Informant: So my brother told me several times when he was in high school and college that he heard Mr. T was dead. He’s still alive, by the way, he tweets a lot.
But my brother told me that he fell in a pool and all his gold chains weighed him down and he drowned and he died. Told me at least four different times and I think believed it at least twice.
Analysis: it is possible that in a small, economically depressed farming town in the Midwest, a cautionary tale of sorts about a big, different-looking, fool-pitying, very tough guy drowning in the weight of his outward expressions of wealth and toughness was very appealing. By emphasizing what they were not (loud, rich, tough, not-white) it allowed them to valorize what they were (quiet, hardworking, soft-spoken), deepening their connection to their own identity.