Mandela is dead.
Mandela is dead.
Fellow Scrogue Russ Wellen called our attention to an article in the New York Times, “A Cold War Fought by Women,” about research by Dr. Sarah Hrdy that quantifies female competition and aggression. Not surprisingly, Dr. Hrdy and her colleagues conclude that it exists and, importantly from a scientific standpoint, it can be measured through experiments that can be replicated. Continue reading
It’s a trend lately, that if a party is afraid of losing an election, they pass legislation barring key groups in their opponents’ base from voting. And clearly, it’s something Texas has taken to heart. Right after Wendy Davis declared that she was running for governor, Texas Republicans set out to disenfranchise women from voting, 19th Amendment be damned.
And the way they’re keeping ladies out of the voting booth it is a doozy.
The Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC), the governing body of football in Italy, just broke bad on AC Milan over its supporters abusive behavior. Gab Marcotti at ESPN FC explains.
The Italian FA charged Milan for the fact that some of their fans engaged in racist abuse during Sunday night’s match against Napoli. In accordance with the regulations, the stand from which the abuse originated (San Siro’s Curva Sud) will be shut for one game. (Individual supporters who are identified can also be charged under separate statutes. Had the abuse been reported as more widespread, Milan could have been forced to play behind closed doors. And had it been noted by the official, the game could have been suspended.)
As you probably know, we’re not fans of racism in football at S&R. Not at all. Nor are our guest posters. So the idea that FIGC is finally getting off its ass and doing something about the appalling behavior of it fan base is welcome news.
Except, well, except that this isn’t exactly what’s happening here after all. Marcotti continues:
But here’s the thing. Of the 14 Napoli players who played that day, 13 were Caucasian. The other, Juan Camilo Zuniga, is mixed race. And he wasn’t being targeted. In fact, the songs had nothing to do with race as in skin color. They were all about Naples and Neapolitans. And apart from striker Lorenzo Insigne, none of the players were from Naples.
The song in question talked about Naples being dirty, about Neapolitans not using soap, having cholera and stinking to high heaven. Another chant implored Mount Vesuvius to erupt and clean up Naples, presumably by killing all the Neapolitans.
It’s offensive and tasteless, sure. But is it the kind of thing that should be barred from football stadiums?
Let’s venture a bit deeper into the weeds, shall we?
The Italian FA is not just taking its cue from UEFA’s new disciplinary code and specifically Article 14 (PDF), which deals with “racism, discriminatory conduct and propaganda.” And in doing so, it’s basically acting as a test case for possible future legislation.
Article 14 punishes those who “insult the human dignity of a person or group of persons by whatever means, including on the grounds of skin color, race, religion or ethnic origin.” Read it closely and you’ll see that while racism, ethnic abuse and sectarian abuse are specifically mentioned, it’s actually about insulting the “human dignity” of a group or individual. That can easily include other forms of discriminatory abuse, such as homophobic abuse.
But what they’ve done in Italy is to specify what constitutes an insult to “human dignity” and, unlike UEFA, they specifically cite (in addition to sexuality) territorial origin.
Ummm. Listen, I’m all for dropping the hammer on racism. But…this isn’t racism, is it? Is it legitimately “ethnic abuse”? Well, if you dig into Italian history, yeah, the South and the North have somewhat different ethnic histories, sort of. Of course, the diffs probably aren’t as pronounced as the gap you’d find between the North End in Boston and the cracker neighborhood I grew up in.
I don’t know. I’m ambivalent here. There can be fine lines in cases like this, and I won’t deny that sometimes Northern Italians speak about their Southern countrymen in ways that feel a bit like racism. Still, I’m not at all sure that FIGC hasn’t overreached.
Part of me says lighten up – this is basic smack talk. It’s often insensitive, I suppose, but are we going to ban fans for hurting the feelings of their opponents? (Read the rest of the article – Marcotti is on his game here.)
This one troubles me, not the least because I have earned a rep as an accomplished purveyor of the trash myself. And my beloved Rocky Mountain Blues have been known to sings songs that are, ummm, potentially hurtful. For instance, we hate the Scousers (Liverpool FC), and the article notes a certain cultural stereotype pertaining to property crime. We like to sing this one, to the tune of “You Are My Sunshine”:
You are a scouser
A dirty scouser
You’re only happy on Giro Day
Your mum’s out thieving
Your’s dad’s drug dealing
Please don’t take my hubcaps away…
And there’s “In Your Liverpool Slums”:
In your Liverpool slums
You look in a dustbin for something to eat
You find a dead rat and you think it’s a treat
In your Liverpool slums
In your Liverpool slums
Your mum’s on the game and your dad’s in the nick
You can’t get a job ’cause your too fucking thick
In your Liverpool slums
In your Liverpool slums
You wear a shell suit and have got curly hair
All of your kids are in council care
In your Liverpool slums
In your Liverpool slums
There’s piss on the pavement and shit on the path
You finger your grandma and think it’s a laugh
In your Liverpool slums
We also love to sing in honor of Manchester United hero Ryan Giggs. To the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”:
Oh Ryan Giggs (oh Ryan Giggs)
Is fucking sheep (is fucking sheep)
Oh Ryan Giggs is fucking sheep
He’s fucking sheep, sheep and more sheep
Oh Ryan Giggs is fucking sheep
This one works equally well for Gareth Bale, or for matter any Welshman with the right number of syllables in his name. The Welsh are whiter than I am – is this racist? Ethnic abuse? Or is it simply nationalistic, tribalistic, etc.? Am I describing a difference that makes no difference?
We even have at our own. Referencing the infamous scandal involving Blues captain John Terry and the girlfriend of former teammate Wayne Bridge, there’s this one to the tune of “London Bridge”:
Mrs. Bridge is going down
Mrs. Bridge is going down
On John Terry
Of course, this is personal, not collective. I just wanted to throw it in because it’s my favorite.
Frankly, these are some of the nicer ones. There are lyrics in a few songs I’ve heard that you wouldn’t repeat in a crowd of drunken sailors.
Perhaps you get where I’m going. There’s no excuse whatsoever for racism, but there’s a line, right? It can’t be illegal to be rude, can it? Sure, it’s primitive and juvenile and frankly, we already knew that I’m a terrible human being.
I mean, if you adopted these kinds of rules in the US, that would mean I could no longer point out, when the Broncos are getting ready to play the Raiders, that Oakland is the world’s largest open-air latrine. When the Avs go to play the Devils, I can’t crack that the New Jersey state bird is the housefly. That Nebraska’s football team plays on natural grass so the cheerleaders will have a place to graze. It would probably be hurtful even to snark about what a high percentage of Bengal players wind up in jail.
Or are these things okay because there is no twinge of the ethic about them?
We’ll be watching as things develop in Serie A. Like I say, I applaud any and all efforts to scrub racism from the game. But it would also be a mistake to overcorrect, I think. I’ve had some opposing fans say nasty things to me through the years, and I’d hate to see them punished over a weak-ass attempt at cleverness.
It’s bad enough that their teams suck and their children look like the mailman, don’t you think?
I was inspired to pick up the pen (well, type) and write another blog post by my good friend, Kimberly McGuire at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. Last week, she and dozens of other brave women – young, old, black, white, Latina, mothers, sisters, daughters – stood up by sitting down.
I wanted to highlight this video, and this protest, for a few reasons. One, because it’s a group entirely comprised of women fighting for justice in immigration – as the video notes, the majority of those affected by immigration laws are women and their children. Two, because despite the promise of immigration reform from both the President and from Congress, we have made little progress towards a comprehensive plan for immigrants in this country.
