Why Doesn’t Donald Trump Take Out Another Full Page Ad?

By now, the news of the $40 million settlement from the city of New York being given to the Central Park 5 is old news.  The five men, all black and Latino, who were teens at the time of the rape of the jogger,  were accused, convicted and thrown into prison despite their claims of innocence. They were completely exonerated after the real rapist confessed and his DNA was the only DNA found on the victim and are out of prison, but one can only wonder what their lives have been like since being released…and what their lives will be like as they move forward. Some will never accept the fact that these men were/are innocent,  in spite of the confession of the real rapist.

Which brings me to the issue I’ve been struggling with for a while. When the boys, who were accused of “wilding”  were arrested, the city of New York and indeed, the entire nation was outraged. That these black and Latino men would be so primitive, so savage, was insulting to the conscience of the nation, it seemed. Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in a New York newspaper and wondered out loud, in print, where the death penalty was.

That the rape was troubling is understandable; that it was so brutal is disturbing…but what is troubling is that the nation is not as incensed at the wrong done to these young men as it was at the thought that they had raped that unfortunate woman.  The Ken Burns documentary, “The Central Park 5,” showed a rape of a different sort: the rape of innocent young black and Latino men, forced into making confessions, and then being railroaded through a trial and thrown into prison with little effort to hear them, believe them…and look for the real rapist. (http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/centralparkfive/)

Black, brown and poor people have been “raped” by the justice system in this nation since the beginning of our existence. In spite of touting the fact that the United States has the greatest justice system in the world, the fact is that when it has come to black, brown and poor people, justice has seldom worked. In the case of black people, the race card has been played as a matter of course. A black person accused of any crime has been presumed to be guilty even going into a trial; a black person accused of talking to, accosting or threatening a white woman has been decided to be guilty and the courts have refused to exonerate them even when it is clear white women have lied about their supposed experiences too many times.  In many cases, the justice system and white community have colluded and brought not justice, but horrific injustice to innocent black people. I just finished Fire in the Canebrake by Laura Wexler, the story of the “worst mass lynching” in the history of our nation. Four people, two black men and two black women, were lynched…and their families never got justice. In Gilbert King’s book, Devil in the Grove,  justice for four black men, falsely accused of raping a 17-year-old white girl, was elusive; they were all headed for the electric chair in spite of evidence that they had not raped the girl and in spite of heroic efforts of then-attorney Thurgood Marshall and his team to free them. The “justice system” was bound and determined that “outsiders,” in both these cases, would not bully them into doing things differently than they had always done. The “nigras” were deemed to be unworthy of justice, and so they got little.

I couldn’t help but think of those stories, and the story of what happened with Trayvon Martin and Kendrick Johnson and so many other young black people who have gotten in trouble with the law and are either still in prison for crimes they have not done or have been executed already. This nation has not owned up to its troubled record of dishing out injustice to black people, especially, but to brown and poor people as well.  Rather than admitting that America still has a problem seeing black people as human beings and not objects, America continues to insist that nothing is wrong. But something very definitely is.

If we go back to the Central Park 5, it would have been nice to see Donald Trump take out another full-page ad, this one apologizing for what he had pronounced when the boys were arrested and for proclaiming their guilt. Instead, he sought to justify his stance and said something to the effect that they were “not innocents.” He said that the settlement was a disgrace and that it was the “heist of the century.”  (http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/central-park-dad-40m-settlement-article-1.1837710)

There was no grace from him, only his typical rich-boy white arrogance.

There are black, brown and poor families throughout this nation that are looking for, needing, justice and will never get it. The nation is not committed to giving justice to all people; prosecutors are, for the most part, more interested in obtaining victories than in obtaining justice.

America’s disease of white supremacy and its attendant racism is terminal. A nation cannot thrive if it ultimately denies justice so regularly and systemically to a group of people – people who, by the way, work for this nation, have helped defend this nation, and pay taxes in this nation.

What happens to a dream deferred, asked poet Langston Hughes?

Why does the caged bird sing, asked the late Maya Angelou?

And what happens if America continues to ignore those questions, and more?

A whole group of people is crying, but the nation seems not to care.

