Point of View Columns

There is Such a Thing as Asking Too Much – The Negro Problem Revisited

The study of history is so important in understanding the present and the possibilities of the future, that it is amazing how often it is ignored or misrepresented. Exhibit A in real time is the current controversy regarding mostly black athletes protesting discrimination and bias against black Americans at sporting events. The ensuing hue and cry reminds us that the Negro Problem is still a problem for too much of white America.

Frederick Douglass once wrote:

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution….”

And although those words were written over a century and a half ago, too much of America perceives that there is a Negro Problem, when the real problem has nothing to do with black Americans, and everything to do with the denial of promise of true freedom and the opportunity to freely prosper in these United States. And when President Trump or NFL Commissioner Goodell or NBA Commissioner Adam Silver or any number of white elected officials discourage and disparage black Americans for exercising their Constitutional rights, they totally miss the point in making these athletes the problem when this country is the real problem.

It is of no surprise that many Americans want to whitewash American history or simply crawl into a shell of denial, but the reality is that the United States was founded with the slavery of black men, women and children as a central aspect of its existence. The reality is that throughout the South it was legal to kill a black person and some would argue that this has not changed appreciably as we settle into the 21st century.

The flag that flies during the national anthem is the flag of a country that countenanced slavery, genocide, legalized segregation and discrimination, lynching and race-based institutional inequities that have lasted to this very moment. It is the flag of a country that is uncomfortably comfortable with over 1000 Confederate monuments scattered across this land like so many dragons’ teeth, even though each and every one of these hellish icons memorialize a war fought to maintain the enslavement of the forebears of the athletes who have the temerity and colossal nerve to kneel in protest of this sordid history and still too sordid present.

The question should not be about why black athletes – and black Americans generally – are protesting. The question should only be about why black Americans are not protesting more – and all the time. And it is sad and illustrative of the problem that there are white Americans who wear the American flag as underwear, head wraps and bathing suits, are offended that black Americans choose to protest in from of this flag. It is sad because these same white Americans are not offended by police brutality inflicted on innocent black civilians. They are not offended by high incarceration rates in the black community. And they are not offended by the overwhelming data that shows that race-based discrimination is the root cause of so many of the disparities in the national black community.

Indeed the controversy over these protests at sporting events shows how far this country still has to come in the long journey to achieve equity and racial equality. In the meantime, for white America to ask black Americans to stop protesting during the national anthem of this imperfect country is simply asking too much.

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Point of View Columns

Has Donald Trump (Finally) Gone Too Far?

Unless the United States has contracted a case of pandemic amnesia, there should be no reason for the collective shock and awe occasioned by the attack of Donald Tinyhands on NFL and NBA players. It is amazing that anyone should be amazed that the President of the United States who has proven himself to be a liar, a bully and an inveterate hatemonger, would harangue and insult young black men who do not support the status quo.

Donald Trump is who he is and has always been who he is. What is odd is that there are politicians, media commentators and journalists and ordinary citizens who keep waiting for him to – mature – evolve – transform – or all of the above and then are shocked when he proves time and again that he will never change.

What is even more interesting is that the current shock and awe at his crude antics and attacks are treated as if President Trump has somehow crossed an invisible line of decency by attacking professional athletes. The considered opinion of many is that now he has gone too far. And that is truly amazing.

Obviously Donald Trump did not go too far when he serially and constantly insulted, demeaned and degraded the first black President of the United States by leading the so-called birther movement, calling into question the citizenship and legitimacy of President Barack Obama. And he did not go too far in refusing to ever apologize and own up to spewing a torrent of lies about President Obama for years.

Clearly did not go too far when he publicly announced that it was just fine to sexually assault women and then excused his self-described behavior as just “locker room talk” for which he has never apologized. This, despite the multiple charges of sexual assault that have been directed at him by seeming busloads of women.

And it appears that President Trump did not go too far when he hung up on the Prime Minister of Australia, insulted the leader of North Korea, the craziest head of state to be in possession of nuclear weapons, or when he pushed the President of Montenegro aside in a photo shoot, or when he tried to arm wrestle the President of France. And there is nothing that has been reported to believe that he thinks that there is any aspect of his behavior that he needs to change.

The point is that Donald Trump has been who he is for decades. It is improbable that at the age of 70 he would change, even upon his election as President of the United States. He remains the crass, obscene, self-absorbed, narcissistic and childishly cruel individual that New Yorkers have always known.

