N-Words, R-Words and the Defense of White Power in the NFL

N-Words, R-Words and the Defense of White Power in the NFL | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

N-Words, R-Words and the Defense of White Power in the NFL

by David J. Leonard and C. Richard King | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

At best the recent news that the NFL would consider instituting a penalty for use of the N-word on the playing field is ironic or contradictory. This from a league that has maintained an active defense of the R-word as a legitimate and honorific name for one of its more popular franchises is At worst, each word highlights the entrenched racism of sports culture, and society at large, and a refusal to confront white power.

One word is read a racial slur, and only a racial slur, and must not be uttered even as the structures of violence, degradation and inequality remain entrenched in society; the other word, despite linguistic, historic, and psychological evidence, is framed as anything but a racial slur which can be used in marketing, media coverage, and fan cheers.

The former word is taken to be a reference to the bad old days of racism, best forgotten; a reminder of the unresolved history of slavery and the social death that rendered Blacks as property to be exchanged and exploited. The latter word is defended as a tradition, ideal or so it is claimed to the so-called time after race, the raceless present, and more a trademark, a valuable piece of property from which Dan Snyder, the league, media conglomerates, and countless others make obscene profits from distortion and dehumanization.

And it is hard not to see in this pattern that some kinds of racism matter; some types of utterances elicit discomfort and unease; some can be seen and described, and demand public action, while others remain invisible, unspeakable, and unmoving.

After a season that began with a white player, drunk at a concert, calling a security guard a n****r because he felt slighted, and ended with a damning report on the culture of the Miami Dolphins’ locker room–in which use of the same word figured prominently in the bullying of Jonathan Martin–it is perhaps understandable that the NFL wants to be responsive to “incivility,” if not outright hate.

Yet, the NFL’s refusal to deal with violence, to deal with racism in its many forms, points to the true motives here. This is ultimately about regulating (black) players’ – their utterances, their agency, and their bodies. Just as the Palace Brawl was used to rationalize and justify the NBA Dress Code, the elimination of straight from high school players, and countless other initiatives that disciplined and punished the NBA’s primarily black players, Goodell is using Riley Cooper, Richie Incognito and the growing debate around the N-word to increase his power.

This is all about bout respect, decency and discipline, as defined by Roger Goodell and his corporate partners. This is all about control, it’s about power, the politics of respectability, disciplining and punishment, selling it’s corporate multiculturalism, and regulating the voices and bodies of its primarily black players. This is why the focus has been on black players, on discipline, on the lack of respect that “today’s players” show for the game, each other, and social norms.

Not surprisingly then, some see in these contradictions as self-serving, even callous cynical hypocrisy. While acknowledging these patterns, we think they are part of a larger, unmarked problem, namely white power. And the proposed rule change and the defense of the Washington DC franchise both must be read as efforts to protect white power while maintain control over discourse and keeping the voices and bodies of people of color in their prescribed places. Despite appearance to the contrary both the refusal to #dropthename and the push to #droptheslur reflect a refusal to challenge racism. Each seeks to preserve white power and the profitability of the NFL; each privileges white desire ahead of anything else.


Continue reading at  N-Words, R-Words and the Defense of White Power in the NFL | NewBlackMan (in Exile)#dropthesl

Blame the Institution, Not Just the Fathers

Blame the Institution, Not Just the Fathers

Illustration by Harry Campbell for The Chronicle


Blame the Institution, Not Just the Fathers

Originally Published, Chronicle of Higher Education

Many recent studies analyzing the challenges facing academic mothers seem to blame their stalled careers on the failure of academic fathers to be equal partners.

I’ve seen that easy explanation offered again and again in studies and articles: Men are slacking off at parenting, leaving women overburdened by family obligations and struggling to meet their career demands in academe.

In some families, the incompetent or lax father, or one still attached to 1950s gender roles, may indeed be part of the problem.

But when the issue of struggling academic mothers is reduced primarily to failures by men, that not only lets the university off the hook but also erases the ways in which institutions fail to support nontraditional families or childless couples caring for elderly family members. It ignores the cultural and structural context that affects us all.

The media coverage of these studies focuses on the failure of male academics to transcend traditional gender roles. The premise is that despite the successes of their partners and despite their purported liberal or progressive dispositions, male academics fall back into line with patriarchy. At one level, that is not surprising. Male academics—like male lawyers, doctors, construction workers, civil servants, or men in any number of occupations—are socialized into a society that renders the home as the responsibility of women.

