Wednesday, March 26, 2014
I’m on a mission to get Ty Cobb (December 18, 1886 – July 17, 1961) kicked out of the Hall of Fame.
I know it’s ridiculous to suggest that the hall dismiss arguably the greatest baseball player of all time. He was inducted as a member of the inaugural Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, receiving 222 out of a possible 226 votes.
Cobb set 90 Major League Baseball records, including the highest career batting average (.367) and the most career batting titles with 12. He held records for half a century after his retirement, including most career hits (4,191), most career runs (2,246), most games played (3,035) and most stolen bases (892). When discussing the legends of baseball, Cobb and Babe Ruth are the first to come to mind.
I have a good argument to kick both of them out of the Hall of Fame. I’m willing to let it slide if the Hall of Fame votes Barry Bonds in as a member.
You can’t do that! I can hear the echoes bouncing off the walls at Cooperstown. Bonds is a cheater. He defrauded the integrity of the game by juicing up with steroids. That’s what sportswriters are using to justify keeping one of the best ever to play out of the Hall of Fame.
Bonds has become the poster boy of a corrupt era. He’s not the only player to juice up. The list is so long that it’s tough finding a person who passes the smell test. To his credit, Bonds has credible statistics prior to his head enlarging and body pumping up to resemble a NFL linebacker.
MLB may need a poster boy to distance itself from the juice era. I get that, but I refuse to allow it to happen without calling the league on its hypocrisy in claiming innocence of all things pre steroids.
The truth is both Cobb and Ruth were racist. Cobb’s racism is documented in Al Stump’s book Cobb: The Life and Times of the Meanest Man Who Ever Played Baseball. In 1994, the book was used as the basis for Cobb, a film starring Tommy Lee Jones as Cobb. Cobb’s racism is trumped only by his fits of rage and violent playing style.
Ruth was no better than Cobb. Ruth was known for his racism, womanizing and mean ways with fans. Both Ruth and Cobb made it into the Hall of Fame because of their play on the field. Fans are now asked to measure the worth of players based on their reputations off the field. We’re also challenged to consider the cultural context in which the bigots from the past played.
Cobb apologists argue that the “Georgia Peach” was no different than his peers. Cobb was born and reared within a racist Southern environment, and shouldn’t be ridiculed for being like everyone else. Implied in condoning Cobb’s ways, based on the context of a racist society, is the negation of how he and others benefitted from the policy that prohibited the inclusion of black players.
In other words, Cobb, Ruth and others were great, in part, because of the cultural norms of the day. They thrived, in part, because of racism. Despite the advantages of living within a culture that affirmed and celebrated his game - despite the advantage of bigotry - we allow bigots in the Hall of Fame. We’re told it’s not Cobb’s fault. It was normative for the day.
The rules are altered with Bonds. The aftermath of the steroid era exposed how vast it was used. Not only was it used, the league allowed it to happen. I was not illegal. The Commissioner, owners, managers, coaches and players were all complicit in the management of steroids, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine and other drugs. Players assumed they needed the juice to compete.
It was part of the culture of baseball.
Like Cobb, Bonds lived within a historical context that normalized what we consider horrific. The difference is Cobb, and the other racist, are inducted into the Hall of Fame, while Bonds is denied entry for doing what was normal for his era.
Fans of the game will argue a difference between racism and steroids. They argue that the integrity of the game is compromised by drugs. Given baseball is a game of numbers, how can we stand by numbers smeared by performance enhancing drugs? Can we credit those who are awarded for playing with an advantage?
This is when my blood begins to boil. Aren’t the numbers of Cobb, Ruth, Musial and Williams blemished by who wasn’t allowed to play the game? Should we authenticate the play of those who lived within a culture that honored their position of white privilege, allow them into the Hall of Fame despite that advantage, while denying entry to others who played within a culture that affirmed similar advantage?
Like I said, I’m calling for the Hall of Fame to throw Cobb out of the Hall of Fame. If he’s allowed to stay as a racist, then nothing that follows will bear meaning. The game was tarnished by race and the league allowed it to happen.
Now we’re told to honor the integrity of the game.