It’s true, we have made some steps forward recently. The United States deferred the deportation of thousands of immigrants who were brought here as children (under 16) illegally , allowing them to stay in the United States. This is a huge step forward – these young men and women have done nothing wrong, they simply followed their parents to another country for a better life. But this step forward also creates problems. The children are allowed to stay, but their parents are not. Our policy is still splitting families apart.
If they don’t face separation from their families and friends, they face challenges in access to work, to health care, to security and to integration into society here. And unfortunately, they face a lack of urgency in government to work towards a common sense plan for immigration.
I think that part of the hesitation in proposing a practical plan for immigration reform, is the view that illegal immigration is a problem. Congressman Rush Holt put it best in his recent Geek Out! event when he said that immigration should not be framed as a problem, but instead as an opportunity for economic growth and cultural enrichment.
The other part of the problem is a lack of enthusiasm by Congress to propose a plan because it’s too controversial for an election year.
That is a crap excuse. It will always be an election year. The concern shouldn’t be with keeping a job. The concern our government should have, is for the people that elected them, and the country they work for, and the problems in that country that need practical solutions to issues like this.
This month marks the 41st time that conservatives in Congress have tried to repeal Obamacare. Forty one. It’s an exercise in futility if I’ve ever seen one, and a complete and utter waste of everyone’s time and tax dollars. Instead of going through this pointless song and dance again, why are we not putting our energy towards a common sense and comprehensive immigration plan?
We have average citizens (and non-citizens) who are more passionate about this reform than Washington is. There are thousands demanding action on this subject and we have yet to see significant action because politicians are too afraid to risk such a controversial vote before an election year. Why is it that men and women like Kimberly, and the women who sat with her, are willing to risk arrest to see change made, but those in the halls of Congress stay silent?
The original plan when we began this project was to offer the amendments individually, invite discussion, then produce a final document. The course of the process, though, has made a couple things clear. First, there needs to be a period to discuss the entire document in context, and second, while the original “Bill of Rights” approach perhaps had a certain formatic elegance about it, the project is better served by a less formalized articulation of general principles.
As a result, what follows is a restructured draft that accounts for the discussions so far and that also adds some new elements that have arisen since the process launched.
We will compile a final statement of principles out of this discussion.
i) No political party representing a significant minority of the electorate – and here we suggest five percent as a workable baseline – will be denied direct representation in the legislature.
ii) All legislative bodies shall be comprised proportionally according to the populations represented and all elected officials should be selected by direct vote of the people.
i) In order to eliminate the corrupting, anti-democratic influence of corporate and special interest money on the electoral process, all elections shall be publicly financed. No individual will be allowed to contribute more than a token sum to an official, candidate or political party (perhaps the cap could be in line with the current $2,000 limit for contributions to presidential candidates).
ii) All corporate, commercial and other private or publicly held entities shall be forbidden from contributing directly to any official, candidate or political party.
iii) All citizens and collective entities are free to designate a portion of their annual tax contributions to a general election fund.
iv) No contributions to the electoral process shall be allowed by foreign interests, either individual or institutional.
v) Election funds shall be administered on a non-partisan basis and no candidate or party demonstrating a reasonable expectation of electoral viability shall be denied access to funding.
i) The government of the people shall be expressly secular. No individual, religious or quasi-religious entity or collective engage or seek to influence the course of legislation or policy in accordance with theological creed.
ii) No government edifice, document, collateral, communication, or other production, including currency, shall make reference to religious concepts, including “god.”
iii) No one shall, in any legal context, including legal processes or oaths of office, swear upon a sacred text.
iv) Oaths of office shall explicitly require officials to refrain from the use of religious language and dogma in the conduct of their duties.
v) No government funds shall be spent to compensate employees who exist to serve religious functions. This includes, but is not limited to, the office of Chaplain in various military bodies.
vi) No religious institution shall be eligible for tax exempt status.
No governmental entity shall conduct secret or covert proceedings absent ongoing oversight by a multi-partisan body of popularly elected officials.
No state or local government entity shall assert special privilege or exemption with respect to established rights granted by the Federal Constitution.
i) No government, corporation, commercial or private entity shall abridge an individual’s legitimate exercise of free speech. This includes all political, social and civic speech activities, including those criticizing the government, corporations and business entities and other collective organizations.
ii) The right of the people peaceably to assemble, especially for purposes of protest, and to petition for a redress of grievances will not be infringed.
iii) The health of the nation depends on a vital independent check against public and commercial power. As such, no government, corporation, commercial or private entity shall be allowed to abridge the rights of a free and unfettered press.
iv) Congress will make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
i) No governmental, corporation or commercial interest, or other private organization shall deny to any enfranchised citizen the rights or privileges accorded to others.
ii) The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
i) All individuals shall enjoy the right to privacy and freedom from systemic surveillance by governmental entities in the absence of a legally obtained warrant articulating probable cause against the individual.
ii) The right of the people to be secure in their persons, homes, papers, data, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
iii) All individuals shall enjoy the right to privacy and freedom from systemic surveillance and data gathering by corporate, commercial or other private or public entities unless they have specifically opted into such programs.
All citizens shall enjoy the right to shelter, nourishment, healthcare and educational opportunity.
No corporation, business interest or any other collective entity shall be accorded the rights and privileges attending citizenship, which are reserved expressly for individuals.
No corporate, commercial or other private or governmental entity shall be licensed, accredited or incorporated absent a binding commitment to serve the public interest.
i) In order to further the public’s interest in a free and independent legislature, elected officials shall not be allowed petition the body in which they served, either on their own behalf or on behalf of the interests of a third party, for a significant period of time after the conclusion of their terms.
ii) No person shall be allowed to assume a position charged with regulatory oversight of an industry in which they have worked in the past five years.
iii) No elected official shall be allowed to assume a position on any legislative committee charged with oversight or regulation of an industry in which they have worked or held financial interest for the past five years.
i) All workers shall have the right to organize for purposes of collective representation and bargaining.
ii) In any publicly held commercial interest where a significant percentage of the workforce is represented by a union, the workers shall be entitled to representation on the corporate board of directors.
i) All citizens will, upon attainment of their 18th birthdays, enroll in a two-year program of public service, which may be fulfilled with either civic programs or the armed forces.
ii) Enfranchisement will be earned upon completion of the public service commitment and a demonstration of a basic understanding of principles informing the political and policy issues facing the nation and the world.
i) The right of an individual who has completed a two-year military service commitment to keep and maintain firearms appropriate to the common defense should not be infringed. 
ii) The Federal government will establish guidelines by which enfranchised citizens may obtain firearms for reasonable purposes of sport and self-defense.
i) No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against him or herself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
ii) In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed five hundred dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
iii) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of professional, trained adjudicators sanctioned by the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; defendants shall have the right to be confronted with the witnesses against them; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in their favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for their defense.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
 This disposes of the Electoral College.
 An alternative might be to entrust the public court system with the decision. Make all documents automatically become public in N years (and make destruction a federal felony) but the government can petition a federal court to hold them as secret. Court uses a strict scrutiny standard to continue secrecy, advocates for release present arguments and can appeal a secrecy decision (no appeal on orders to release). (Submitted by Evan Robinson.)
 This does not prevent said entities from policing explicitly illegal behavior, such as theft of proprietary information or sexual harassment. (Suggested by Carole McNall.)
 This item overturns the Citizens United case.
 This item eliminates the narrow “interest of the shareholders” doctrine emerging originally from Dodge vs. Ford.
 It is suggested by multiple commenters that “a significant period of time after the conclusion of their terms” might best be changed to “forever.” This is a perspective with some merit. In truth, though, we’re discussing a body of people who possess expertise that can, in the right circumstances, be of benefit to the people. A term of five years, for instance, might serve to rid the system of revolving-door corruption without permanently eliminating the possibility that a highly qualified individual may be able to contribute to the public good.