A candid observation …

Lynching as a Biblical Practice

Sometimes, things hit like a ton of bricks.

I have been reading about lynching in these United States. I just finished a magnificent book, Devil in the Grove, by Gilbert King and am currently reading Fire in a Canebrake: The Last Mass Lynching in America by Laura Wexler. The fact that such brutal murders occurred, with the consent, basically, of the government, is at once troubling and insulting. The government which was created to protect the rights of the people turns out to have been disingenuous in its founding creeds; this government only wanted to protect the rights of some of the people, and in fact either contributed, turned a blind eye or both, to the plight of those who were not white, male landowners. In the case of lynching, those most affected by the crime and ignored by the government were black people.

By the way, the definition of lynching is: to  kill someone, especially by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial.

Lynching was a form of domestic terrorism. After what can only be called “mock trials,”  black people were lynched and often left hanging for a while (if they were hung; not all lynching involves being hung) to let other people see what happened to those who “got out of their lanes,” so to speak. Black people were supposed to know their place and if they crossed a line – which was forever changing, it seems – they could get legally killed and those who killed them could and would walk free.

George Zimmerman walked free. Michael Dunn was not convicted of lynching Jordan Davis …

Well, imagine how it hit me when, as I am reading Radical Reconciliation: Beyond Political Pietism and Christian Quietism I recognized what can only be said to be lynching. Crucifixion …was lynching. Jesus the Christ …was lynched. He was perhaps the most famous person ever lynched…and he was lynched by political and religious institutions which felt threatened by his presence and his work.

Lynching – modern-day or the lynching that took place in Jesus’ time – is a tool of control used by governments and organizations to maintain control. According to Allan Boesak and Curtiss Paul DeYoung, ancient lynching – which for purposes of this essay includes  crucifixion -  was used by the Roman Empire to “enforce and maintain domination of subject peoples. In the everyday working of an empire, the effort to maintain control was done by economic oppression, military might and ideological belief systems. DeYoung and Boesak say that “crucifixion was used to terrorize subject peoples; it was a “constant symbol of Roman rule, as thousands of Judeans were executed on crosses.” (loc. 275 of 3581, Kindle edition).

They were not only crucified but according to Biblical scholar Richard Horsley: “Many of the victims were never buried  but simply left on the crosses as carrion for wild beasts and beasts of prey. As with other forms of terrorism, crucifixions were displayed in prominent places for their ‘demonstration effect’ on the rest of the population…Seeing their relatives, friends and other fellow villagers suffering such agonizing death would presumably intimidate the surviving populace into acquiescence in the re-established Roman imperial order.” (loc. 288 of 3581, Kindle edition)

Jesus was not part of the “in crowd.” In fact, he was raised by a single mother. He was a Jew, and he, as a Jew, was treated much like blacks and browns are treated in the United States, and if what I have read is true, how Palestinians are treated in Israel. Colonized people back then were treated as second-class citizens, as, clearly, blacks have been treated in the United States. Jesus had no intrinsic value to the Empire; he, as a colonized Jew had no standing, but his message was threatening to the Roman power base, as threatening as it was to the religious power base. Thus, church and state banded together and crucified him. Lynched him. And they all got away with it.

As I am reading the accounts of lynching in our American history, I am seeing the same tendency to use these legal murders as a “warning” to black people (and anyone who would help them) to stay in line. Often, lynched bodies would be left hanging as people came by and cut off appendages and genitals, and the bones of lynched people would line the banks of rivers where their bodies had lain after being murdered – to leave a message to anyone in the vicinity.  In Fire in a Canebrake, the author describes the lynching of four black people in an attack which was fully sanctioned by the local government. They were killed at Moore’s Ford Bridge in Georgia, and one of the four people killed had stabbed a white man. He lived, but to stab a white man was an attack against the white supremacist system. The stabber had to be taught a lesson; the people with him happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and had to be sacrificed as well. The state participated in and often initiated lynching; the church often ignored and supported lynching. As in Jesus’ time, church and state united for the common goal: to protect the empire.