So while it is a good thing that Trump’s attacks on NBA players, NFL players and NFL owners, it is still odd that these attacks may turn out to be the tipping point in helping Americans know what we should have known all along. This country has placed an irredeemable miscreant in the White House and provided the entire world with a textbook example of why elections matter.

Hopefully we have learned our lesson.

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Point of View Columns

Casting the Second Stone

The controversy surrounding L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his race based rant is fascinating and in some ways difficult to understand. Of course, Sterling’s comments are reprehensible but considering that the Confederate flags still fly over state capitols where NBA franchises are located, it should not be a surprise to discover that some white people really don’t like black people. But if Donald Sterling is to be drawn and quartered for making hateful comments about black people, do black people who make similarly hateful and harmful comments about black people get a pass?

One could argue that enough has been written about a cranky old white man who debases himself before his too-young-for-him mistress of color. True, he does own an NBA franchise, and true, many black people play in the NBA. And true, there is nothing defensible about his comments about black people. Ergo, so the torch and pitchfork carrying media mob contends, Donald Sterling should be forced to give up his NBA franchise and live his remaining years wearing ashes and sackcloth.

But, as noted, this is a country where the stench of the slave holding Confederate States of America is still fresh in the breezes that blow Confederate flags above state capitols and state universities in too many places. This is a country where the first black President of the United States has been called a monkey, the AntiChrist, an alien interloper and a liar on the floor of Congress, all without consequence. And this is a country where black people are routinely barred from the corridors of power by unspoken rules of the road, not by a white robed Jim Crow, but by a  bespoke pinstripe suit attired James Crow 2.0.

So it should be no surprise when a white man (or woman), who is unaware that they are being recorded, tells us how they really feel about black people. And it certainly seems like the torch and pitchfork media mob and its enablers are more than a little disingenuous in excoriating Sterling while racism and horrific language are hurled at black Americans without consequence every day – by black people.

Donald Sterling is eighty years old. He could live another eighty years and never use the word “nigger” as many times as Jay-Z has. The only difference is that Jay-Z has “niggered” his way to an enormous fortune, seemingly without consequence and certainly with little or no criticism. Certainly Jay-Z has never encountered the withering firestorm of criticism from LeBron James, Charles Barkley, the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson that the hapless fool that we know as Donald Sterling has experienced.

Jay-Z and Kanye West collaborated on the misogynistic and obviously racist “Niggers in Paris” album and the silence from the Sterling hangmen was deafening. The characterization and reference to black women as “bitches” and “ho’s” and worse has been part of the accepted culture of “artists” like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Little Wayne, Fifty Cent and so many more and nowhere has there been a call to boycott their lucrative “art” or to skewer them Sterling-style.

And let us not forget the less than memorable Cornel West and his anti-Obama rants, likening the first black President of the United States to a “lap dog”. And while Dr. West is entitled to his full exercise of free speech, his off the chain critiques of President Obama have given clear aid and comfort to the enemy. And yet, Cornel West continues to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees based on the insults and calumny that he hurls at President Obama again, without consequence and certainly without receiving the Sterling Special Treatment.

There is nothing about Donald Sterling that is worthy of defense or further mention. The “art” of Jay-Z, Fifty Cents, Little Wayne, Kanye West and others have had a deep cultural and behavioral impact on the American black community, almost all of it negative and decidedly demeaning.

On his worst day Donald Sterling has never inflicted as much damage on the black community as the aforementioned crew and their running buddies. After the torch and pitchfork crew is finished with Sterling, maybe they will turn their attention to the real villains.

 

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Point of View Columns

Basketball Diplomacy

The New Year has transitioned seamlessly from 2013 with double standards in full bloom. Most recently former NBA star Dennis Rodman has led a delegation of basketball players to North Korea as part of a cultural exchange program. It is not clear what North Korea is offering to exchange but Rodman’s sojourn has lifted the steel curtain that surrounds that country just a bit allowing for the possibility of the light of inquiry and the air of communication to slip in. And for that, Dennis Rodman and his colleagues have been excoriated by members of the American press.

In the view of some commentators, by merely setting foot in North Korea, Dennis Rodman is providing some kind of tacit endorsement of that country’s government and its peerless and apparently brutal leader Kim Jong-un. In condemning Rodman it appears that the naysayers are simply not willing to take his words at face value while also refusing to face the realities of world politics.