Don’t make me cuss!
Friday, March 21, 2014
The sound of pain is hard to endure. It gets worse when you’re standing in privilege.
There’s something about conceding that your life is made better because of gifts handed down. It’s not that you are more gifted or smarter than the rest. You simply have more stuff to begin with. Sometimes that stuff is not the type placed in a bank account.
Stuff can be race or gender. Sometimes it’s heterosexual or Christian privilege. As much as we hate to admit it, our lives are shaped by how others perceive us more than the gifts we bring to the party. Too many of us weren’t invited to the party because our personal appearance failed to fit the invite requirements.
But, this isn’t the prelude to a pity party. It’s a celebration of a brewing trend that is capturing the hearts of people of privilege. More and more, people are less content with holding their privilege as a reward for being lucky enough to be born on that side of the tracks. They’re getting it. Something is not right. We can no longer deny the God given dignity of people born with a wooden, rather than silver spoon, in their mouth.
You see, I’m accustomed to protest. I was born within a culture that refused to bow down to the limits imposed on me because of my race. My mama believes in whipping that ass when folks get in her way. Yes, I was nurtured within a family culture that stepped up whenever someone seemed broken by another person’s assumption of privilege.
I thank my mama for that.
I’ve been singing we shall overcome as long as I can remember. It often happened in what seemed to be the brush arbor of black faith. That’s the place where the slaves stilled away at night to get their praise on after master and missy gave them Hell all day. My ancestors would hide away somewhere under the protective arm of trees to sing revolutionary songs.
That stuff brings chills to my body whenever I think about it. Many consider that weak-minded submission. I regard it critical in our understanding of an ever present counter-culture that constantly redefined the terms of human existence. It was that, damn you, we gonna do it our way, moment.
I’m used to that. Be it at the Second Missionary Baptist Church here in Columbia, Missouri, or back at Compassion Ministries in Durham, NC, I know what it feels like to hold hands with my people while calling on God to let my people go.
But this new energy is forcing me to rethink my assumption related to bondage and limitations. James Cone tells us that God is God of the oppressed, and, since black folks are oppressed, the liberating message of God is found within the community of black people. I’ve always said amen to that, and, to a large extent, it still roots the way I think about praxis and practice.
Back to this new stuff. A new movement led by people willing to reject the advantages of their privilege has taken center stage. It’s what happened in North Carolina with the Moral Monday movement. Rev. William Barber, North Carolina NAACP President, has led a coalition of grassroots folks in recasting the terms of discourse regarding public policy.
Barber is a black man who leads a congregation in Goldsboro, NC. He is a product of the black church, with a down home preaching style that rekindles memories of grandma cooking collards greens after signing in the choir on Sunday morning. Barber is old school worship united with progressive theological insight. There is no question that Barber is black. There is no question that his love for black folks has propelled him in the middle of a flourishing movement.
I get that. I get all of it, but the shift is among those willing to do what the young rich man couldn’t do after Jesus imparted the challenge. They are rejecting all of that privilege in hope of a common good. Their views and desires are not embedded from what they can get out of it all. They are living from the inside out, rather than the normal position.
It’s happening here in Missouri. Can you feel the wave? Back in North Carolina, Barber led thousand into the state legislative building in acts of civil disobedience. Close to 1,000 people willingly went to jail to protest the actions of extremist politicians. Many of them weren’t black, in fact, most of them are white.
Clergy in Columbia, Missouri have decided to stand for justice. Many lead congregations filled with people of privilege. They are willing to stand for those hindered by the refusal to expand Medicaid benefits in the state. They are fighting for early voting, to assure all citizens have access to the democratic process.
They will stand with me on April 1 when Barber comes to town to discuss Moral Monday. We will wear our robes, hold hands and pray. We will sing a few revolutionary songs and prepare to reverse the tide of hate laced public policies.
The revolution has changed over the years. It has no race, no gender, no sexual orientation, and is not limited by theological views. It’s a movement of those who need more to make it, standing with people who have more than enough. This is a movement of dignity. We are all the same.
Gil Scott Heron said the revolution won’t be televised. This time it will be the lead story on network TV. The images will force people to say ‘those people are just like me.’
