Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Sunday, December 4, 2016

I used to get blamed all the time for stuff Bob Steinback said.

To be fair, it wasn’t always blame — sometimes it was credit — and it went both ways. Sometimes, he had to explain to people that it was not he who had written a certain thing, but me.

Robert L. Steinback was, as I was and still am, a columnist for The Miami Herald and we shared a certain superficial physical similarity, both of us bearded, bald and black. That said, we really didn’t look a lot alike. For one thing, I wear glasses and Bob doesn’t. I’m also much handsomer.

We were usually more amused than offended by readers’ inability to keep us straight, though bachelor Bob once confided that it did irk him when he found himself trying to convince some skeptical woman that he was not, in fact, married with five kids.

I mention all this by way of framing a contrarian response to the brouhaha over Los Angeles TV entertainment reporter Sam Rubin and his recent interview with actor Samuel L. Jackson. TMZ called Rubin a “moron” and that seems to be the consensus. You’ve seen the video, right? If not, stop reading right now and go Google it. I’ll wait.

(waiting … waiting … waiting)

So, is that not the most painful thing you ever saw? Rubin, who is white, is interviewing Jackson, who is black, and asks him about his Super Bowl commercial.

Problem is, Jackson didn’t do a Super Bowl commercial, Laurence Fishburne did. They are two celebrated actors who look nothing alike, except for the fact of being black, a point Jackson proceeds to hammer like a nail. Speaking over and through Rubin’s embarrassed and repeated attempts to explain and apologize, he keeps making the same point: He, Sam Jackson (famous for Pulp Fiction), is not Laurence Fishburne (famous for The Matrix). Black folks do not all look alike!

If it were a fight, they’d have stopped it. If Rubin were a horse, they’d have shot him.

I don’t blame Jackson for being angry. He is not exactly an unknown, and no one calling himself an entertainment reporter should have made that mistake. Still, I felt sorry for Rubin. I was reminded of the time an 8-year-old black boy — me — went on a field trip to the L.A. Zoo that brought him, for the first time, into proximity with white kids.