 This practice is common in Europe and promotes an environment of collaboration, instead of confrontation, between management and labor.
 Weapons systems are constantly evolving and we are now perhaps within a generation of the point where lasers, thermal lances and other currently experimental man-portable devices might be viable. The term “firearms” in this document should not be construed as limited to the sorts of projectile weapons we’re familiar with, but should instead be taken in a broader context. (Suggested by Rho Holden.)
The New Constitution has been a long time in the making, and it would be the height of arrogance to suggest that I reached this point on my own. In truth, I’m an intensely social, extroverted and associative thinker, which means that if I have an interesting idea, it probably emerged from interactions with one or more other people. This is why I work so hard to surround myself my folks who are as smart as possible. If they’re brighter than me, as is often the case, that’s all the better because that means there’s more opportunity to learn.
Some of the people in the list below are known to readers of S&R and others aren’t. Some have played a very direct and active role in my political thinking in recent years, and others contributed less obviously in conversations, in grad school classes, in arguments and debates over beers, and so on. In fact, there are undoubtedly some on the list who will be surprised to see their names, but trust me, each and every one of them helped me arrive at the present intellectual moment. This doesn’t necessarily mean they all endorse the project or want their names attached to it, so if there are things that aggravate you, please direct those comments at me and me alone.
All that said, many thanks to:
Dr. Jim Booth
Dr. Will Bower
Dr. Robert Burr
Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark
Dr. Erika Doss
Dr. Andrea Frantz
Dr. Stuart Hoover
Dr. Douglas Kellner
Dr. John Lawrence
Dr. Polly McLean
Dr. Michael Pecaut
|Dr. Wendy Worrall Redal
Dr. Willard Rowland
Dr. Geoffrey Rubinstein
Dr. Greg Stene
Dr. Michael Tracey
Dr. Robert Trager
Dr. Petr Vassiliev
Dr. Frank Venturo
Dr. Denny Wilkins
Crisis reveals character, they say.
I hope you read Otherwise’s piece on Riley Cooper the other day. It’s truly an exceptional example of the kind of honest, intelligent thinking I’ve come top expect from my colleagues here at S&R.
But while I agree with most of the principles underlying Otherwise’s reasoning, I’m not sure I’m convinced that they apply to Cooper specifically. Before I make my case, let’s review the video that touched off the whole firestorm.
I guess the question of whether to condemn Cooper or, as Otherwise suggests, give him a break, hinges on whether or not we believe what he has said since the video went public. True, he has in fact said and done a great deal that you’d ask someone who was genuinely contrite to do. No argument about that.
The thing is, I don’t believe him. Let’s begin by examining the timeline. The video broke on July 31, and the apologizing commenced shortly thereafter. But the incident happened on June 9. that’s over six weeks where he did nothing. He didn’t apologize publicly. He didn’t tell the club or his teammates and apologize to them. It doesn’t sound like he told his parents about it. You know, the people who didn’t raise him that way and who are now in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Six weeks. He. Did. Nothing. Despite his mea culpas and his insistence that this isn’t a word he uses and it isn’t the kind of person he is, he did nothing.
Okay, you may be saying, but if he made this horrible mistake and was this embarrassed by it of course he wouldn’t say or do anything. He probably hoped it would go away, and no way in hell he actually wants to draw attention to it. Think of the most embarrassing thing you ever did, Sam. Did you go public with it?
No I didn’t, and this is a great point. It’s not only possible, it’s plausible.
But it isn’t consistent with a couple of things. First, you don’t have to go public to apologize to the security guard. You can find him, apologize, maybe even try and make it up by doing something nice for him. Cooper didn’t do this.
What else? Oh – the team says he’s now receiving counseling, and if we’re to believe what he says he’s probably grateful for it. He asks us to believe that this outburst represents behavior that is out of character for him, and if so, he had to be shocked to hear that word coming out of his mouth. I can empathize with that. If I was pissed off and all of a sudden heard myself using that language it would rock my self-image to the foundation. I’d absolutely be seeking counseling of some sort because I’d be in need of it.
If Cooper sought counseling to address this horrid new self-revelation we’ve heard nothing of it, and rest assured, that’s precisely the sort of information that he and/or his agent and/or the team would be making a big deal of.
Finally, Cooper is emphatic in asserting that this is not a word he uses. Is this claim plausible? Well, Otherwise relates an incident where he got so worked up that he blurted out something that was utterly out of character. Do I believe that this happens, that people get mad and say things they don’t mean, that they call people names that they know will hurt?
Yes, I absolutely believe this. But I’m also really intuitive and I have this nuclear powered bullshit detector. I have been known to use a foul word or two. I’ve said things that would make a sailor blush. My vocabulary is a large one, and there are many, many wicked words that I have experience with. There are also words that I never use. My suspicion is that when I crack off a profanity-laced rant featuring my chosen epithets that they roll somewhat elegantly off my tongue. I imagine I might sound less fluid were I to try out new words mid-conniption.
So the question is, when you watch that video and hear Cooper in context, when you admire his rage in full flight, and then he says that isn’t a word he uses, do you believe him?
I don’t. To my ears the word sounds very much at home in his mouth. I grew up in a place where that word was common daily usage and Cooper isn’t the first Southerner I’ve heard bust it out in anger. When I watch that video, I am reminded more of that world and the people in it than I am of people who do not have that sort of racist language in their vocabularies.
I may be wrong. Otherwise may be right. I don’t know Riley Cooper and he may be telling us the straight-up truth in his recent public statements. If he is, I hope the counseling helps and that he learns from this mistake and goes on to be an example for a society trying to claw its way up out of an unspeakable history of prejudice.
I may be wrong. But I doubt it.
Riley Cooper is the Philadelphia Eagles football player who on June 9 at a Kenny Chesney concert said “I will jump that fence and fight every nigger here.” Someone got it on video and it went viral. Cooper has apologized profusely, but the criticism has been unrelenting. Now he has left his team to seek counseling. It’s not clear if he’ll ever be able to return.
I’m usually the first one to call out racism, especially southern racism. Cooper is from Florida so he fits the meme. You’d think I’d be the first to excoriate him. You’d think I’d be dancing because right now Cooper is being pilloried–he’s being shunned by his teammates (70% of the NFL is black) and criticized by every talking head. Even Chesney, a country music star, has piled on.
But I am not calling for Cooper’s head. I feel sorry for him. And I think we should give him a break for three reasons.
1. He used a word. He didn’t murder someone for racial reasons like George Zimmerman. Jesus, he isn’t even accused of murdering someone period. Remember Ray Lewis? He was indicted for murder, but somehow that was no biggie. There was no outrage. None of his teammates went on the air saying they didn’t trust him. Advertisers didn’t shun him. The media didn’t pile on. Look, I think the “n-word” is a terrible thing. I am all for punishing people who use it, and particularly those who use it in a nasty way like Cooper did. But at the end of the day, it’s just a word.
If the NFL can make room for murderers, for drug dealers (Sam Hurd,) rapists and a man who tortured dogs, surely it is thick skinned enough to handle the “n-word.”
2. He took responsibility. He didn’t say, “I was drunk,” although he was. He didn’t try to blame the person who took the video or the security guard or argue he was simply standing his ground or say it was a different time or accuse people of being too sensitive or go on Rush Limbaugh and whine about reverse racism. He didn’t laugh it off like Kerry Collins did when he did essentially the same thing a few years ago. Instead he came out, faced the cameras and here’s what he said:
“I am so ashamed and disgusted with myself. I want to apologize. I have been offensive. I have apologized to my coach, to Jeffrey Lurie, to Howie Roseman and to my teammates. I owe an apology to the fans and to this community. I am so ashamed, but there are no excuses. What I did was wrong and I will accept the consequences.”
He also apologized to his parents, because he said they raised him better than that.