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Call me old fashioned. As open minded as I am about some things, there are others that reflect my age, social conditioning, and unwillingness to bend so hard that stuff begins to break.
So, forgive me for saying it, I prefer that my potential girlfriend or wife wears clothes while in public space. I appreciate the female body, and understand why people lose their minds at the sight of a beautiful woman shaking her groove thang. I’m no prude, but I’d rather keep some things between the two of us.
I’d rather not talk nasty while others are listening. It’s no one’s business what happens after Luther and Smokey set the stage with candles burning, and an empty glass of wine to set the mood. Some things need to be left for those grown enough to handle that type of situation.
You feel me?
So, let me make it perfectly clear, I’m not hating on Beyoncé’ and her Boo for dragging their personal sex biz before the world to hear. Jay-Z has every right to play games with Queen B with lines like “I'm Ike, Turner, turn up Baby no I don't play, now eat the cake, Annie Mae Said, "Eat the cake, Annie Mae!"
The last time I checked, that’s not funny, but what a couple conceives as humorous is between him and her. Put another way, do your thang Hova, but don’t expect me to endorse that line of bull stank.
The clear references to domestic violence aside, I’m not a fan of couples broadcasting what they do, when they do, what they do. My old school ways demand a different approach to celebrating the woman I claim as my Queen.
She deserved to be wooed Jeffery Osborne style.
That you should be mine.
Anything you want
You've got to fortify my love, you fortify me,
You should be mine. Anything you want
You've got to fortify my love
Or, experience a man on his knees begging for another chance. Sing Lenny!
I said, "You know, sometimes you get lonely
You get lonely, you get lonely"
Oh, oh, oh and I cry, I cry
Oh, oh, oh
Whatever happened to baby, I love you music, and baby, baby, please give me one more chance music? The masses seem more interested in let’s get nasty music.
I celebrate Beyoncé‘s desire to express her sexual freedom as a way to promote her version of new age feminism. I support a woman’s right to shake her coke bottle curves like an upper cut in the face of patriarchy. Women have every right to clutch their sexuality like a thug with sagging pants. What’s good for the goose is good for the woman sick and tired of those double standards.
But please, baby, baby, please, don’t forget the love music. Don’t forget men like me interested in more than a short term memory. Talk to me about falling so deep in love that every love song makes you call her name and wish she was there to hear you say “I love you”.
Forgive me for being an old school dude in search of real love. Forgive me for getting angry when men objectify women, and desire no more than to hit it for a night. I suppose that makes me a dinosaur of sorts. Maybe that makes me the type of man too blind to acknowledge my love affair with patriarchy. Maybe it could be said my position proves a subconscious desire to control a woman’s vagina. Or, maybe I’m expressing my willingness to embrace a woman for more than what she looks like when naked.
I’m an old school dude searching for old school love. Memo to my future wife, the freaky stuff is for me and you.
I’m looking for love in all the right places.
Friday, December 13, 2013
News alert! Christmas is for white people.
Santa Claus is white and so is Jesus. It’s a fact. So, stop complaining black people. Stick with Kwanza to express your need to be affirmed.
The news flash came from Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Kelly blasted a blogger for sharing the angst she felt seeing a white Santa Claus as a child and a black Santa at home.
Aisha Harris, a blogger with Slate, argued for an all-inclusive Santa due to changes in the cultural makeup of society. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/holidays/2013/12/santa_claus_an_old_white_man_not_anymore_meet_santa_the_penguin_a_new_christmas.html
“Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you: He exists as an incredibly powerful image in the imaginations of children across the country (and beyond, of course), Harris writes. “That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white—and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a “joke” or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes—helps perpetuate the whole “white-as-default” notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).”
Kelly’s response proved both a lack of sensitivity and knowledge related to the identity of the historical Jesus.
"By the way, for you kids watching at home, Santa is white. But this person is arguing that maybe we should also have a black Santa. But you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we're just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids," Kelly said.
Maybe it would have helped if Kelly prefaced her comments with “white kids.” “By the way, for you white kids watching at home...” That would make it easier for the rest of us to swallow the hyperbole she spewed like proven fact.