What is painfully clear is that the lynching model was described and carried out in the Bible – hence, my calling lynching a Biblical practice. While I have not heard anyone say that, the parallels are clear. I don’t guess anyone would dare say out loud that Jesus was lynched, or dare justify lynching because it was done in the Bible, but I would bet someone HAS said it.

Jesus, our beloved savior, was a colonized Jew, raised by a single mother, was a convicted felon who was arrested on trumped up charges and was sentenced to death via crucifixion. He was lynched.

Oh, my goodness.

That IS a candid observation…

 

 

 

Maya, Vincent …Gone too Soon

Sometimes, when someone dies, you want to wake them up.

I have felt that when loved ones have died, or when certain public figures have passed on.

I felt it this week with the death of Maya Angelou and last week when I learned Vincent Harding had died.

Wake up, please?

I met Maya Angelou years ago, when I was in college. She had come to Occidental College for some special event, (I don’t remember which) and I sat, spellbound. I think it was her voice; it reminded me of what brown velvet looks like, or like molasses being spread over a piece of bread. The words she had written were powerful, true enough, but it was her voice that caught me. After the event, I talked with her and showed her some of my poetry. I remember she told me, “My dear child, you are a writer …and you must always  write. Every day…you must write…”

Her spirit was cemented in mine from that moment on,

Her life story, her poetry fascinated me, but her spirit captivated me.

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may tread me in the very dirt,

But still, like dust, I’ll rise …

She had risen, surely. I carried that poem in my heart, as sure as I carried the spirit of my own mother in my heart.

And so when she died, something jostled loose within me…and I wanted to ask her, whisper to her, “Wake up. Please, wake up!”

Vincent Harding I only met recently. I had read only one of his books, There is a River, and had only recently learned that he had written Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous sermon, “A Time to Break Silence.” He wrote that most piercing observation in that speech: “There is a time when to be silent is betrayal…”  What struck me upon meeting Vincent was his gentleness. He had a quiet voice; it didn’t remind me one bit of velvet or molasses, but his spirit was palpably gentle. He said that he had been loved into living; his spirit supported that claim.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast…it is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs….

I want to ask him, politely, to please wake up. People were not ready for him or Maya  to leave, not yet.

These two veteran Civil Rights icons have contributed breath to the lives of so many people. They lived through some of the ugliest episodes of racial cruelty this country has ever experienced, and came through it not only standing, but helping others to get through it and understand it by the words they wrote. They believed in the “beloved community” and worked to spread that good news. As Ruby Sales said, who knew Harding intimately and whom he called “daughter,” Harding and those who worked in the movement brought down an entire (racist system) without ever having fired a single weapon.

They did it with love and with their faithfulness to the gift they both had, that of writing.

It is sad that, now, two of our Civil Rights heroes have “gone home to be with the Lord.” It seems like we who are alive need to talk to those who are yet alive, cherish them, tell their stories, give them homage for what they did for all of us. It seems like we need to at least gather the children, and get those who faced dogs and fire hoses …to come talk…to the children…and tell them the stories before they, too, lay down to rest, their voices never to be heard again.

Do you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops

Weakened by my soulful cries?

You may shoot me with your words

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Maya, Vincent …may you please wake up?

You left us far too soon…

A candid observation …

What is a Racist?

Donald Sterling swears in interviews that he is not a racist.

His estranged wife says the same, as does the young woman who was heard talking with him in those now infamous tapes where Sterling said he didn’t want her to bring blacks to “his” basketball games, among other things.

He said in an interview with Anderson Cooper that he made a mistake, that it was the first time in 35 years he’d said such things.

Why does that sound like a crock?

Everyone knows by now that Sterling refused to rent property to black and brown Americans, saying disparaging things about them. He said that Hispanics “smoke, drink and just hang around the property,” and that blacks “smell and attract vermin.” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/12/donald-sterling-apologizes-for-racist-comments-blames-woman-for-baiting-him/?tid=hp_mm)

What is amazing is that Sterling and others say Sterling is not a racist. If that is the case, what is a racist? Is everyone who says racist things racist, or are they just ignorant, insensitive and bigoted?

A definition of  bigotry is ” intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.”  Another definition of a bigot is one who is stubbornly intolerant against any belief that is different from his (her) own.