3. And my final reason to give Cooper a break is because I understand. And I’m deeply ashamed to admit, so ashamed that I didn’t want to write this post.
When I was 19, a bar girl in Africa started ragging me. I called her a “black bitch.” You got it. When I got mad and drunk and my inhibitions went down, I went straight to race and sex.
I was horrified. I had marched against racism in the South during days when the other side had bricks. Later, I’d gotten maced because of it. I supported women’s rights. I was in Peace Corps for goodness sake. Peace Corp are to the socially righteous as Jesuits are to Catholics. We weren’t racists and sexists, I thought. But when push came to shove, we were. Or at least I was.
I could see the words floating through the air and wished with everything I had that I could grab them and stuff them back in my mouth. I had opened a door into my heart, and instead of the good person I expected to see there, was an ugly little nasty toad of a bigot. I will guarantee you that Cooper is nauseated with what he found behind the door.
But I learned from it. What I learned that we all have some racism deep down inside, even politically correct liberals like me. I learned that it can be very deep and hidden and you can not even know it’s there. I learned that knowing it’s there is a good thing, because years later when I was in charge of hiring and promoting people of color and a different sex than myself, I learned to watch myself and others for inadverdent stereotyping. I learned, and I think I became much better for it.
I know I am still a racist and a sexist, and while no longer homophobic, I’m still a little too quick to stereotype gays or roll my eyes. I try to correct for it, but I don’t tell myself it’s not there. And if you look back at the dozens of kids of color and women and gays I hired, mentored, and promoted, I think some of them will tell you I was a positive influence in their lives. I did some good, even if I’m not as good as I’d like.
Look, I don’t know Cooper. He may be an asshole of the first order. But I do know what it’s like to disappoint yourself in such a profound way that you lie in the dark because you’re just too embarrassed to come outside and face the world.
Hey, it’s fine for us as a society to be pissed off about Zimmerman, but let’s not take our national self-disgust out on Riley Cooper.
I know how he feels. And it’s worse than you can know.
Tiger Woods would like history to compare him to Jack Nicklaus, but if history is paying attention, the more apt comparison is Jack Johnson.
Like Johnson, he is the undisputed black champion of a sport once reserved for whites. Like Johnson, he’s faced any number of great white hopes, white players who were supposed to dethrone him. And like Johnson, his undoing in the public eye is a white woman.
Jack Johnson became world champion in 1908. At over six feet tall, he was billed as the Galveston Giant and was easily the best heavyweight of his day (although not the first black world champion boxer). Still he was denied a title shot for years. He held the title for seven years and at his peak was convicted of the Mann Act, because he took a white prostitute across state lines for immoral acts. Nevermind that the Mann Act wasn’t even in force when he committed the offense. Jack Johnson loved women, particularly white women, and was well-known and despised for it. During his defenses, he was continually fighting white fighters the media had made out to be his equal, but never were. Each was billed as “The Great White Hope.”
Tiger Woods has dominated his time as has no other golfer, even Jack Nicklaus. Since he first became the top ranked golfer in the world sixteen years ago, he’s spent ten of those years as number one. He’s won 105 times—which makes him second all time on the PGA Tour and third all time on the European Tour, which he rarely plays. He’s also won 14 majors during a time when fields are deeper and far more competitive than ever despite equipment changes that have eaten into his advantage and attempts by tournament organizers to “Tiger Proof” their courses. He’s not the first successful black golfer—that honor belongs to men like John Shippen, Jr., Teddy Rhodes, Charlie Sifford, and Lee Elder. But he’s the first dominant black golfer.
Like Jack Johnson, Tiger likes women, including white women, and he likes them in quantity. Like Johnson, he’s been savaged for it by the press and his peers. Jack Johnson was sentenced to a year and a day in jail and fled the country. Tiger took a four and half month hiatus from golf.
Unlike Johnson, who was outspoken and provocative, Tiger is controlled, even during interviews, although it’s not very convincing. Tiger’s pretty good at saying innocuous things that will look fine in print but accompanying them with withering stare that lets the reporter know he thinks it may be the stupidest question asked in the history of mankind. He’s also good at throwing in a smirk at the end to make sure everyone knows that what he just said may not be what he thinks.
Also during his career, Tiger’s faced a number of challengers highly touted by the press. It’s hard to say that Tiger’s faced a string of Great White Hopes because (1) all professional golfers are white or Asian—according to the WSJ, he’s the only black on the men’s or women’s pro tour and (2) the press is far too well-mannered to use those terms anymore.
Just because it’s not talked about, doesn’t mean the race issue isn’t still out there. Witness the recent nasty comment by Sergio Garcia and the clumsy attempt to clean it up by the European tour boss.
More than that though, the proof is in the hype that the press heaps on every good young white player that comes. Every time they argue that this is the one that will challenge Tiger. David Duval, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, and Phil Mickelson. They’ve all been fine golfers, but none of them has lived up to “Hope” status.
Now all this matters because this is the week of The Open, the most prestigious golf tournament in the world (sorry, Hootie). And we’re seeing more proof that the latest hope, Rory McIlroy, is wilting under the pressure of simultaneously trying to grow up, carry the hopes of a nation (N. Ireland), a continent (Europe), and implicitly a race on his young shoulders. Over the last six months he’s been sliding. Although he’s still number 2 in the world, behind Tiger of course, he’s a distant number 2, with Tiger at 12.37 ranking points and McIlroy at 8.79, despite having played 48 events to Woods’ 40.
Tiger probably won’t win this week. He’s on a “Tiger slump,” i.e., only four wins this year, and is showing signs of age and wear and tear. But the latest “Great White Hope” probably won’t either. This morning he shot 8 over par, 13 strokes off the lead and is now near the back of the field.
The press is doing these young up and comers no favors by throwing them in against Tiger. Just like Jack Johnson, he’ll simply beat their brains in.
Apparently it’s impossible to prevent white men from beating and killing unarmed black men. It also seems impossible to convict them of their crimes. It’s not just Trayvon Martin. There was Rodney King in LA in 1991, Tyrone Lewis in St. Petersburg in 1996 and Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati in 2001.
In all of those cases, an unarmed black man was beaten or killed and his assailant acquitted of wrongdoing. The difference, though, was the people went to the streets for justice and, to some extent, got it.
In 1991, Rodney King was beaten down to the ground by four white officers of the LAPD. Despite being captured on video, all four were acquitted. In the six days of riots that followed, huge portions of the city of LA were looted and destroyed. 53 people died and over 2000 injured. The result was the men were retried, and two convicted, and the LAPD implemented a number of changes.
It’s always been this way. In all, there were 23 significant race riots in the ’60s. The popular myth is that civil rights successes are a testament to non-violent activism. The truth is, to quote a black activist of the time, “They only talk to Dr. King because they don’t want to talk to me.” The non-violent marches may have gotten the white power structure to listen, but only because the not-so-implicit threat of violence hung in the background like a fart in a Volkswagen. The Watts riots of 1965 even had their own slogan, “Burn! Baby! Burn!” borrowed from deejay Magnificent Montague.
Since the ’60s there have been 19 more race riots. Many are connected to events like the trials of those who beat and/or killed King, Lewis and Thomas.
However, the response to the Travon Martin case has been strangely muted. Protests have been small and for the most part quiet. Where’s the outrage? Where are the angry young men and women? Why isn’t Sanford, Florida a smoldering ruin? You have to believe that in a different era there would have been a very different reaction:
But none of that is happening. Does this represent a new maturity on the part of minorities? A pragmatic realization that we’ve finally reached a point where going to the streets would just give the redneck nation a chance to use all those automatic weapons they’ve been stockpiling? Or is it simply laziness on the part of the should-be angry young, a generation that has for the most part been sheltered from the worst type of discrimination?
