“What did I do to disrespect people? What have I done to disrespect the USA?’ asked Gabby Douglass. Gabby didn’t do anything! There is a saying that sports don’t necessarily develop character, but rather reveal it. In the same vein the Olympics reveal that White Supremacy and racial myths are the lens through which unfortunately too many unconsciously view Black athletes.
As somebody on twitter put it, “all you need to know about America is that even if a black girl like Gabrielle Douglas wins gold medals she’ll be antagonized over nothing.” Douglass and all of the Black Olympic athletes will be viewed through unofficial mantra’s that suggest Black people should be scrutinized, and viewed with suspicion.
Why are people watching the Black athletes so closely? Why weren’t they observing Micheal Phelps platform behavior which was a bit dismissive of what should be a sober and solemn moment. But it was given a pass? So why were people Black and white sweating Gabby about possibly being unpatriotic?
Because some folks know intrinsically, subconsciously that Black people in this country have been given a rotten deal.
They know that Black people have been shot down in the street like dogs more frequently than white folks by the police with little chance of the killers being held accountable. They are aware that the prison’s are disproportionately filled with Black folks because of bias in law enforcement and a biased justice system. They know Black unemployment is almost always twice White unemployment, primarily because of bias in hiring and bias in opportunity. They know that Black wealth trails white wealth, because of historic and current discriminatory economic practices that have put Blacks so far behind that a recent study said it would take Black folks over 200 years to catch up.
Sure a Black middle class has arose despite every effort on the part of this social, political, economic system to keep Black’s second class in every aspect of the word.
But most probably don’t know that despite all of the historic abuse and discrimination, Blacks living in the US have been so patriotic that they have signed up to fight for the US even as the government sometimes rejected their help as was the case in the Civil War.And in the case of the World Wars Black troops were placed in segregated units and sometimes mistreated even while they were willing to die for the country.
Even broadcasters and sportswriters descriptions of Simone Biles’ performance almost always verges on her being labeled as super human, or other than human.
Check out these descriptions of Simone’s performance:
“And then when she lands, her body absorbs all the force she built up in the jump — and, according to [physicists], it seems like too much force for a human to handle. Yup, Biles is defying physics,” from Mic.com
“Afterward, Biles reminded reporters that, yes, she really is human. Really, she is.” From the NYTimes.
Yes she really is human and she should be described as just that a really talented and gifted human being!
Simone Manuel understood what she accomplished. But it should not have been a big deal! Black people can swim, despite some Blacks even buying into the myths about lack of buoyancy! Black folks don’t swim for a variety of reasons. Studies have found that some Black parents can’t swim and have such a great fear that their children will drown that they don’t prioritize it.
Jeff Wiltse in his book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America,” provides a comprehensive explanation of why Blacks have not really championed swimming. According to the author, “the history of discrimination… has contributed to the drowning and swimming rates.”
In the South racial laws and the need for the Capitalists to keep the races separated (in order to better exploit both) prohibited Blacks and whites from co-mingling, even in swimming pools and most public pools were built in the White community. And the idea of barely clothed White women in close proximity of half clothed Black men sent “dyed in the wool” racists into near hysterics.
In the North discriminatory rules were put in place as well. When cities did begin to build pools in the inner core they were little more than wading pools in which real swimming couldn’t occur.
The legacy and lens of White Supremacy gets in the way of everything, even simple enjoyment of a group of amazing and wonderful athletes. Surely a better world has to be possible!
Rio has been the scene the dominance of Simone Biles in gymnastics and the first female African American Simone Manuel to win gold in swimming and even Brazil rejoiced in having an Afro Brazilian, Rafaela Silva from the infamous Favela “The City of God” win gold in Judo, but the games have covered over a crime scene, great crimes against humanity both past and present.
The games to borrow a famous Brazilian expression are “for the English to see.” The hidden Rio is quite ugly.
Rio is the site where the greatest number of Africans debarked after being stolen from Africa. According to historians over two million Africans debarked in Rio ports from the 1500’s to
Between 1500 and 1856, one of every five enslaved people in the world was brought to Rio de Janeiro, or nearly two million. It was the Port region, today the location around Venezuela and Barão de Tefé avenues, that received the bulk of slave ships coming from Africa, carrying even the bodies of those who couldn’t survive the voyage. Brazil imported over 9 million slaves approximately 10 times the number of Africans imported by North America including the US. The vast majority of these Africans were drawn from Angola and the Congo. Brazilian slavers imported slaves to work the gold mines, sugar and coffee plantations. Slavery did not end in Brazil until 1988.
Because of this legacy it is home to the largest population of the African diaspora.