If American cultural exchange initiatives were to be limited to countries whose policies and practices are completely acceptable to the American people there would be very few countries left off the “no fly” list. Political opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin have routinely disappeared or ended up in Siberia. Yet an American delegation is at this very moment packing its bags to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Israel is routinely acknowledged to be the key and primary ally of the United States in the Middle East. The partnership between Israel and this country is historic and institutional. Yet, in 1967 Israel attacked and sank the American navy vessel U.S.S. Liberty killing 34 Americans. An apology was issued and accepted and both countries found a way to move on.

Moving on, there are virtually limitless claims of human rights abuses taking place in China. The Chinese government has imprisoned dissenters and simply does not countenance any criticism of its practices and shows no signs of changing in the near, or far future. Yet most American observers contend that continued engagement with China offers the best chance of meaningful and institutional change in that country.

Accepting the fact that Dennis Rodman is better known for his outrageous conduct, occasional cross dressing, unique choices in clothing and hairstyles, there is every reason to believe that only someone like Dennis Rodman could gain admittance to North Korea and achieve some measure of communication with Kim Jon-un. There really doesn’t seem to be a downside to whatever inroads that he and his band of ball players might make since they are clearly not diplomats and they are just as clearly not endorsing anything.

But just as a generation ago a series of ping pong matches opened the way for formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, is it too farfetched to imagine that basketball diplomacy might succeed in prying open a door to actual communications between two countries that have spent over half a century demonizing each other?

There may be many reasons to criticize Dennis Rodman – role model he is not – but his role in changing the interaction between the U.S. and North Korea may turn out to be more meaningful than all of his NBA championship rings.

We can only wait and see.

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 3, 2013

The big news in sports is that NBA player Jason Collins announced that he is gay. It will be bigger news when such an announcement is no longer big news. Meanwhile if you want to know what this country would look like if the Teapublicans were in charge you need look no further than North Carolina. And speaking of Teapublicans, it seems that when it comes to Krazy Kats, they receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

And they call it “News”

Jason Collins has been a professional basketball player for a dozen years. As a member of the NBA he has achieved the athletic success that millions can only dream about.

Last week he announced that he is gay and the news cycles went into tizzy. As it turns out, Jason Collins is the first active athlete in a major sport in America to declare that he is gay. This is the stuff of historic proportions in the 21st century.

While there is no question that Mr. Collins’ announcement took a lot of courage in these days and times when homophobia is just a sound bite away. Even though 9 states and the District of Columbia have now sanctioned same sex marriage there are 41 states that do not recognize the injustice in not legally recognizing love between consenting adults.

We can only hope that the time will soon be here when the only courage needed to express one’s love is taking the daring step of declaring love to that person, and that person alone.

North Karolina Krazy

If you were wondering what this country might look like if the Teapublicans transitioned from being obstructionists you need go no further than the state of North Karolina. The Teapublicans took control of the state house and both houses of the legislature in November 2012 and they have been having a grand old Tea Party ever since.

Some of the legislation that has been proposed and or passed includes severe restrictions on abortion, draconian voter suppression and drug testing for welfare recipients. And, to make it really interesting, there is a proposal to allow the state to fund school districts that want to reinstate racial segregation.

One gets the feeling that they are just getting started in promoting a radically rightwing agenda. And one can only hope that the progressive people of North Carolina stand up before there is no ground left for them to stand upon.

Krazy Klowns

During the presidential primary campaign of 2012, the Teapublican Krazy Klowns Kar featured such red nose, big shoe wearing winners like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Donald Trump and Rick “Oops” Perry. Running against that kast of karacters Mitt Romney seemed reasonable and rational – and that lasted until he actually had to run against a credible candidate.

It seems that the Teapublicans like Klowncasting so much that even though they went down to defeat in the national election they show no signs of kasting klowns out of the party anytime soon.

And so we have Senator Ted Cruz from Texas calling the Newtown Massacre parents “props” after saying that the victims of Hurricane Sandy didn’t need or deserve federal aid. Not to be outdone, Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe claims that the federal government is buying up bullets so that freedom loving gun owners will run out of ammunition when it comes time for armed revolution.

And the winner of the Krazy Klown Award is some nameless Teapublican state representative who claims that the recent Boston Marathon bombing was a government hoax because one of the victims that she saw on television didn’t seem to be “in that much pain”.