Racism, though, goes a little deeper. A definition of racism says that racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. That definition also says that racism is prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. (https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+of+racism&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&channel=sb)

In other words, racism includes the belief that one race is superior to another …and a racist has the power to discriminate against a group or individual in a way that exercises power over that group or person. Racism includes the belief that one race is supreme…and that it has the right to oppress another group or individual based on the belief in that supremacy.

Can we say that we are all bigots on some level? Probably. But racism implies systemically provided and sanctioned power to oppress another group of people. From the beginning of this nation, even in the writing of our Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, racism has been a bedfellow.

If Sterling isn’t a racist, I don’t know what a racist is. Kareem Abdul Jabbar said last week that more people believe in ghosts than believe in racism. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/04/kareem-abdul-jabbar_n_5263235.html) White people don’t want to “own up” to the fact that racist exists, that it is an American problem which goes largely unchecked and ignored. Americans seem to want to wish racism away. It is too ugly to face…

And yet it exists.

Donald Sterling is a racist. He believes in the supremacy of the white race, and he has the economic means and power to keep other races “in their place.”

He’s not the only one. He’s just one who got caught.

A candid observation …

 

 

Looking for Justice…Still

I grieve over what has happened to the nearly 300 Nigerian girls who have been kidnapped and possibly sold. That such a heinous act could happen today is sickening.

But so is the fact that a 93-year-old woman was allegedly shot and killed by a young, white police officer in Hearne, Texas. http://nydn.us/1npJbvX

Nobody is talking about it.

It is as though the Nigerian girls’ plight is almost an excuse NOT to talk about the heinous things that go on in this nation …still.

Pearlie Golden is dead. She had a gun and she was wielding it, relatives said. She was apparently mad because she wanted the keys to the car and nobody would give them to her.

So, they called police on her, and the police, of course, came. They told her to put her gun down, three times. When she didn’t, they shot her. She died a short time later at the hospital. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/07/us/texas-police-shoot-elderly-woman-93/index.html?iref=allsearch)

Neighbors and family called her “Ms. Sully,” and they said she was nice…

Nice or maybe not-so-nice, she is dead, allegedly shot by a young, white cop, who is now on paid administrative leave while the police department “investigates.”

Over and over, we hear these stories, and so few of them get the attention they deserve. Yes, it’s horrendous that the elderly man in Georgia was murdered and decapitated and nobody can find his wife. That is horrible.

And yes, it’s horrible that those Nigerian girls are gone and it took what seems forever for the American press to cover it.

It is horrible that the brand of rabid racism of Donald Sterling still exists.

But it is equally as horrible that police can still kill people,  some unarmed, some not, but too often in questionable circumstances, and the media ignores it or denigrates its significance in this nation.

As the Gordon G. Cosby Fellow for the SpiritHouse Project in Atlanta, GA, I have listened to and studied stories about people shot and killed by police. The families are left to grapple with their pain at the loss of their loved one and their anger that so often, there is no justice to be had.

In the case of Jack Lamar Roberson, shot and killed in Georgia, relatives called EMS for help because he was apparently out of control. He reportedly had a knife in his hand, a table or case knife, they said. He supposedly had taken an overdose of diabetic medicine. His mother didn’t want police; she said that specifically on the 911 call, and neither did his girlfriend. They wanted help. They wanted someone to take him to the hospital …or something.

EMS didn’t come. Police did. They rolled right on up to his house and entered. Within second (literally; I heard the tape), police opened fire on Roberson. A number of shots were fired; in the crime scene photos, I counted five shots in his back. There were also shots in his wrists; it looked like, from the way his wrists were injured, that he had his hands up in a defensive position. And oh yes …there was a shot in his head.

The news reports indicated that he was so out of control that a refrigerator had been knocked over …but again, I saw the photos of the crime scene. The refrigerator was upright, contents intact.

So, what? Why aren’t these stories getting media attention, and why can’t the families of these victims get help in order to get justice?

The family of “Ms. Sully” joins the group of families who have been assaulted by police officers…If history bears out, they will not get justice …meaning the officer who is accused of shooting her will probably be cleared. It’ll be said that the shooting, the killing, was “justifiable.”

