The Cost of Racism

It’s official: the Clippers–and the rest of us–won’t have Donald Sterling to kick around anymore. The NBA has barred Sterling for life and fined him 2.5 million dollars–the maximum amount allowable. League president Adam Silver says he will “do everything in [his] power to ensure” Sterling will be forced to sell the team.

What did we learn? There really isn’t room for racism in the NBA! Now who’s ready to tackle the racism outside the NBA?

Plantation Daze

Just as the LA Clippers are getting ready to suit up for a promising post season game, Clippers Owner Donald Sterling was busted on tape making a host of horrible racist comments.  Recorded by his girlfriend–a 20-something woman of color–Sterling  ranted for nearly 10 minutes , including these fine comments curated by TMZ:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?” (3:30)

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.” (5:15)

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.” (7:45)

Thankfully the officials at the NBA promise to get to the bottom of things with an investigation–and even promise due process!  Wait, has he been charged with a crime?  No, but I don’t think it will take much investigating.  Is that you? Yes? Oh, then we’re done here.

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This of course is not the first time that race has reared its ugly head in sports, nor even the first time that Sterling has broadcast his prejudiced proclivities–he was sued in a housing discrimination case  in 2003 that he settled for 2.75 million, and another case some reports say settled for 5 million.  More than just dislike, Sterling has a history of using his power to perpetuate his racist ideology.

Perhaps most telling though is a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against Sterling by Elgin Baylor.  LA Times reporter Lisa Dillman wrote about Elgin’s testimony back in 2010:

Baylor spoke about what he called Sterling’s “plantation mentality,” alleging the owner in the late 1990s rejected a coaching candidate, Jim Brewer, because of race. Baylor quoted Sterling as saying: “Personally, I would like to have a white Southern coach coaching poor black players.” Baylor said he was shocked. “And he [Sterling] looked at me and said, ‘Do you think that’s a racist statement?’ I said, ‘Absolutely. That’s plantation mentality.’ “

So it is well established that Serling is a text book racist. By textbook, I mean he uses his power and position to negatively affect people based only on the color of their skin.  Despite lots of calls for Sterling to face some sanctions or a suspension, will the NBA, who has long known about this guy, do anything meaningful this time?  Doubtful.

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Tonight Doc Rivers and his team will suit up for this owner and play their hearts out.  The team decided not to boycott–for the fans.  The LA times reports that “players considered wearing black socks or armbands in protest during Sunday’s game but worried about being viewed as radical.”  In a long list of Tweets, Rivers’ son encouraged  people to support the players’ decision to play, saying one man’s racism shouldn’t stop the team.

But what if that man is called your father’s owner?  What if that man has made it clear that he is okay with having “poor black boys” play for him but does not want to have to be associated with them? What if that man is long known to have a plantation mentality towards players and staff of color?

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Wait–okay with employing blacks, has a plantation mentality and a history of thumbing his nose at people who criticize him–is..is Donald Sterling the long lost twin of Clive “Better-as-slaves” Bundy, the Nevada rancher who’s comments filled the airwaves this week with these racist gems?

Two men, within one week, making outragoues–and not unconnected–comments about black people.  We have seen this too many times to pretend this is shocking or surprising.  In fact, the idea that blacks are undesirables, poor wretches, depressed sitting on stoops or desperate to take any amount of abuse to play ball, welfare-bleeding baby-aborting self-imprisoning ghetto rachet free-lunch freeloaders, better-off-as-slaves is a prominent thread in our media environment.  From politicians to celebrities to NBA team owning billionaire black-fetishist Donald Sterling, overt racism is everywhere.  Maybe it’s time we stop treating these as isolated incidents and confront  the epidemic in evidence.

If you follow smntks, you know there is no shortage of public people making overtly racist comments, usually followed by a weak apology, or lame reasoning.  We hear this, we stomp our feet and holler, but long term, what do we really do?  Tonight, Donald Sterling will take his seat to watch his “boys” play;  Paula Dean is making a comeback;  Michael Dunn got away with murder.