I don’t know. But it does make me wonder. Did the violent activists of the ’60s know something we don’t?
“Today is a great day in the battle for the civil rights of gun owners and hunters. Once again, for the first time in almost 50 years, it is legal to hunt Negroes in Florida. Negro hunting was clearly envisaged by the Founding Fathers in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution, the so-called ‘three-fifths compromise.’ By making it clear that the lives of Negroes were less than that of whites and in concert with the Second Amendment, it is clear they intended the sport of Negro hunting to be a basic right of the American people.
Negro hunting was legal and popular in Florida from 1513 until 1865. After 1865, although technically illegal, Negro hunting remained popular through ‘lynching parties’ until the mid-1960’s, despite numerous attempts by Northerners to infringe on our rights, such as the Dyer bill. Now once again, Floridians, and indeed all Southerners, can enjoy a sport integral to our heritage and one of our most precious rights under the Constitution.
It is a great day for Floridians!
However, there is much work to be done. There is still the issue of Indian hunting, which has an even longer and more honorable history in the state, as well as the matter of regulations and quotas. We support responsible hunting regulations with limits and seasons, much like deer and alligator resources are managed today. It would be tragic if this victory were to lead to over-hunting and the extinction of Negroes. We must not deprive our children and grandchildren of this wonderful part of their heritage.”
This is not the first time Ms. Munro has been in the national news. In 2008, her testimony was critical to the conviction of her neighbor Willie Randolph for animal cruelty for drowning an unwanted litter of puppies. Mr. Randolph is now serving eight years in the correctional institution at Raiford.
I’ve gotten called some awful things when I tell people that I’m both a practicing Catholic and an advocate for women’s choice – from baby killer to hypocrite. But hear me out.
I was raised with a strong sense of faith in a “cafeteria Catholic” family – that is, a family that picked and chose from doctrine and tradition what we would actually practice. There was an overarching idea of being good to other people, whether you agreed with them or not, and trying to stand in someone else’s shoes when considering situations. I was raised to help the poor, to speak up for those who couldn’t, and to be as good of a person as I could be.
I was raised in a church where my LGBT friends weren’t accepted, but in a family where they were welcomed; in a church where stem cell research wasn’t embraced because it killed live embryos, but in a family with history of diabetes and dementia, diseases that could be potentially cured by such research; in a church where women aren’t allowed to be priests, but in a family that sees it as a practical and natural progression for an aging priest population.
This isn’t to say that I was raised in a family that espoused abortion. They didn’t. I formed that opinion on my own. But it comes back around to the idea of thinking of others first, and trying to see a situation from their perspective. I consider myself pro-choice, and pro-quality of life, rather than pro-life.
Let me explain.
In states like Texas, Virginia, Kansas, and Wisconsin, legislators are not necessarily banning abortion and pre-natal care, but making it harder and harder to obtain. By instituting waiting periods, enacting parental consent requirements, building specifications that are nearly impossible to meet, and other hurdles, they have created a de facto ban on abortion in their states, tearing away at the freedom and rights that Roe v. Wade guaranteed to American women over 40 years ago. But what these politicians fail to acknowledge is that women have been having abortions for years, and will continue to have them whether they’re legal or not. The difference is that by keeping them legal, regulated, and performed by doctors, we can save more lives than the abortions end and keep thousands of women from shoddily performed procedures that result in their sickness or death.
These legislators, and their supporters, consider themselves to be a righteous, “pro-life” movement, where every life is sacred (except for the mother in question), and where we as people have no right to end a life (unless it’s someone on death row). What I argue is that these people are not pro-life. They are pro-birth.
Legislators who are against women terminating their pregnancies are also the ones who want to cut funds to programs helping families. They aim to slash the budgets for SNAP, food assistance, child care credits, education, and health care. Parents who couldn’t afford to have a child to begin with, but couldn’t abort the pregnancy, are now faced with the challenge of raising a child without the means to do so, and with little to no assistance. Not only is this difficult for the parents, but for the child. Yes, the child is alive, and that’s wonderful. But what is the quality of his or her life like? Is it really best for a child to be born when their quality of life is subpar?
I mention this argument and tie it to my religious upbringing because many of the legislators making it difficult for women to have abortions and nearly impossible for them to receive government assistance once they deliver claim to be Christian men and women of high moral standing –they’re just trying to stop people from killing babies, they say.
I don’t agree with this misguided sense of morality.
As Christians, as Americans, as people, we cannot let this counter-intuitive, counter-productive set of principles guide our legislation and limit a woman’s ability to plan her family and access health care. We must help women do what is best for themselves, their partners, and their families, even if we don’t personally agree with their choices. It is not our place, and it goes against the sort of Christianity I was taught growing up – the “judge not, lest ye be judged” kind that Bible thumpers seem to forget about when they’re spewing t their hateful ideas and claiming them as Christian doctrine.
Am I comfortable with abortion? Not really, no. But as a woman, I could never deny or legislate against a sister or a friend or a mother or a stranger seeking one because it was her best option. As a woman, I can’t bear to watch states domino one-by-one into legislating against half of the population. And as a Catholic, I cannot bear to watch legislators who fail to listen to the voices of their constituents and who refuse to care for their brothers and sisters and children as they were elected to do.
I wanted to end with a quote by Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine Catholic nun who talks about human rights, war, poverty and women’s rights. I think she sums up my position more succinctly and eloquently than I ever could when she said:
I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.
Last night I saw the musical Book of Mormon in Chicago. I confess, I didn’t really want to go. While I recognize the insane cleverness of South Park, I never really liked the show, and the idea of a musical by the same two writers didn’t excite me. But we had relatives in town from the country and wanted to show them the town, so we went to a play.
I struggle to find words to describe it. It is insanely, hysterically funny. I literally wept from laughter. It is brilliantly, wickedly incisive, satire at such a high level it becomes truth. It is shocking, coarse in a way that will make most of us squirm lower in our seats and not meet the eyes of other people in the audience.
But what really surprised me is that it’s a great play. The story is compelling. You care about the characters. The stakes are high, and you lean forward in your seat anxiously, hoping they will get out of this OK. The music and the dance is splendid, and even though that too is a parody (it’s a musical making fun of being a musical), it’s catchy enough you’ll find yourself humming as you leave the theater. And somehow, I have no idea how, they manage to make fun of Mormons and Africans without being patronizing.
It’s a phenomenal piece of creativity and wonderful, wonderful entertainment.
If you get a chance, you gotta see this.
Last week the Supreme Court voided the part of the Voting Right Act that singled out the south for special scrutiny, arguing that times have changed.
Really? There’s a TV show called Big Brother. The premise, like many of its ilk, is that it puts a group of disparate, young, attractive and dumb people together in a closed environment and watches them do stupid stuff on hidden cameras. Today it fired one of the “houseguests,” Aaryn Gries.
According to TMZ, Gries firing came after she used several racist and homophobic slurs in conversations with two other cast mates, GinaMarie and Kaitlin. Gries reportedly made derogatory comments about multiple houseguests, telling an Asian American contestant to “shut up and go make some rice” and referring to a black cast member by saying, “be careful what you say in the dark, you might not be able to see that b—-.” Gries also described a gay contestant as a “queer.”
Miss Gries, of course, is from Texas.
Justice Roberts apparently hasn’t noticed that most of the time, when there’s an egregious bit of bigotry, from shooting a kid to using horrible language, it’s frequently someone who speaks with a Southern drawl.
At some point it stops being coincidence and becomes evidence.
The countries of the New World were, for the most part, founded on the twin crimes of racism and genocide.