That just blows me away…

It happens way too often, and we just won’t deal with it…

A candid observation …

 

 

Ms. Sully Didn’t Have to Die

So, let me understand this.

Police in Hearne, Texas, were called to a residence where a 93-year-old woman was supposedly wielding a gun.

Her name was Pearlie Golden…and she had lived in Hearne for mpst of her life.

And oh yes…she was a black woman, shot by a white police officer.

Police got to her residence and told her “at least three times” to put down her firearm. Apparently, she didn’t, and so police opened fire on her, hitting her multiple times. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/07/us/texas-police-shoot-elderly-woman-93/index.html?hpt=hp_t2).

She was transported to a local hospital, where she later died.

I am trying to understand, to make sense out of this, but for the life of me, I cannot.

Why in the world…would a police officer shoot to kill a 93-year-old woman?

“Miss Sully,” as her community and relatives called her, was angry supposedly because one of her relatives had taken car keys from her. She wanted to drive; her relative didn’t think it was wise, and so took the keys.

That happens a lot, I hear, as people age; they get angry as those who love them take away their independence bit by bit, for their own good. Ms. Sully wasn’t a criminal. She was an old woman who wanted to drive her car.

The officer who allegedly fired the fatal shots has been put on “administrative leave.” That’s normal police procedure …and far too often, “the facts” found out by police investigators rule that the homicide was “justifiable” and the officer is given back his/her gun and goes right back out to the streets.

Just this week, the country, no, the world, was outraged as the words of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling were played over and over. His racist remarks were “shocking,” people said, but I doubt it.

What was shocking is that he was exposed publicly. He was an embarrassment. People all over the world are racist; they like their racism kept under wraps, though.

Would that police officers in this nation, who shoot first and ask questions later would be so exposed as was Mr. Sterling and be embarrassed or that police departments would get uncomfortable or embarrassed enough to do something. Would that the community called America would stand up and say, out loud, to police, that they have to stop these modern-day lynchings.

“Ms. Sully’s” death is an outrage, and the fact that police all over the country are allowed to keep murdering people at will is an outrage as well.

The bigger outrage, though, is the silence of the people, the refusal to do something to get someone to look at these murders and force change, some kind of way, in the way police in America do business.

Officer Stephen Stem, who hasn’t been on the police force all that long, is still getting paid, though he’s on administrative leave. He’s waiting for that investigation…which, if trends are followed, will probably find that what he did was okay, was correct policy and procedure.

I don’t believe in police investigations anymore. I stopped a long time ago. Police protect their own.

Ms. Sully didn’t have to die. I would bet someone could have talked that weapon out of her hand.

Yep, I’m mad.

This happens way too often …and nobody really seems to care.

A candid observation …

 

270 Girls Disappear and Hardly a Stir

I am appalled.

We hear and see all the time in this country the double standard applied to black and white people. When a white child disappears, especially if he or she is really cute, the media jumps on it; when little black children disappear, we hardly know it. When white children are gunned down, or when there is violence in a white school, news reports share that “counselors” have been sent to help the survivors; when black children are gunned down, or when there is violence in a black school, no counselors are sent to “help the survivors.”

In Africa, a staggering 276 young Nigerian girls were kidnapped, stolen “in the dead of night”  by two men, according to a CNN story. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/02/world/africa/nigeria-abducted-girls/index.html?iref=allsearch) Where is the outrage? Where is the compassion or an involvement of the media that might help find these girls? Where are they? How come so few people seem to care? Are they all right? (of course, they are not). Are they even alive? For weeks, we have heard the heart-rending story of the disappearance of Malaysian Flight 370, witnessing the agony of the survivors, and for the past couple of weeks, we have likewise seen, heard and shared in the agony of parents in South Korea whose children were lost when the ferry on which they were passengers sank.

But with these Nigerian girls …there has been hardly a stir.

The story is no less troubling than was the story of the disappearance of Jon Benet Ramsey or Elizabeth Smart. The airwaves were flooded with pictures of those young girls when Benet was murdered and Smart was kidnapped. Even the story of young Madeline McCann, who disappeared while on vacation with her family in Portugal seven years ago. A story on the sadness of her mother, who is still aching for the return of her daughter, appeared on television just yesterday.