Clippers player DeAndre Jordan took to Instagram to protest Sterling's comments
Clippers player DeAndre Jordan took to Instagram to protest Sterling’s comments

 

Its time to stop condemning and start acting.  Boycott the game. Don’t vote for the politicians who tripped over themselves to support Clive Bundy.  Stop yelling “black President” and start spreading the word that racism is real and we are all responsible for ending it.

If you think that socks and armbands are radical, then I’m telling you the moment is here.  Put your black socks on.  Rock a black armband.  It is time to get radical.

 

 

 

 

 

Farewell Letter ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A call to the best sort of action from my all time favorite author:

Jack Hammersley

Before he died on 17 April 2014 at the age of 87, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Colombia’s illustrious Nobel Laureate for literature, had declared his retirement from public life. He had terminal cancer and sent this letter of farewell to friends and lovers of literature.

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If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.

I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say.

I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others…

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Speaks, Kicks Over Mic

If you are a science lover then you have probably noticed that Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and public intellectual par excellence is everywhere these days.   He has been cable news’ go to guy for all things science lately, and his lively personality and informed opinion have him commenting on everything from black holes to organized religion to Wu Tang.

Most notably, he is the host of the updated Cosmos, a beautiful, moving and mind-blowing look at the universe we call home.  If you have ever wondered about your place in the universe, you must watch this.  If you have never wondered about your place in the universe, then it is time you do.

It’s safe to say that deGrasse Tyson has made his bones–his well-earned credibility make him a celebrity worth listening to.  In addition to being an all-round brainiac, he has done something quite remarkable–he has become well known as an Astrophysicist who is also black, rather than becoming famous for being a black scientist–a nuanced difference that comes down to being a content expert rather than a notable quota-able, marginalized except to show “hey, look he made it so we can’t be racist!”

Then he said this–a clear, simple compelling answer to disparity that puts institutional barriers into sharp focus:

From the outer Cosmos to the inner workings of institutional racism deGrasse Tyson brings reasoned, measured and reflective thinking to the masses!  You, fine sir, are doing it right!

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Is that Burger a Manwich?

The X Men, in case you didn’t know, are a group of super hero mutants with amazing talents, like  being super smart, or really strong, or whipping up storms from nothing.  Want to see one of the X Men use her super mutant powers for something amazing? YES!   Here’s Mystique using her power as a shape shifter to …

….wait, did she just turn into a man so she could eat a hamburger?  Is that a superpower now?  If so, call me Xmntks–I have been known to eat a burger!

Next time you’re munching through some time with TV, take a look at who gets to eat what foods.    If you are reading this and your 23rd chromosome reads XX, then let me give you a heads up–chocolate.

Chocolate is totally okay for women to eat.  Someone should tell this woman: “Mon Deiu!  Should I wear this, or eat this?  Sigh…”

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It is also TOTALLY okay to have any kind of chocolate that will make your monstrous body smaller.

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It is also okay to replace sex with eating chocolate:

So, ladies, eat all the chocolate you want as long as you don’t get fat, and you don’t eat MAN FOOD:

Seriously, why is it that  ads encourage women to have all sorts of indulgent moments eating chocolate, but when it comes to real food, women have to shape shift to get a burger down?

Boston Strong: Remembering the Whole City

This week Boston prepares to mark the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Boston has had its share of tragic events and shocking situations.  Like many other cities around the world, we can, sadly, add bombing to that list.  Just one year ago four people lost their lives and hundreds more were injured, many of them losing limbs,  when a bomb was detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

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When the perpetrators surfaced just days after the bombing, the city responded in true Boston fashion.  In a city famous for traffic snarls and a less than friendly attitude, we showed that when we must work together, we will.  The major metropolis essentially closed itself while SWAT teams chased the Tsarnaev brothers across the city.  We spent the day inside, watching the news and watching our own streets, a hive mind hunting down those who injured our people and our beautiful city.