Kelly’s insistence in protecting the traditional American spin on the Christmas story may reflect an even deeper concern regarding the way Christianity is understood as a valuation of white privilege. Affirming Jesus and St. Nick as white men distances white people as the esteemed race of Christianity.
Don’t get upset white kids. Santa and Jesus are white. Don’t worry; you are the chosen of God. Our white skin proves our place among the rest, and there’s nothing anyone can say to change our special place among the rest.
That’s what I read between the lines.
It’s presuppositions like these that have led to deep pondering related to the practice of Christianity within the context of white privilege. Theologians like James Cone, Gayarud Wilmore and J. Deotis Roberts forced questions that led to the study of Black Theology. It’s why Robert E. Wood asked Must God Remain Greek?
It’s why Katie G. Cannon, Jacquelyn Grant, and Delores Williams considered the oppression of black women to develop Womanist Theology. Grant writes about the threefold oppression of racism, sexism and classism in White Woman's Christ Black Women's Jesus.
Put another way, black scholars maintain substantial divergence with the way Christianity is avowed as an endorsement of American culture and white privilege. These scholars grapple with how the study of black radicalism is sacrificed in the celebration of Dr. King’s dream. Nonviolent resistance, and the love ethic, take center stage, while the grip of historical, institutionalized evils becomes a conversation related to days before this post-race era.
There’s no place to discuss race. Santa is white, and so is Jesus. So, shut up black people!
Got that White Kids?
As for Black Kids, deal with it. Bow to our white God! Pray that our white Jesus hears your prayers and that white Santa has time to throw a few crumbs over in your neighborhood. The Christmas story isn’t about you, or any other race of people.
Christmas is for white people!
It gives new meaning to dreaming of a “white Christmas”.
Is Kelly dreaming for the ghost of Christmas past? Does she want a Christmas with Bing Cosby singing with no black people on the set to remind her of life on the other side of the tracks? Does she want a world devoid of black people and their issues, and reminders of thoughts of her quest for supremacy?
Memo to FOX TV: Christmas is for black people. It’s also for Asian, Latino and people of mixed race.
As for Jesus, he wasn’t white. He was made white by those who fashioned him into their own image to justify their hatred for others. Do your homework before giving lecture to children. And, please remember, black and brown children are watching
Thank God for the Black Messiah. By the way, God is a God of the oppressed.
Homework courtesy of James Cone.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
I’ve been down this street before.
That’s what came to mind after taking a long stroll through the neighborhood I called home before moving to Durham, NC to attend graduate school at Duke University. The journey down memory lane played like rewind.
Not much has changed.
The feeling of despair that ran me away has settled in like the seconds before a heart attack. There’s a mood that strips one of their dreams and reminds them to stay in an assigned place. That ache I felt before leaving came back. It shocked me. The tears came after I turned right on Worley. Each step stirred a memory of being broken by the covert racism in Columbia, MO.
Why did they force us to walk to West Jr. High School? I moaned as flashbacks of cold days walking to school came to mind. Why? Why no bus for us?
That question stirred a deeper frustration related to the gaps that fed inferiority. The tears poured faster and deeper as the truth emerged to take me back.
I never felt good enough. I never felt equal to my white peers. I never, I never – the list inflated until I couldn’t take anymore. I stopped walking, closed my eyes, inhaled, exhaled, and took another step.
What is it about Columbia that robs black people of their dreams?
Langston Hughes asked a similar question. “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Is anyone considering the significance of withering dreams?
The Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence has begun the arduous task of tackling crime in Columbia. The 13 members have been split into groups - one to talk to people affected by violence; another to analyze police reports and court files; one to talk with nonprofits and social service agencies to measure what they are doing about crime; and the fourth to examine news site and social media accounts for information surrounding previous violent crimes.
The process of reducing crime begins with gauging what is being done. It’s an important step that must be taken along the way. Measuring the response of those empowered to prevent, protect and report crime is essential. Those commissioned to serve must be held accountable when appropriate, and celebrated when successful.
But, what about those dreams rotting in the sun?