And to prepare for the games another set of crimes were committed. According to human rights activists thousands were displaced that is forcibly removed from the poor areas near the Rio beaches. The state did relocate these families and compensated many but of course home is still home. Brazil used its version of eminent domain to eliminate several favelas in and near coveted real estate close to the beaches. Favela is the term for poor housing or shantytowns built by poor urban dwellers who could not afford housing in the city, thus most are located on the edge of Rio in the hills. The residents are poor and predominantly, Afro Brazilian.
And police have been used to pacify the poorer areas. Police violence is as much if not more of a problem for poor and Black people in Brazil.
Human Rights Watch reported that 6,000 people have been killed by police in Rio over the past decade, 645 in 2015 alone. After 40 people primarily Blacks were killed in May in Rio alone (that’s right in one city in one month) Amnesty International protested by displaying 40 body bags in front of the offices of the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee. According to Amnesty, of the 1,275 people killed by on-duty police between 2010 and 2013, 79 percent were black men.
Brazil struggles with the legacy of slavery and dispossession just like the US., incidentally another country that shares Brazil’s social/political economic system (capitalism )which is based on the profit motive, money making above all else. Like the US where the fact of slavery is acknowledged its legacy and the resulting residue from having viewed and treated humans as livestock is denied.
The resulting racism, both institutional and personal is not admitted to. Brazilian’s like to say there is no race problem in Brazil, but Brazil is a majority Black and mixed race country but its politicians, civic leaders and business execs are predominantly white. But while the legacy was acknowledged the residue from those days has not been fully addressed.
The residue of that history just as in North America and especially the US remains to this day, though Brazillian society is dishonest about it. It pretends to not have issues of color or race but as a friend of mine says a language that has dozens of descriptions of race and dozens of variations of color is clearly concerned about race.
As one Favela dweller put it, ”we don’t want to ruin anyone’s party, but we cannot celebrate while the main legacy of the Olympic Games,… is above all the violation of human rights. In the favela we want more gold and less lead.”
His mother cried from the time she exited the car til the time she arrived at the vigil every step seemingly pained her as she was surrounded by family who tried to console her.Her moans got louder as she neared the vigil at the scene where her 19 year old son Tabyis Paskins was killed, last Wednesday.
It was hard to hear this mother’s anguish and not somehow feel her pain. Tears were the appropriate response.
Her anguish is repeated almost daily in the inner cities of America, where too often young people are left to fend for themselves, and violence becomes the only sane response to an insane set of circumstances.
Making matters worse too many of us stand aside and look, or shake our judging heads.
Others having been given permission by far too many careless,un- thinking Black folks, to point to the killing as an excuse to accuse Black humanity of some innate failing. Some stoop as low as humanity can go, claiming the mantle of racial superiority while pointing to these killings as justification for State(police) killing of Black folks.
Consider the overwhelming irony, the nerve and unmitigated gall of folks who don’t like Black people expressing concern that Black people are killing one another. Gangbangers are less hypocritical and dishonest!
“A stupid killing” is what the Hennepin County prosecutor said after announcing that they had charged a 17 year old with the killing. Michael Freeman bemoaned gun violence, but he is the same prosecutor who has refused to charge gun dealers who facilitate the reign of violence by making guns available on the street. Moreover it was just months ago that he made a decision that all but condoned the “stupid killing” of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police, who was Black and unarmed at the time.
However, stupid is the right term. Supposedly according to the 17 year old accused killer, he was shooting at Paskins friend who was riding his bike with Tabyis, because according to the killer, he was associated with a rival gang. Though Tabyis friend admitted that he was no longer affiliated with that clique the teen shot at him anyway, killing Tabyis.
Tabyis was without a doubt a good kid. Everyone on these occasions looks for something good to say about those victimized, but Tabyis really was a good guy. All of his friends spoke highly of him. He and about four young men were like brothers. I was struck by how even the mothers of his friends spoke well of Tabyis too.
Tabyis even stood with those seeking justice for Jamar Clark. Tabyis sister Quay asked if he would help to canvass to get word out about an upcoming march and he said yes without hesitation. This writer had the good fortune to be with him on that occasion and I remember it was a bit cold out and he didn’t have the best of gloves, but he passing out flyers without a complaint. I was impressed.
He died being a dutiful son and nephew his Aunt and his mother had sent him to check on his grandmother that morning. His aunt expressed regret that she sent him, but fate could not be avoided. Rumor has it that his friend who was riding with him regretted taking a shorter route.” If only” folks were thinking.
But there is no avoiding the fallout from a society that has continually oppressed Black folks since their arrival and has created ghetto’s and ghetto like conditions that they have abandoned, while pretending they don’t exist and blaming it for its failures.
Incidentally Minneapolis has perfected the ability to create ghetto’s without ghetto looking conditions.