Oh those Krazy Klowns in the Teapublican Party. You just can’t make this stuff up!

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 4, 2012

President Obama went to Afghanistan to make history while Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani had pizza in a firehouse in Lower Manhattan. There’s a message in there somewhere, starting with the hypocrisy of Romney and Giuliani being in that firehouse. Meanwhile there are some real head cases in the NBA and its going to get worse before it gets better unless someone starts treating the matter seriously. And finally, Nina Simone wrote a song over fifty years ago entitled “Mississippi Goddamn!” Guess what? The tune still fits.

Lies and Damned Lies

President Obama flew to Afghanistan last week to formalize an agreement whereby U.S. (and NATO) troops will essentially withdraw from that country by 2014. That means that 90,000 American troops will remain in a country where the President of the United States has to fly in and out under the cover of darkness because the place is so dangerous. It also means, however, that finally there is an end in sight to this war born of warped and certifiably insane neo-con strategy.

As fate would have it, President Obama was in Afghanistan on the day that Osama bin Laden was killed pursuant to his direct order one year ago. Predictably, the Teapublican sound machine started the wailing siren, claiming that President Obama was “politicizing” the anniversary and that he was wrongfully taking credit for the actions of the Navy SEALs who actually killed bin Laden.

The G.O.Tea Party has long gone off the tracks of logic and common sense and this most recent reaction/response is one more example. It might help to point out that President George W. Bush played dress up on the navy aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, posing as the fighter pilot that he was supposed that he was supposed to be during the Vietnam War but never was claiming “mission accomplished” in Iraq – after which over 4000 American military personnel were killed and well over a trillion dollars was spent until the nebulous “mission” in Iraq (which ultimately became just getting the hell out of Iraq) was accomplished.

Teapublican stalwarts Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney decided to commemorate the killing of bin Laden by having pizza at a firehouse near Ground Zero. That would be the same Rudy Giuliani who not only politicized the 9/11 tragedy but made a small fortune pretending to be the hero that he never was while simultaneously pretending to be the law enforcement and security expert that he most certainly never was and never will be.

Somehow on the Planet Teapublican, Barack Obama is wrong for taking credit for making bold executive decisions that worked, while Teapublicans can take credit for accomplishments that never existed. No one expects the Disloyal Opposition to be fair, but it would be a welcome change if it would shed the cloak of hypocrisy and try to make some sense.

Headaches in the NBA

Almost two weeks ago Metta World Peace (the basketball mayhem artist formerly known as Ron Artest) of the Los Angeles Lakers blindsided James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the head with an elbow that could have killed him. For readers who think that this is an exaggeration, please keep in mind that Mr. World Peace is 6’6” tall and weighs 250 pounds and is reputed to be one of the strongest men in the NBA.

Fortunately for Mr. Harden his is still alive. Whether he is well is another story as he did suffer a concussion and the recent suicide of football star Junior Seau is a reminder that head injuries can have horrific results years after the actual injury.

In any penitentiary worth its name Metta World Peace would be receiving a righteous beat down for such a cowardly and punk-like move. However, Metta World Peace is not in prison, he is not in jail; he is not in any kind of custody (for his protection or for the protection of the rest of the planet). NBA Commissioner David Stern responded to this attempted murder/aggravated assault on national television by suspending Metta World Peace for seven games. A seven game suspension for an act that would result in a 5-10 year sentence in any city in these United States sends the worst kind of wrong message.

The NBA has countenanced, encouraged and enabled outrageous and potentially murderous behavior. And somehow the young men and women who watched this sad and dismal deed are supposed to understand that wrongful behavior has consequences.

A seven game suspension doesn’t sound like much in the way of consequences or deterrence. Perhaps we should ask James Harden in about ten years what he thinks of David Stern’s decision.

Mississippi Goddamn!

Some recent statistics came to light which sound a lot like old statistics. Mississippi leads the nation in illiteracy. It also leads the nation in obesity and infant mortality. And, for good measure, it also leads the nation in Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.

It is a very sad commentary on the quality of life in one of the United States. We should also keep in mind that Mississippi is a Teapublican stronghold that has elected one Republican governor after another for over two decades. And there is little or no indication that Mississippi will change its ways anytime soon.

When you wonder what that country might look like after a few decades of unadulterated Teapublican-approved policies, take a look at Mississippi.

As Nina Simone once sang, “Mississippi Goddamn!”

Have a great weekend!

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