What are the causes of crime? Are those reasons reflective of broader societal ills, or are there cultural impediments indigenous to Columbia? If so, are we willing to go deeper than the traditional blame game to form strategies to shift that feeling that forced my feet to stop moving after considering the pain in the streets?
Some will say crime in Columbia is the result of an antagonistic police department. Others will condemn social agencies, churches and other nonprofits. A large group will point a disparaging finger at parents. There’s a measure of truth in each position, but what about the wilting of dreams?
It took my leaving Columbia to discern that woeful sensation that kept me walking slower than my potential. Departing freed me from the clutch of internalized inferiority. The deficiency of black owned and operated businesses, the absence of a who’s who list of blacks from Columbia recognized nationally, and a weak history of blacks elected to serve on the city council, reflect a deep void that withers potential dreams.
Dreams can’t thrive when power isn’t shared. Hope can’t be found when the capacity for more has no role models to lead the way. Life can’t be found when you are limited to the welfares on your side of the street.
I’m back home after being away for 27 years. Columbia has grown since I left, but not much has changed on the blocks that made raisins out of dreams.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
I wasn’t surprised that a jury found Crystal Mangum guilty of second-degree murder for stabbing and killing her boyfriend, Reginald Daye. Her life has been on a collision course since she accused three Duke University lacrosse players of raping her in 2006.
I can’t help but think the jury may have protected Mangum from further misery. Maybe she’ll be able to find peace away from what happened on Buchannan Street in Durham, NC.
“I can’t find a job,” Mangum told me during our last interaction. “All I want is a job to take care of my children.”
I listened to the spirit beyond her words. We talked about her past issues with men.
“I don’t know how to love a man,” she said. “Men go crazy because I’m not able to give them what they want.”
I sensed that she wanted to find more in life. Love and being loved in returned was beyond her comprehension. Something deep and painful has robbed her of the ability to escape what happened long ago. There was an innocence there begging to find a safe place to heal. I felt an inner tremble too weak to take a chance.
She was trying to find her way. I prayed it wasn’t too late.
Her story is one that refused to go away. When Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway sentenced Mangum to 14 years and two months to 18 years in prison, it felt like the end of a story with more twist and turns than reality television.
From a group of former lacrosse players intent on suing everyone connected with Mangum’s deception, to a series of bouts with the law that kept Mangum in court, it seems to be over now.
On November, 11, the U.S Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Ryan McFadyen, Matthew Wilson and Breck Archer, three former members of Duke’s lacrosse team who sued Duke University; Durham police investigators and city officials; Mike Nifong; and nurses who examined Crystal Mangum.
Federal courts had narrowed the scope of the player’s complaint. Enough never seemed to be enough for those still aching from having their names and reputations dragged into the court of public opinion. As others endured the burden of Mangum’s dishonesty, she continued to escape fate with justice. Mike Nifong, the Durham district attorney who called for justice before considering reasonable doubt, lost his job, was stripped of his credentials by the NC Bar Association, and has faded into obscurity.
Durham – in – Wonderland, a blog offering commentary and analysis regarding Mangum alleging rape, continues to poke at the Group of 88 - the Duke Professors who called for justice before the facts related to the case were presented.
“The paper has no comment from any member of the Group of 88, nor have I seen any comments elsewhere on the web from any Group members,” KC Johnson, owner of the blog writes. “Presumably few if any of the Group continue to find Mangum credible, but it's worth reiterating that all except Arlie Petters have not in any way distanced themselves from their 2006 statement”.
Punishing Mangum, and anyone associated with her, became the mission of many. They couldn’t rest until punishment was given for that malicious lie. They cried foul after Mangum was found innocent of arson, injury to personal property, contributing to the abuse and neglect of her children and resisting arrest. Mangum smashed her boyfriend Milton Walker’s windshield with a vacuum cleaner, slashed his tires and set his clothes on fire because she says he punched her in the face repeatedly.
The details of that case weren’t allowed into evidence during the recent trial. Despite not being allowed to use those facts, prosecution was able to show a pattern. Mangum has problems with men. She has a temper. She has issues with being faithful – a fact that has led to confrontations with her boyfriends.