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When the perpetrators were caught–one killed–the city collectively gathered to state our allegiance and grieve our loss.   Born in this fire was the phrase Boston Strong–two words that encapsulate the Yankee-born never-say-die prideful energy of this hard city.

Now, a year later, the city prepares to commemorate this tragic time.  There are conferences, news specials, grief counselors available to all, charity drives and every other form of ritual respect rightfully due this day.   Next Monday, the city will reclaim the fallen in an outpouring of love.

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While we speak the names of the victims, allow me to add some loved ones to the list.  There were 40 homicides in the city of Boston last year.  This does represent a  sharp drop in the rate of homicides, but if your loved one was  killed what does that matter?  These 40 victims shared the same dream for happiness and a healthy family that the victims of the bombing did.  40 lives, gone.

A map of 2013 homicides, showing most outside of the downtown area.  From Universal Hub
A map of 2013 homicides, showing most outside of the downtown area. From Universal Hub

Please don’t forget to send a prayer up for the first responders who gave their lives fighting fire in Back Bay .  Remember the police killed in the line of duty this year.

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And let’s also honor the mothers fathers husbands and wives whose lives were cut short suddenly on the streets of Boston this year.  Killed on their way home while their loved ones set their plate for dinner.

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Brianna Morales was killed by a alleged drunk driver while walking near her home with her mom in November, 2013

What about those most hidden of victims? We can also add victims of domestic violence.  Though these women weren’t killed in the light of day at the finish line, their lives were just as valuable and and lost just the same.

Fist, stick, gun, knife, bomb, car, flame:  whatever end one meets, loved ones are left behind in desperate need of support and love to heal from loss.  This week our city will show the powerful healing love that comes from the collective mourning of commemorating our own.  As we say those names, lets remember the list of lost loved ones since the marathon is long.  Every life, whether it ends on the marathon’s finish line, the streets of the inner city, or the halls of a home, deserves the love and compassion contained in Boston Strong.

 

We Believe You

Continuing on the “success” of his foray into whiteface, Nick Cannon wants to be clear.  In case you didn’t know:

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Cannon has been using racialized language to get attention for his new album White People’s Party Music. Mr. Cannon clearly needs a primer on race, prejudice and racism, and why none of it is a good thing.

You Can’t Handle the Twist

The Army wants you–as long as you don’t have a natural.  Even though the calendar reads 2014, and natural hair for black women is more popular than ever, here are the army’s updated hair rules.

This undated image provided by the US Army shows new Army grooming regulations for females. New Army regulations meant to help standardized and professionalize soldiers’ appearance is now coming under criticism by some black military women, who say changes in the requirement for their hair are racially biased. The Army earlier this week issued new appearance standards, which included bans on most twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows, all styles used predominantly by African-American women with natural hairstyles. More than 11,000 people have signed a White House petition asking President Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief, to have the military review the regulations to allow for “neat and maintained natural hairstyles.” (AP Photo/US Army)
This undated image provided by the US Army shows new Army grooming regulations for females. New Army regulations meant to help standardized and professionalize soldiers’ appearance is now coming under criticism by some black military women, who say changes in the requirement for their hair are racially biased. The Army earlier this week issued new appearance standards, which included bans on most twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows, all styles used predominantly by African-American women with natural hairstyles. More than 11,000 people have signed a White House petition asking President Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief, to have the military review the regulations to allow for “neat and maintained natural hairstyles.” (AP Photo/US Army)

 

Drama Takes the Throne

We wait impatiently.  We’ve talked about them incessantly since they’ve been gone.  We’ve tried to replace them with hobbies but to no avail.  Like a lover returning from a long trip away, we breathlessly wait to see their shining faces and to hear the exploits they have had since we last saw them.  We call them by name:Tyrion, Don Jeoffry,  Peggy, Daenerys.