Europe was effectively out of land, the dominant wealth creation engine of the time, and there was plenty of it in the New World, that is if you weren’t particularly squeamish about how you got it. The Europeans and later the Americans decided on the most efficient mechanism, genocide. Then came a new problem, for unlike European fields which had been tilled for centuries, the land in the New World was rough, wooded and rocky. It would have taken generations to transform it into a productive asset. Again, the European-Americans chose the most efficient alternative–forcing someone else to clear it for them.
Most of the countries in this hemisphere have spent the last two hundred years trying to move past those crimes, with varying levels of success as the riots in Brazil and this week’s horrendous decision on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 both illustrate.
The question, at least for me, is how upset to get over all this. Is this my fight? I haven’t seen any mass protests or even loud howls of outrage from the African-American community. At the end of the day, rights are not given so much as taken. By the end of the Civil War, the majority of the troops were African-American, over 200,000 men in all. Blacks got their rights in the ’60s when hundreds of thousands took to the street. Blacks in the south don’t seem particularly upset over the Roberts decision, or if they are, it’s not making the news.
Perhaps this is no big deal anyway, but just part of the process and par for the course. Over the last two centuries, progress in race matters has tended to move in fifty year cycles–two steps forward, one and a half steps back.
In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves.
However, after a short burst of prosperity for blacks, the white establishment systematically went about rolling back many of the gains achieved as a result of the war. Between 1890 and 1910, ten of eleven southern states passed laws effectively disenfranchising blacks, e.g. poll taxes and literacy tests. In 1890, the idea of seperate but equal emerged, although as someone who grew up in the segregated south, I can tell you that the facilities afforded African-Americans were not even close to equal. In 1913, almost exactly fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the first southern-born president since the war took office. Woodrow Wilson set about embedding the racial discrimination pervasive in the legal codes of the South into those of the nation.
A little more than fifty years after Wilson, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed. And now, forty eight years later, Justice Roberts has emasculated it, relying on spurious precedent. (If you haven’t read the excellent S&R post on this by Wufnik, you should.) It is Jim Crow for a new millenium.
1863 – forward. 1913 – backward. 1965 – forward. 2013 – backward.
Just like a pendulum, do we swing back and forth on this? If that’s what’s happening here, it’s great because the pendulum is swinging a little farther toward fairness with each cycle. It’s certainly more comfortable to think of this as a cyclical blip than a permanent setback. If this is true and it is not just calenderial coincidence, that means we have reached the nadir and better times are a coming. An optimist would say episodes like Paula Deen show that mindsets are changing, and for the better (although her book is reportedly #1 on Amazon).
I hope that’s the case, although I don’t find it all that comforting. Just as they did a hundred years ago, racists and their sympathizers are trying to undo progress. Do we have to wait fifty years to get back to where we were a few weeks ago?
It’s Wimbledon time, time for the Williams sisters to once again demonstrate that they are the greatest American players of their generation, and perhaps the best ever, and since it’s a Grand Slam, it’s also time for Serena to say something stupid.
This time she implied that although the Steubenville rape victim didn’t deserve it, maybe she did, sorta.
The Williams sisters should be easy to love. They’re fabulous athletes who’ve changed the way tennis is played. Between them they’ve won 96 titles. Both have been number one in the world numerous times. They have a great rags-to-riches story, rising from the decidedly un-country club like Compton to the top of the tennis world. When they were growing up, their father actually took them out of national tournaments so they could concentrate on schoolwork. How rare is that in tennis, a sport particularly prone to insane-parent-syndrome?
Serena should be especially lovable. She’s beautiful with a radiant smile. She’s engaging, with a goofy, eye-popping sense of fashion that gleefully ignores the dimensions of her body. Indeed, she should be a role model that shows full-figured girls they don’t have to look like a ten year old boy to be successful in sports. She’s won 31 Grand Slam titles, which puts her eighth all time and more or less fourth in the modern era. She’s got four Olympic medals. She’s been number one six times.
When she’s on, her tennis is absolutely transcendent, as she doesn’t win as much as she obliterates opponents. Yesterday she won 6-1 and 6-3, and apologized for dropping that game in the second set, claiming she was rusty from practicing too much on clay. In a time when American tennis has been decidedly mediocre and the American men especially so, Serena and her sister Venus have single-handedly (or double-handedly) given American fans someone to root for.
But Serena’s just too hard to love. She’s notoriously crabby, as detailed by numerous competitors. She’s surly and prone to make nasty comments. She’s physically threatened officials and competitors not once, but twice, and now she’s shown herself to be a petty bigot with the Steubenville comments. Even by the not very high standards of tennis etiquette, think Connors and McEnroe, Serena is a nasty piece of work.
So instead of dancing in the living room when she unleashes another jaw dropping serve, we nod politely, acknowledging her greatness rather than celebrating it. Her defenders argue that racism is endemic to tennis and that much of what we hear about Serena must be viewed through that lens. Maybe, but that argument is less than compelling for a young woman who’s won more money than any other in history ($40 million,) has a big contract with Nike, and lives in swanky places in West Palm Beach and Paris. Anyway, other African-American (and African-French) players don’t seem to have this problem.
The truth is that Serena Williams, like many celebrities, is a lout, a boor—a churlish, rude or unmannerly person. Perhaps it is because the uber-famous are coddled so much that they never learn the rudiments of manners. I once bumped into Steffi Graf in the Sonesta in Miami, or to be more correct, I bumped into her phalanx. She walked through the lobby of one of the most exclusive hotels in town literally surrounded by coaches and bodyguards who shoved the rest of us aside so she wouldn’t have to break stride. It’s hard to imagine how she’d learn much about normal life passing through life in that cocoon.
Perhaps it is because many people are louts, but most don’t have microphones in their faces continuously, just waiting for a little pearl of stupidity to drop. That is, maybe celebrities are no loutier than the rest of us, but we just don’t get caught at it.
She’s not alone. Tiger is a lout. Roger Clemens is a lout. Barry Bonds is a lout. Matt Birk is a lout. (Matt is the moronic football player who just declined a White House visit because he was incensed over something President Obama said, although he didn’t actually say it.) Kanye is a lout. Mel is a lout. Paula is—well Paula is something else. It’s a long, long list.
The real takeaway from the story is that we should probably just pay attention to Serena’s tennis, and ignore her views on the world, but that’s not easy. It’s not easy because we fans automatically identify with celebrities as people and because the celebrities’ marketing machines—post match interviews, commercials, PR, etc, encourage us to get to know them personally. Sadly, when we do, we often find ourselves disappointed.
Obviously, Serena isn’t going to change, so perhaps we should. When Serena opens her mouth and something nasty comes out, we should no longer be surprised.
I’ve been thinking about the Paula Deen mess lately. As any number of previous posts here will suggest, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for her or her kind. At the same time, I grew up in the racist South like she did, and I see the situation in more nuanced terms than do her critics these past few days. While none of my insights let her off the hook, I do think there’s some value in them for those of us keen on fostering a more enlightened society.
Just how malicious Deen’s racism may or may not be I can’t say. Don’t know her. There are reports floating around that suggest she’s not as kind-hearted as her apologies would ask us to believe, and that may well be the case. Or she may simply be just another ignorant, albeit good-hearted cracker.
The thing that I’m pondering, though, begins with the question that apparently touched off this whole firestorm:
Have you ever used the N-word?
I’m trying to imagine how I’d answer that question if I were being deposed under similar circumstances. Have I used “the N-word”? Well, what do you mean? Have I spoken it aloud or written it down? Or do you mean have I used it against someone? And what time frame are we talking about? Most importantly, does it matter to you? If my mouth has, at any point in my life, uttered those two syllables, am I damned for eternity regardless of context or intent?
Yes, I have used the N-word. Wait – I fucking hate that euphemism. Yes, I have used the word “nigger.” Nasty word, no doubt about it, and I have used it in any number of cases in order to illustrate and emphasize just how ugly the emotions it denotes really are.