I don’t bemoan or resent any story coming out on any child who is kidnapped …What I am complaining about is the lack of apparent concern – and subsequent heavy media coverage – when little black children go missing …and specifically, today, the lack of concern and media coverage over the kidnapping of nearly 300 African girls.

Would there be this silence if the girls were from Norway, or France or … a wealthy neighborhood in this nation?

I doubt it.

These Nigerian girls were students. According to some extremists in that nation, their getting an education is a sin.  Authorities think that an Islamist extremist group, Boko Haram ( a name which means, “Western Education is a Sin) is responsible for the girls’ abductions; women, this group believes, should stay home, have babies, cook, take care of the men …

Perhaps some of the reticence around their disappearance is because the media doesn’t like the politics of the extremist group?

I doubt that, too. And if that is part of the reason, then all such biased journalists should be fired – like yesterday.

No, I don’t think it’s the politics that’s keeping the media quiet. I think the silence is because the world just does not value black life, black bodies, black people. Donald Sterling got whipped this week – but only because he embarrassed the NBA. Money was involved; nobody wants to be labeled a racist, and so to preserve their bottom line, I think companies and corporations backed away from Sterling and the Clippers. Sterling has done racist things forever, and has said things that has indicated that he does not value black life.

Not even the black lives that are making him millions of dollars.

That the media isn’t swarming over this incredible story – that two men kidnapped nearly 300 girls and nobody knows where they are now …is disgusting, troubling and revealing. These girls just do not matter in this world which values whiteness no matter what.

These girls have disappeared and there’s been hardly a stir.

Is that sad to anyone but me? Isn’t this a pretty telling example of America’s spirit when it comes to race?

A candid observation …

 

 

Athletes Modern-Day Slaves?

In his book, Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Black Athlete, New York Times columnist William Rhoden shares how he came up with the title: “The title of this book comes from a remark made by a white spectator during a professional basketball game in Los Angeles. The comment was aimed at Larry Johnson, then a player with the New York Knicks. The previous season, Johnson had referred to some of his Knicks teammates as “rebellious slaves,” unleashing a storm of controversy. That night in Los Angeles, as his team headed toward the bench during a time-out, a heckler yelled out: “Johnson, you’re nothing but a $40 million slave.””

Rhoden was affected by that statement, and began writing the seminal book in 1997;  it was copyrighted in 2006. And now here, in 2014, we Americans who want to believe so badly that racism is gone are hearing the disparaging and disturbing statements allegedly made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, telling his then-girlfriend that he didn’t want her to bring “blacks” to his games.

His comments were not surprising; anyone and everyone knows that people in all ethnic groups have conversations where they say what they really feel about issues and people when they are in “safe” spaces.

What was particularly angering, however, was the fact that it i predominantly black players who are making Sterling wealthy. A new plantation system, professional sports, yields big earnings for the players, yes, but also huge profits for their owners. That Sterling would not want his mixed-race girlfriend (Mexican and African – American) to bring blacks to his games, or to pose publicly with black people, smacks of historical racism, historical paternalism, the system of slavery, which exploited black labor to make the rich richer and make the slavocracy thrive.

Athletics was and has been for many black people a way out of poverty and the hopelessness that poverty necessarily breeds and inspires. How wonderful it has been for a very few to make it out of hopelessness and have a shot at the American dream, doing something they love. But the parallels between the old system of slavery and this new slavery are daunting; as in history, white people “own” the workers. White people are the biggest beneficiaries.  All or most of the owners of the professional teams are white. Former NBA great Michael Jordan is majority owner of  the Charlotte Bobcats, acquiring the team in 2010 from Robert Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET) , who was the first black majority owner of a major U.S. pro sports team.

The driving force for any owner, black or white, is not the need to make the world better for democracy, or to set up an example of “how we can all get along.” No, the motivation is profit; those who are after profit don’t care who makes the money for them as long as someone does. In the area of sports, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on where one’s mind is, the workers have been, for the most part, black, and the owners and managers have been white.