Higher education is no different. It, too, perpetuates the system of patriarchy that positions men as breadwinners and women as “homemakers.” Men are expected to put the job first. Female academics are pushed to care for family and then punished careerwise when they do. In a new book, Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower, Mary Ann Mason and a team of researchers concluded that “the most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s, but not men’s, academic careers. For men, having children is a career advantage; for women, it is a career killer.”

But male academics who are equal parents also feel the consequences. They suffer within an environment that sees parenting as a private issue, a women’s issue, and not a workplace issue. Men feel the tensions of a university culture that tells them over and over again, “Focus on your work; she’s got you.”

“Universities do not seem to care if staff and faculty are parents unless legally obligated to do so,” said my colleague Richard King, a professor of critical culture, gender, and race studies at Washington State University. “Do the work. Have kids on your own time. Any conflict is your responsibility to manage so long as you prioritize us over them.”

His observation is confirmed by a study of doctoral students at the University of California, conducted by Mason and her team there. It found that more than 50 percent of men and 70 percent of women saw research universities as “not friendly to family life.”

It’s not just the lack of child-care options and useful family-friendly policies, it’s the regular reminders that kids are not a university problem, they’re a mother problem.

“When I was a junior faculty member 15 years ago, I got into it once with an older colleague over the timing of a faculty meeting (in the evening),” Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African-American studies at Duke University, said in an e-mail. “When I told him the meeting cut into family time, he intimated that my wife should take care of the child.”

Things have improved somewhat since then, he said. But he wondered how a faculty member’s gender and tenure status, as well as the type of university, determine the level of improvement. Universities are neither encouraging nor creating the conditions for male academics to be equal parents.

A 2012 study of married tenure-track fathers with young children found that only three out of 109 fathers reported completing half the child-care work. An article about the study in Businessweek was headlined: “Even in Academia, Dads Don’t Do Diapers.”

In response to such findings, Neal described his parenting life as one of multiple shifts and obligations: “I did a lot of diapers. I did a lot of early-morning feedings. Do the vast majority of the cooking. Still do carpool regularly. When I’m sitting in carpool lines, I see lots of fathers. … I’m sure such studies miss the complex ways that men parent—often out of the limelight and with diminishing resources.”

The ability to rearrange work schedules and work odd hours also helps fathers assume greater responsibility over child care. Being an academic is both a privilege and burden in that regard. “Being an academic and a parent really means that you serve two gods—neither can be arranged around a traditional 9-to-5, five-day, 40-hour week,” said Neal. “I find that I am most successful at both when I’m willing to be flexible and improvise around my time and energies.”

King, the Washington State professor, said one of the best perks of academic life “is a flexible schedule. It has allowed me to be present regularly, with much greater frequency than peers in other professions. This fostered better co-parenting and a stronger bond with kids.”

So some fathers are pulling their weight, and more of them need to. With shifts in campus policies toward a greater emphasis on balancing work and life issues, and with more efforts to change the culture of university life, one can hope that we might see change across the board.

Hope for alternative approaches is already evident. In response to the headline, “Even in Academia, Dads Don’t Do Diapers,” Oliver Wang, an associate professor of sociology at California State University at Long Beach, pushed back at the conclusions of those parenting studies. The fathers in his academic network have had ample exposure to feminist thought and theory, he said, noting: “I don’t see that finding as reflective of the academic fathers I know.”

Randall Craig, a professor of English at the State University of New York at Albany, agreed: “Insofar as it concerns parenting, this study bears no resemblance whatsoever to my own experience.”

Yet in many departments, the lingering expectations about male and female roles when it comes to children continue to affect both the women and the men.

I remember the day as if it were yesterday. I had a faculty meeting, and my child-care arrangements had fallen through. No problem, I thought. I headed to the campus with my infant daughter, Rea—diapers, bottle, and bag of toys in hand. All was well in my mind, but for my department chair, not so much. On that day, as with others, I was reminded that my responsibilities as a parent and as a professor were anything but complementary.

The department chair told me that I was not allowed to bring her to the office, and told my colleagues not to hold Rea, because doing so was a “liability.” In another instance, I was encouraged to reduce my appointment to part time if I couldn’t meet my responsibilities as a professor. On that particular day, I had had the audacity to note my child-care responsibilities in response to a demand that I attend a meeting the following day. Again the message was clear: Focus on my job, and leave the parenting to someone else.