I have also used the term when mocking racists, imitating their stupidity in their own coarse, hateful language. Again, authenticity helps make the case.
So, back to my deposition. Have I used that word? Yes. Does that make me a racist? You hit the links above and decide for yourself. And if, after reading all that, you conclude that using the word in those ways makes me a racist, then you’re a fucking moron.
Words have power. They convey intent. They embody, reinforce and project ancient social codes, assumptions, ideologies, values, biases. Words have histories and subtleties and they frequently say more than the speaker even realizes. Vocabulary is a negotiated space, where speaker meets audience, each with their own filters in place, and meaning is transacted through all kinds of noise that one, or the other, or both might be completely unaware of. Words are understood and they’re frequently misunderstood.
Language is perhaps the greatest technology ever devised, a tool that soars humanity to its greatest heights. It also enables a level of cruelty and destruction that our less evolved animal friends can’t begin to dream of.
The epithet in question is so packed with negative energy that we have decided it can’t be said aloud. Which is noble in intent, because it’s a word that hurts people. However, the downside is that when we impart such grave taboo status upon it, we give it more power and exponentially amp up its potential for harm. I, quite simply, don’t believe in making hurtful language worse than it already is. I refuse to mystify it. Like every other dark impulse in the collective human soul, I believe it’s best dealt with when we drag it out in the light. Thus illuminated, we can destroy its power over us and render it powerless.
And honestly – does saying “the N-word” instead of, you know, saying the N-word, does that somehow make racism better? Is the thing itself therefore less prevalent or less evil? Or does the shadow grow larger every time we shrink from it, every time we speak like silly children afraid to say the name of a bogeyman out loud?
Yes, I said it – every time I hear somebody say “the N-word” they seem a bit sillier to me than they did the second before. It trivializes a serious issue, it emboldens the bad guys, and it patronizes African-Americans, because clearly they aren’t intelligent enough or strong enough or mature enough to confront the insult head-on.
So yes, I have used “nigger.” And while I’m ashamed of it, when I was a kid in the racist, rural South I used it in its worst form. I have also plead guilty to the charge and devoted a great deal of energy to the challenge of making sure that one day, hopefully, other children won’t grow up ignorant the way I did.
If I’m Paula Deen, and if I answer this way, do I still have a show on the Food Network?
Not all racism is the same. None of it is good and it all needs to be eradicated, but in point of fact the basic ignorant racist (“let’s dress them up like lawn jockeys”) isn’t as bad as the violent white supremacist lynch-em-all variety (and there are way more of this crowd out there than I’d like). It’s all related, of course – all forms of prejudice are rooted in ignorance and the “good-hearted” variety provides social cover for the more virulent strains.
Again, I’m not naïve and I’m damned sure not offering an apologia for Paula Deen and/or her ilk. I’m just observing that there are nuances to be considered, especially when discussing those who grew up in a racist culture before the Civil Rights movement began making some initial headway in the general direction of social justice.
Let me tell you a story. I grew up in the very white Northeast corner of Davidson County, North Carolina. In my first grade class of about 25 there was precisely one minority, a black girl named Juatina. As fate would have it, she sat right behind me. Each morning we’d have a ten-minute break period where we’d all get chocolate milk and break out a little snack that our parents (in my case, grandparents) had packed for us. I always brought Fig Newtons, which I love to this day.
Except it wasn’t quite all of us. One morning I happened to look around and noticed that Juatina didn’t have anything. No milk, no cookies, nothing. I’d never really talked to her because she was, you know, one of them, but something in me instinctively felt bad for her. Here was this poor girl in the cheapest dress you could buy and she had to sit there every day and watch all the white kids with their snacks and chocolate milk.
So I gave her a couple of my cookies.
When I got home, I told Grandmother and Granddaddy about Juatina, and they apparently felt as badly for her as I did. So from that point on they packed twice as many Fig Newtons so I could share, and they also sent extra money along with me each week so the girl could have milk each day.
This – and you knew this was coming – made me a “nigger lover.” Which I didn’t like. But I guess it bothered me less than one of my classmates not having something for break.
This story tells you something important about the innate compassion of my grandparents. The other thing you need to know is how racist they were, especially Granddaddy. Every time he’d see a black in a TV show, he’d start ranting about how “they got to be everywhere now.” He switched to the Republican Party as part of the fallout from the Civil Rights Act. He voted for George Wallace. In the same way that “dog” was the word for the furry, four-legged animals he used to hunt with, “nigger” was the word for people of African descent. And I don’t even want to think about what would have happened had a black family tried to move into our neighborhood or join our church.
He managed black employees and got along wonderfully with them. They liked him and, as odd as it has to sound after that last paragraph, he genuinely liked them. He related to them at a personal level in a way that was wholly at odds with his social and political views on them as a collective. In doing so, I suspect he was like a lot of white folks of his generation. And, for that matter, of Paula Deen’s generation.
As I noted above, we’re hearing reports that Paula was perhaps less innocent in her intent than her apology suggested, and at the minimum, her “dress them up in white coats” fantasy reflects a mindset that our society, in 2013, simply cannot tolerate. We get it – you grew up ignorant. But that doesn’t excuse staying that way. And she’s going to pay a huge price for that racism. With luck these events will motivate her to learn and grow. Hopefully it will also send a clear message to other closet Scarlett O’Haras out there that these behaviors and beliefs aren’t acceptable. The marketplace of ideas, working as intended, etc.
That said, at the human level the issue isn’t 100%, if you’ll forgive me for putting it this way, black and white. It’s tempting and satisfying to demonize the crackers, and they probably deserve no better. But our goal is to rid the society of ignorance and prejudice, and the better we’re able to understand how the odd “compassionate racist” dynamic of my grandparents, the better we’re going to be able to address the problem in ways that are truly productive.
One final note. I’ve been to Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, and it was really disappointing. If you like artery-clogging Southern-fried goodness, I can probably find you 10 or 15 places in my own hometown that are better.
by Dan Ryan
It was a little like the scenario in that Kinks song “Lola,” but only in passing. I met her in a little place called Seoul Bar, which is in a rundown section of northeast Tokyo called Sanya. At first I thought her was a him, and she sounded like a man but…
The lipstick should have given me a clue, but it was confusing initially, even more so because his, sorry, her English was pretty rusty, and my Japanese was horrible. She took an interest in me because I was American. When she was still fully he, he used to work for Americans in the ‘60s. Or the ‘70s, but doing what I never completely figured out. But we managed fitfully to communicate, and after a few minutes I thought he was a pretty interesting woman.
She’d had the money at some unspecified point in the past to start the process of becoming her true self, to transition from male to female. Her family, which might have included a wife and kids, never understood nor approved of what she needed to be. They disowned her many years ago.
However, it was obvious she was accepted in Seoul Bar, but also treated a bit like an oddity. When another bar patron took a schoolboy jab at her breasts, it bothered me. It was playful, but far from respectful. But it was nearly 13:00, in a bar in a crummy part of town, and everyone was drinking. So maybe my standards were unrealistically high. Hell, she even wanted me to take a feel of her tits. She was proud of them. I declined.
She was also proud of her hands, justifiably I thought, but seemed frustrated by lingering facial hair. My guess is whatever hormones she used to take had worn off some time ago. She also said she still had the male parts she’d been born with.
I left the Seoul Bar when the karaoke was about to start and went out to the shōtengai to take more pictures. After about five minutes, I noticed my ladyfriend walking in the same direction I was. She had bar-snack crumbs on her face, and in the outdoor light I could really see how worn- and shabby-looking she was. Yet as she waved her hands around at my camera, her manicured nails were still noticeable, as were her few female bumps and curves. She looked more like a woman standing up outside than she had hunched next to me in a chair in the dark little bar we’d been in.