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April marks the return of two of television’s finest scripted dramas, Game of Thrones and Mad Men.   There is little in common between the two, set in different eras, different worlds.  One is the story of one man, where the other holds no man sacred to the story. One broods where the other bloodies.  One covers miles of a magical land of kingdoms, while the other tours the castle inside one man’s skin.

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What these shows share is wide critical appeal, legions of loyal followers,  and well deserved accolades for everything from acting to writing to costumes and sets.  Between the two, they have been nominated for well over 100 awards.  Mad Men won the Emmy for Best Drama 4 years in a row.  Game of Thrones marked its meteoric rise with  dozens of its own nominations.  All this love is not for nothing.  You are living in the New Golden Age of Television.

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The New Golden Age of Television began, aptly enough, in a therapists office.  With the first session in the Sopranos, a new era in television  built on quality story telling,  A-list acting and rich, vibrant settings began.  Since then, audiences have been treated to a string of well-crafted scripted dramas, including Breaking Bad,  Mad Men, The Wire, Newsroom, The Borgias and Homeland.

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What makes TV so exciting is the very thing that makes the rest of TV seem like cold grits: a focus on superior storytelling that respects audiences rather than catering to them.   In the dry days between new episodes of your favs, you find yourself wondering, why can’t more TV shows be that good?

In the mid 19th century, changes in printing technology led to the rise of the penny press–newspapers similar to today’s New York Daily that sold for a penny.  Previously, newspapers on average cost 5 times that meaning that many working and middle class people could not afford the daily nickel for the news.  The advent of the penny press meant that the news was now available to all.

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Another result of the penny press was that newspapers began to craft their news to appeal to the wide audience their penny price got them.   Mass appeal was a key strategy to grow the audience, and therefore the profit.   Sure they still reported news, but with the new competition for that penny, each paper wanted to maximize audience while minimizing costs.    Think about our own modern newscasts, stuffed with gossip, show promotions, wild viral videos and social media.  Why? To drive eyeballs–bigger audiences mean bigger profit.

John Singleton pointed out recently that getting butts in seats is what’s killing Hollywood. TV also suffers from catering to the lowest common denominator.  For more than 40 years, Americans had only three television networks to choose from–CBS, NBC, and ABC.  This meant that each channel tried to draw in everybody.  To do this, programs reflected the dominant culture at the expense of complex stories and other voices.  It wan’t until the 80’s that cable TV came around.  Our current 1000-channel universe is less than 10 years old, lining up not-coincidentally with TV’s second golden age.

Niche programming is not designed to appeal to everyone at once, like a variety show meant to appeal to Mom, Dad, the kids and Grandma too.  Instead, niche programming is meant to appeal to a smaller subset of the viewing public, allowing producers to take bigger risks and–wa la–better programming.

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What is so exciting about Game of Thrones and Mad Men is that–market research be damned–producers set out to to make the shows they wanted, the way they wanted, without watering the show down to appeal to this or that demographic.  Don’t underestimate how important being free of the constraints of mainstream appeal. has been for these shows.  Where other shows avoid the darker corners of human nature, and flatten out the complexity of characters, these shows charge forward and take us for a ride in the process.

In a few short weeks, Don Draper will exit the stage for good, bringing to a close another of AMC’s fine series.  To stay hot, AMC will need to wow us again with another inventive new series.  Their profit, and out pleasure depends on it.   Don’t worry AMC, I have some good news for you.

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Recent TV history shows these great shows do attract  audiences.  While the audiences may not be Super Bowl-big, with binge watching and DVD sales, theses niche hits are also good for the networks’ bottom line.  So for networks with multiple series baiting audiences,  like HBO with a whole stable of shows or AMC, turns out these small shows are not so small.   Good news for networks means more of the same and that’s great news for us.

Let the Games begin!