New plantations. Sports teams and the sports organizations seem to be nothing more and nothing less than new plantations, where owners and managers “take care” of  “their” boys until the usefulness of those boys wears off, and then they are discarded. Sterling, it seems, is just a good old plantation boss who “takes care of his boys” and doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.

Sterling also placates the community of people he apparently despises by giving away free basketball tickets every year. The Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP has thought that that gesture was “nice” and was going to give an award next month.

Many sports players would undoubtedly tell me to shut up. They’re making good money; what Sterling said was not all that big a deal, as long as they get paid. But they fail to see how they are being used – for the sake of, or in the name of – making a profit. Rhoden writes, “History suggests that African-Americans should ever be on the lookout. Their predecessors were excluded, blocked, persecuted and eased out when white owners decided they weren’t needed or wanted.”

Plantation thinking, it seems.

Sterling may suffer some for his faux pas; wealthy white men, like Donald Trump, will come to his defense, at a time when there is no defense. The good old boys, however, protect and support each other. Sterling hasn’t said anything that many of them most likely say…

But black people, black athletes, should pay special attention to the new plantations called pro-sports. We are being used again to bolster the economy and support the life style of those who “own” us, and while the players make good money, the fact of the matter is that too many of those who love pro sports and who dream of making it out of despair will never achieve that dream…even as they continue to make the white owners more and more wealthy.

A candid observation …

Cliven Isn’t the Only One

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has caused  a stir, talking all that racist stuff.

But the “outrage” expressed by his Republican buddies seems a bit disingenuous, and their distancing themselves from him publicly is nothing more than politics at its best … or worst …depending on who you are talking with and in what venue.

Cliven Bundy wonders if black people were not better off being slaves.  He said, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,” he was quoted as saying. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/24/politics/bundy-and-race/)

And everybody is in a tizzy. For what? Because of what he said, or because he said it OUT LOUD, exposing the way many white people probably talk in private?

I have had so many white people talk to me, with hushed voices, about how bad the racism is, about how many white people hate President Obama, and about how so many white people are anxious to “take the country back” from …black people.

According to these folks with whom I have talked, many of these people are obsessed with “saving” America from the influence of being governed by a black man. They are worried that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has made him come off as weak, thereby plunging the country into morbid danger. They believe that the rise in Americans receiving food stamps, due to the break of the American economy, speaks to the president’s deficits and the danger of “big government,” although it was the economic policies of the previous, Republican administration that drove our country nearly to the depths of economic despair.

“All they want,” one white woman said to me, “is to get that black man out of the White House. They can’t see the good he’s done for the simple reason their vision is clouded by their hatred of him, just because he’s black. They’re afraid that he’s done too much for ‘the blacks,” and not enough for white people.”

Enter Mr. Bundy. Say what you want, Bundy might very well have spilled the conversation content of many a cocktail party attended by the very rich. “Big government” seems to be a government which attends to the needs of the underclass, and rich people seem to resent that, like poor people are getting something for nothing, and off their backs.

I guess they don’t see how it is the labor of the poor people who have propelled their corporations into economic bliss, even while the poor people become poorer.

Bundy said, “maybe I sinned.” But, he quickly added, he said what he meant. It’s in his heart, this opinion about what “the Negro” is like, and how blacks are lazy and how they abort their children and will not work…And …he added that if “those people” cannot take hearing what is his truth (I am paraphrasing), then Martin Luther King hasn’t done his work.

Huh?

Racism and white supremacy and the desire to hold onto it smolders right under the surface of the American psyche.  Every now and then somebody messes up and says out loud what is often said in private.

That’s what happened with good ol’ Mr. Bundy.

He’ll smart a little, but white Conservatives will never leave him. He’s a rich white man with a lot of resources. They might smack him on the wrists, and their strategists are probably telling them to distance themselves from  Bundy for the sake of the upcoming mid-term elections – not for the sake of the people he offended.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bundy will continue to be a welfare rancher, letting his cattle feed on land owned by the federal government. He has a subsidized ranch, seems to me, and it’s no less a drain on the federal coffers than is public housing or food stamps.

