which is an international snack brand, said We need to start competing with these regionals. It was the Black consumers demand for spicy snacks that created Hot Cheetos at Frito-Lay. But even Goya put together a whole, this film came out over two years after the L.A. Times article came out in which this entire story was debunked. But she loves this feel good movie about this janitor of Frito-Lay who invents Hot Cheetos. It never fucking happened. And again, he goes on this whole motivational speaking grift, just like Leigh Anne Tuohy in which this is what it is for these people, motivational speaking or ho-tivational speaking, as I like to call it, is about people who come up with a lie. And even if the lie is not egregious, you have to stick to a lie, right? You have to stick to some story of yourself, which is about bootstrapping, which totally defies everything we know sociologically about what’s realistic for human beings in terms of our social outcomes. But you stick with this, you know, inspirational sort of narrative. That narrative usually has nothing to do with the truth. It has to do with what you’re selling. And that’s why I think that motivational speeches need to be brought before a Senate and actually banned as as an industry. [laughter]


Damon Young: I mean, what what does Slim Charles from The Wire say. He’s like, you got to fight on that lie. 


Saida Grundy: Yeah, If it’s a lie, we fight on that lie. But this is like a whole cottage industry. I mean, I don’t maybe you’re. I don’t know how close you are to it, but motivational speaking, right? These bureaus that do these motivational speeches. So it’s like they want, you know, the Olympic athlete who lost a leg in the Iraq war and they want, you know, the vet who does something and they want, you know, the pregnant teen who chose to keep her baby. Remember, my favorite motivational speaker was Bristol Palin. Bristol Palin was making $250,000 a speech to preach abstinence everywhere she goes. 


Damon Young: Okay. [laughs]


Saida Grundy: And was telling everybody else to stop fucking. 


Damon Young: Well, you know, I belong to a speaker’s bureau also. You know what I mean?


Saida Grundy: If you’re a ho-tivational speaker, tell me now. 


Damon Young: [laughter] I wouldn’t call what I do motivation though, I’m actually like an anti-motivational speaker. 


Saida Grundy: I’m a de-motivational speaker. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. [laughs]


Damon Young: Saida Grundy, thank you for your energy, for for your text message for I don’t know, for for making the connection from the Blind Side to Hot Cheetos. I would have never made that [laughter] myself. So I appreciate you for coming through and providing that for me. 


Saida Grundy: Thank you for letting me yell and rant about a movie I’ve been yelling and ranting about since it was released. It is, absolutely. My students are almost tired of hearing me rant about how racist this film is, so I appreciate the platform. 


Damon Young: [laughs] All right. [music plays] We just want to thank the homie Saida Grundy for coming through. Great conversation. Great topic. Again, Sai, as always, is a great guest. Great having her on again. Also Stuck with Damon Young is available on every platform, but particularly if you’re on the Spotify app, there are interactive questions, polls, things of that nature so go enjoy those, knock yourself out. Also, if you have any questions for me, any questions whatsoever about anything, hit me up at All right y’all. See you next week. [music plays] Stuck with Damon Young is hosted by me, Damon Young. From Crooked Media, our executive producers are Kendra James and Madeleine Haeringer. Our producers are Ryan Wallerson and Morgan Moody. Mixing and mastering by Sara Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. Theme music and score by Taka Yasuzawa. And special thanks to Charlotte Landes. And from Spotify our executive producers are Lauren Silverman, Neil Drumming and Matt Shilts. Special thanks to Lesley Gwam and Krystal Hawes-Dressler. [music plays]