Mangum shared her story with the jury. Prior to her testimony, they heard from the victim. Daye spoke to an investigator twice before he died. Daye told the investigator he felt disrespected when Mangum brought men to his apartment. He admitted to kicking the bathroom door when Mangum locked herself inside. He admitted to grabbing Mangum’s hair and continuing to fight after she stabbed him in the side.
Mangum claims it was self-defense. The jury found her guilty of second-degree murder. First-degree murder was an option. Her attorney says he will appeal.
She asked me for help that day in the basement at the Market Street Coffee House. I placed my role as a journalist on the backburner and prayed for a way to help her find peace. She wanted better for her children. She wanted a way to escape her pattern with men. She wanted something much deeper than I could find words to express.
Mangum reached out to me before I left North Carolina. She told me she heard I was leaving. She was still searching for work. More than any of that, I felt her need for acceptance and freedom away from the assumptions people make.
I pray for the Daye family. I’m saddened that no verdict will bring him back to them.
I pray for Crystal Mangum. There is more to her than most people will ever now. Maybe she can find peace away from the glares of her critics.
Maybe others will be able to release their need to punish what happened long ago. Maybe this story has come to an end.
If so, Mangum can begin writing a new story.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The past week has been jam-packed with images and commentaries on the event. From trhe new book written by the secret service agent who was there when it happened, to the ESPN report regarding the NFL’s decision to play games the following Sunday, this week has been a trip down memory lane.
Kennedy’s assassination, on November 22, 1963, was the first among five that exposed a critical divide concerning America’s communal image. Medger Evers was killed on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X was killed on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King, Jr. died on April 4, 1968, and Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, Jr. was killed on June 6, 1968.
It was an era of both domestic and global confusion. America’s persona as the world’s body ground against all forms of tyranny was juxtaposed against bloody battles regarding race. The nation was engulfed in redefining its identity. The melting pot experiment was exposed as a colossal contradiction.
Public servants imitated the message of Hitler
In 1963, the world watched as Theophilus Eugene "Bull" Connor , commissioner of public safety for the city of Birmingham, Alabama, authorized the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs against peaceful demonstrators, including children.
The nation and world took notice on January 14, 1963, as George Wallace stood on the gold star where Jefferson Davis took oath, 102 years earlier, to become president of the Confederate States. Wallace boldly stood to take his oath of office as Governor of Alabama.
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” he said.
In North Carolina, Jesse Helms emerged as a critic of the civil rights movement. His columns in the News & Observer reflected a growing view among southern whites. Helms claimed he civil rights movement was infested by communist and “moral degenerates”, and argued that Medicaid was a "step over into the swampy field of socialized medicine".
The deaths of the Kennedy brothers, Medger, Martin and Malcolm are imbrued within a context were the battle to celebrate particular perspectives is hindered by a universal mandate. Those clinging to Dixiecrat views were forced to concede a world were black people exist beyond functioning as their servants. Democracy was tested in a way that reflected the rationale for the Civil War.
The deaths of John and Robert Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X are, in part, about America’s unresolved issues with race. It was also about the fear of Communism and liberalism. They all died due to America’s ongoing dilemma with dreading the unknown. The years between 1963 and 1968 reflected the nation’s fear of the other.
Are we a nation that kills the best of what we could be?
Remembering JFK uncovers the agony related to being nurtured in an era of assassins. The phantasmagoria of better days was quickly eradicated by the deaths of those who tried to lead the way. The subtle message regulated the ambitions of those who followed - be careful when you challenge America’s contradictions.
The essential question for today regards the lessons learned since the assassinations of those who tried to make a difference. Has America changed since then, or are we quick to kill those who expose the things we fear?
Jesse Helms argued that Medicaid is socialized medicine. Sounds familiar. States should be allowed to enforce laws consistent with the views of its citizenry. He’s a communist. He’s a liberal intent on destroying America.
The force of rhetoric stirs the unruly ways of lunatics. That’s a lesson taught by the death of President John F. Kennedy. We will never be a diverse union until we celebrate the message of those we fear.
I wonder if we will ever learn from our mistakes.