If only Tabyis’ shooter had felt he had something to live for. If only he had a summer job. If only his school was up to par. If only someone in the school or community showed him love. If only drugs weren’t plentiful and guns so handy. If only this young man had something to look forward to, to hope for. If only there were no gangs to take advantage of his need to belong. If only he loved himself and overcame the voices we all hear telling us “we are nobody.” If only he had not felt rejected by Tabyias and his friend when they said they wanted no part of gang life.
Ironically, the Hebrew “Tobias” which Tabyis name is drawn from means “God is good.” Seemingly this is a contradiction because of the mean circumstances of one of our young taken away from so early. But the Creator cannot be blamed “It” is indeed good it is THE SYSTEM that is ultimately the progenitor of all this violence that is bad.
If only Tabyis was still here! But he is not and heaven does not have a ghetto so his worries are over. We must use his death as a clarion call to overcome what ails “all” of us or die trying.
Freddie Carlos Gray Jr was a human being but he is dead primarily because he wasn’t viewed as such by the country that birthed him and the social, political,economic system that deemed him unworthy. His death at the hands of the police was a betrayal. Even the effort to have someone held responsible and accountable for his death was betrayed by the very people and institutions we’re propagandized to believe are fair and impartial. The Democrats, the city administration, the prosecutor, the police, the black cops, the female cops, the black judge and ultimately the law and even the media failed Freddie Gray Jr.
His death should put to rest many of the assumptions folks have about how to bring about real change in this country. It should put to rest the idea of democrats being more progressive, the idea that Black faces in formerly white spaces will bring about real change. It dispels the myths about Black cops and women cops being the answer to police brutality.
Baltimore has a Black and female mayor, but she didn’t help Freddie Gray or the thousands of other Baltimoran’s like him. Baltimore is run by Democrats but that didn’t help Freddie Gray. Baltimore has a Black and female State Attorney/prosecutor but though she tried, she couldn’t help Freddie Gray. Baltimore‘s police department is almost half Black, but Caesar Goodson Jr and William Porter didn’t give him medical attention Freddie Gray. Baltimore has black female cops but Alicia White didn’t help Freddie Gray. Baltimore even had Black judges but Barry Williams refused to grant Freddie Gray justice.
The Black cops didn’t help Freddie Gray because he was just another one of the hundreds of (“ ”) they had accosted before. In their eyes he wasn’t a human being, he was a (“ ”)…
I suspect the reason Black upper middle class judge Barry Williams contorted and bent the law to make sure that the police got off was because, like the system he too couldn’t identify, sympathize or empathize with Freddie.
Otherwise how does anyone explain the judge acquitting Officers Ceasar Goodson Jr, Edward Nero and Lt. Rice of all charges by claiming that by standards of law what the cops did in the death of Freddie Gray was not “unreasonable.”
But maybe he’s right, in the US it’s not unreasonable to chase a Black person down (who is minding his own business), injure him in the process, ignore his pleas for medical attention, further injure him with a “rough ride” and ultimately cause his death and not be held responsible.
The well- educated African American actually said after letting Lt Rice off that the court, “cannot be swayed by sympathy, prejudice or public opinion.”
In reality the court operates with a prejudice against the poor and the Colored. Its sympathies lie with the system itself. And negative public perception about poor people in general and so-called minorities in particular, causes jurors to seldom sympathize with poor and black defendants. And public opinion in favor of the police is why it’s almost impossible to convict the cops, despite the evidence.
Incredibly, the jurors in the Porter trial and judge Williams in three trials could not find the officers even guilty of misconduct or reckless endangerment. Gray did not break his own back! One of the legally educated jurors in the Porter case remarked that, “the justice system was well served in this case.” If it was designed to protect its own indeed it was.
“As a trier of fact,” Judge Williams wrote, while acquitting Goodson Jr. “the Court cannot simply let things speak for themselves.” Exactly!
If the law can in no way find these people accountable then what good is the law?
Baltimore United for Change summed it up well writing that, “the moral deficiencies of the justice system are on full display when those accused of vandalizing stores are charged and convicted before any officer is held accountable in the loss of a human life.” Since the riots the system found a way to convict five young Black men to long prison terms for causing property damage during last year’s riot.
Not only was Gray betrayed but so have many poor Black Baltimoran’s who suffer from high unemployment, over-policing ( which ironically does little to deter law breaking in their neighborhood) and over incarceration. Their children more often attend substandard schools and while Baltimore has spent millions of public dollars on sports stadiums the children of the Black poor have few recreational facilities. And last year the cost of water went up by 33 percent.
And the supposedly blind and neutral law can see them too!
“People are tired,” said young Baltimore activist Tyrone West. “If you can’t understand why people are tired of that, it’s un-American. Then you don’t understand why George Washington was tired of that. You don’t understand why no taxation without representation, they were tired of that. People are tired. You get enough people together who are tired, something’s going to happen.”