She and I walked together for a few minutes. She didn’t mind me taking pictures of her. In fact, she carried herself with a little bit of the vanity some women seem to naturally have, whether their looks entitle them to such vanity or not. But the fact that this woman, this shabby, incomplete woman, carried herself in this a way instantly earned a small measure of my respect. It took, for lack of a better term, balls.
We came to a stop when she spotted a man she knew, a friend I suppose, a guy I had photographed previously. He was pretty goddamned drunk. But she wanted to go talk to him.
Like I said, she was proud of her breasts and not shy about playing with them in public. I didn’t ask her to do this. I don’t know enough Japanese to get that far. But she posed for me a few times out there in the street, and this is where her hands always ended up. You’ve got to roll with these things in some parts of Tokyo street life.
Then she walked over to talk to her friend. It was a short conversation. The guy in the gutter made a slow lunge for my ladyfriend’s crotch. Her response, as I barely understood it, was to offer to show the man that he would have gotten a handful of male goodies if she had let his fingers reach their target. This was a little bit too much for me, the idea that this incomplete woman was prepared to whip out her male equipment in the street.
So I walked away. But you know, I never even got her name.
(Pictures taken on the shōtengai in Sanya, Tokyo in April, 2012)
A couple of weeks ago I went off on FIFA and its president, Sepp Blatter, over the issue of racism in world football. The impetus for that post was the racist abuse of AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli by AS Roma fans in a Serie A match. If you recall, Blatter was appalled!
I noted that racism in European football was certainly nothing new and that the sports governing bodies had done pretty much nothing about it. Specifically, I wrote:
The failure to stop an undesired action by an individual or group is a function of either a) a lack of power, or b) a lack of will. There’s not a lot FIFA can do about the racism of fans as they share a pint in the pub after the game, perhaps, but there’s a great deal they can do in the stadiums. For instance, in yesterday’s match the game could have been suspended and resumed later in an empty stadium. AS Roma could be fined and docked points in the standings. If none of these measures achieve the desired result over a set period of time, the club could be relegated to Serie B. And so on.
So imagine my surprise earlier today when fellow Chelsea FC supporter (and occasional S&R commenter) Bret Higgins forwards this item along.
FIFA racism measures could see teams expelled or relegated
Teams could be relegated or expelled from competitions for serious incidents of racism after tough new powers were voted in by Fifa.
First or minor offences will result in either a warning, fine or order for a match to be played behind closed doors.
Serious or repeat offences can now be punished by a points deduction, expulsion or relegation.
Jeffrey Webb, head of Fifa’s anti-racism task force, said the decision was “a defining moment”.
He added: “Our football family is fully aware that what is reported in the media is actually less than 1% of the incidents that happen around the world.
“We’ve got to take action so that when we look to the next 20 or 50 years this will be the defining time that we took action against racism and discrimination.”
Fifa, world football’s governing body, passed the anti-racism resolution with a 99% majority at its congress in Mauritius.
Wow. It’s as though FIFA leaders read my post and said “hey, that about covers it. All in favor, say ‘aye’.” While I’m just about certain that isn’t what happened, it’s still nice to see your wisdom validated every once in awhile. Suffice it to say that FIFA has gotten the policy right and they deserve major props for finally getting serious about the dark underbelly of the beautiful game.
All that remains now is to carry through with it. That, of course, could be sticky. I don’t doubt that they’d bring the hammer down in one of football’s notorious backwaters. Booting a lower division scuffer like Hansa Rostock or Hallesche FC down the food chain another notch to make a point? You betcha. I can even see them getting medieval on a big fish/little pond outfit like, say, Steaua Bucuresti.
But what about the racist ultras in some of the world’s bigger, more profitable leagues? Would FIFA and UEFA really relegate an AS Roma, one of Italy’s more prominent sides? What about Lazio, Roma’s far more virulent (and historically fascist) neighbors? As Bret said in a Facebook exchange, if FIFA is serious about this, Italy’s second division is about to get a lot bigger. Perhaps we should expect many rounds of fines and wrist-slapping before a big club is actually punished.
We’ll find out eventually. We can certainly expect a smaller club or two to be made examples early on. We won’t know for sure how serious FIFA really is until they’re faced with repeated offenses by a major side, and the smart money says that case will emerge from Italy.
For now, though, congratulations to FIFA for laying the groundwork. This policy does all the right things, and all that’s left is to enforce it.
I am not one of those people that believes in reverse discrimination, and that old white males are struggling for equality in a pitiless world run by women and people of color. (Affirmative action is a bad idea, but a necessary one to counteract a worse one, segregation and institutionalized povertization of the black underclass.) So when I say that the recent deluge of redneck jokes is racist and should stop, I am coming at it from the angle of a progressive, not an aggrieved redneck.
Last week, a real estate firm published a list of the ten most redneck cities. It rated cities on things like number of people who didn’t finish high school, numbers of gun shops, taxidermy shops, WalMarts, etc. If they’d done a list on the blackest cities, looking for watermelon stands and felony arrests for drugs, or a list of the gayest cities based on number of florist shops and HIV positives, there would be appropriate outrage. However, rednecks (or what socio-economists call Scotch-Irish) are fair game.
Indeed, rednecks have become the ridiculed-group-of-choice. Look at movies (Joe Dirt, Talledega Nights) or television (Swamp People, Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty, etc.) We love to laugh at those funny old rednecks, now don’t we? Look at her stuff another Twinkie in her mouth! Isn’t she funny?
I confess, whenever I see rednecks on TV, I expect whatever comes out of their mouths to be idiotic.
Why do we progressives participate in this nastiness?
Perhaps it’s because we as a society have to have a certain amount of racism in our diet, sort of like micro-nutrients. We can’t mock blacks (or women or Poles or gays or Mexicans or Italians or Jews, etc) but we just have to have someone to pick on. So our redneck racism is displaced meanness. We have to pick on rednecks (or not-very-bright teens from New Jersey or somebody).
Perhaps it’s because redneckery is to some extent a behavior, rather than a genetic condition. There are people who are not white, Southern poor who will call themselves redneck, in the sense of being a political Neanderthal with very coarse tastes. However, they’re not true rednecks- they’re just as fake as rich white kids with their ass-cracks showing and their ball caps turned sideways, yo. Psuedo-rednecks can just pull that collection of commerative Jim Beam bottles down off the shelves in the den and voila! They’re back to the middle class. Poor Southern whites can’t opt out so easily. And anyway, we don’t allow making fun of obese people or others with behavioral problems.
Perhaps it’s because rednecks have so enthusiastically joined in the mockery. Predictably, some people living in Southern cities not on the list wrote in asserting that their city should be on the list because Movoto didn’t include factors like obesity. I confess I’m a little puzzled as to why rednecks are so enthusiastic about this. Certainly I understand why the people on television are doing it. They’re getting paid. That’s the same reason black actors did Amos & Andy and gay actors did Will & Grace. Perhaps it’s abused child syndrome – any attention is better than none at all. Perhaps it’s because those being mocked think people aren’t laughing at them but at their lower class neighbors. It’s hard to say. And it doesn’t matter. If people choose to make fools of themselves, it’s on them. If we laugh and encourage it, it’s on us.
So, one more time. Racism is bad because it does real damage to people in the discriminated-against group. Racism is about characterizing groups and inferring things about individuals in that group based on those general characteristics. Doing that deprives those in that group of their fair share of opportunities and narrows their life choices. That’s clearly what’s happened to rednecks. A study by the University of Chicago some years ago found that Scotch Irish were one of the bottom socio-economic groups regardless of geography. Other groups move up, rednecks don’t, and it’s certainly plausible that some of that is due to stereotyping.