Thing is, he can afford to eat. He hasn’t paid for that land in years and owes millions. He won’t go to jail, or probably even get a fine. That, while blacks who have committed non-violent drug crimes are languishing in prison …making even more white people rich via the Prison Industrial Complex.

So, I’m not surprised at what Bundy said. He is giving voice to a lot of people who have wanted to say just that for a long time.

People get uptight if anyone says anything about racial inequality and injustice in this nation. As soon as anyone says anything about those phenomenon, describing how some policies absolutely work against black people,  we are playing “the race card.”

He played it like a champ. I suppose he is. And he’s not going to change and he’s not sorry. Neither are the Republicans who are voicing outrage.

Please.

Republicans, your outrage rings hallow because of your actions and policies. You have been so interested in making Mr. Obama a one-term president that you have felt free, in fact, compelled, to talk in private about how you feel about this race thing.

Damn Bundy! You let the cat out of the bag, in this, our post-racial society.

Who’s going to get it back in? The cat is running freely…

A candid observation…

Boyz 2 Men…Maybe

When my son Charlie was a little boy, people used to stop me on the street and proclaim how absolutely cute he was. (He really was!) Added to his inherent cuteness, he had a smile that went from ear to ear, teetering on being a grin. That smile drew people into him, and they adored him.

But he was a little boy. He was African-American …but a little boy. He had not yet developed his deep, baritone voice, nor had he grown to his 6’4″ stature. He was a little boy with fuzzy, wooly hair, little chubby legs and arms, a big smile and wide, glistening eyes.

While I was proud of people saying Charlie was cute, I also found myself annoyed inside when white people would compliment him, because I knew he was only “human,” and therefore, capable of being humanly “cute,” while he was little. All too soon, I knew, he would be seen as “one of them” by these same white people who were smiling at him now, and he would become a live member of the endangered species called black men.

I thought about that as I read the story of a former professional baseball player who was racially profiled in his own driveway in Hartford, CT. as he shoveled snow. (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/04/i-was-racially-profiled-in-my-own-driveway/360615/) His account of what happened to him was all too familiar. The white officer who questioned him, assuming he had no right to be in that neighborhood left without apologizing after being told that the man was in the driveway of his house. This man was well-educated and knew enough protocol to know what to say and not say, do and not do, to this young, white police officer, but what if he had been less educated, and had not been schooled on what to do when stopped by police? It is very possible, in fact, probable, that this man would have been gunned down, with the police officer giving the excuse that he had to shoot because he was “in fear for his life.”

There have been all kinds of “conversations on race” in this country, and yet, racism sticks to American society, culture and life like human skin sticks to crazy glue. Most people don’t want to have a conversation about race, white or black; most Americans want to believe that racism is gone. After all, we have a black president …

But the facts of our existence as Americans say otherwise. Black kids in school are expelled or suspended more often than white kids for the same offenses; more black people than white are in prison for non-violent drug offenses; one black man is killed by police every 28 hours according to a recent report published by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. (http://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/). The information contained in this well-researched report is not surprising for those of us who are African-Americans, but it is troubling that in this, the 21st century, black people, and more specifically, black men, are still at risk. Black actors still find it hard to get good roles because Hollywood still sees the world and the stories to be told through a primarily white lens. Lupita Nyong’o, the award-winning and stunningly beautiful actress who played the role of a mistreated slave in “12 Years a Slave” may very well, despite her beauty and talent, find herself out of work because there will simply not be enough casting agencies willing to cast her or roles suited for a very black woman.

Ah, this is America.

My son is now 25 years old, tall, bronze-skinned, handsome…and so smart. That really isn’t a guarantee, though, or a shield against racism, and the fear that undergirds racism and causes people to make assumptions about black people in general. If he were on a corner waiting for a taxi in New York, where he lives, and a white guy was near him, also waiting for a cab, guess who’d get the cab? The most important thing is that he has made it out of boyhood into manhood. He was a boy; now he’s a man. Getting from one status to the next as a black man is not a guarantee, so I should be happy. I will be happy. I am happy…but yet sad, because many young men will not get to experience that blessing.

A candid observation …

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,048 other followers