As a father, in seeking to defy the heteronormative script that told me to leave the bulk of parenting to my wife, I was reminded over and over again to stay in my proper role. For my female colleagues with kids, for those without children, or for those caring for other family members, the lessons come at different moments, but each in the end makes clear how universities are failing to promote a work environment that nurtures the appropriate mix of work and life, that mentors people alongside professionals.

White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree

Dr. David J. Leonard: White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree

White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree

by David Leonard and Richard King

While we learn more hourly about the recent shooting spree targeting Sikhs in Wisconsin, to properly understand it, one must understand white power today, which is no longer about cross burnings and white robes. This is especially important since the media appear ill-equipped, if not unable, to talk about white supremacists.

Rather than reflecting on the deathly consequences of white supremacy, rather than look at the burgeoning white nationalist movement, rather than look at the recruiting efforts from white supremacist organizations within the military, the narrative has already been in overdrive to individualize and contextualize, to describe this murderous rampage as a “senseless act.” Yet, as noted by Rinku Sen in Colorlines, these murders “are neither senseless nor random, and the vast majority of such incidents here involve white men. Racism holds a terrible logic, for a concept with no grounding whatsoever in science or morality, yet too many white people don’t see any pattern.”  Equally powerful, Harsha Walia reminds readers to break down the walls between extreme and mainstream, between individual and societal, between civilian and military, to look at this violence not as yet another instance of a bad apple but yet another of the rotten tree(s):

The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism. People of colour face legislated racism from immigration laws to policies governing Indigenous reserves; are discriminated and excluded from equitable access to healthcare, housing, childcare, and education; are disproportionately victims of police killings and child apprehensions; fill the floors of sweatshops and factories; are over-represented in heads counts on poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, and high school dropout rates. Colonialism has and continues to be shaped by the counters of white men’s civilizing missions.

To our minds, if this properly projects the arc of media coverage, until the next trauma or panic, we fear we will have lost real occasion to put into dialogue two key elements of Page’s biography: he was a white supremacist and he was a veteran.

According to reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Wade Michael Page has a long association with white power. In 2000, he allegedly made purchases from the National Alliance, a once prominent white supremacist groups. He also appears in pictures in front of a Nazi flag.

Several websites have shown pictures of Page’s left bicep revealing a “Celtic cross” with the number 14 on top of it. Both are common white power symbols: the former with connections to the Ku Klux Klan, while the latter references the “14 Words,” a key phrase coined by David Lane, a founding member of the Aryan inspired terrorist group the Order: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children.” It represents the core of contemporary white nationalist ideology, emphasizing the importance of the white race protecting its future, one they believe to be imperiled by multiculturalism, immigration, integration, homosexuality, and globalization. The focus on the family and the protection of progeny underscores the entanglements of race, gender, and sexuality in the white power subculture today.

Page was a member of multiple hate rock groups named End Apathy and Definitive Hate. Its album “Violent Victory” contains a picture of a white hand, tattoo with the letters “HFFH” (“Hammerskins Forever, Forever Hammerskins”) punching a black male in the face. According to its website, the Hammerskins is “a leaderless group of men and women who have adopted the White Power Skinhead lifestyle… the Hammerskin brotherhood is way of achieving goals which we have all set for ourselves… summed up with one phrase consisting of 14 words.”

While many took comfort in the election of Barack Obama, it, along with the intensification of globalization and worsening economics, has sparked a rise in skinhead, neo-Nazi, and other white supremacists groups in the United States and around the world. According to a report from the SPLC, which has tracked such groups for more than a quarter-century, while more than 1,000 hate groups were identified in 2011, up from roughly 600 in 2000, militia and patriot groups numbered 1,274, up more than 450 from the year before.

Continue reading @ Dr. David J. Leonard: White Supremacy and the Wisconsin Shooting Spree.

SLAM ONLINE | » Remember the Alamo (Heights)

Remember the Alamo (Heights)

How an inflammatory chant at a high school game is deeper than basketball.

by David J. Leonard and C. Richard King

The Texas Region IV-4A high school boys basketball championships that pitted San Antonio Edison High School against Alamo Heights High School ended with a handshake and a celebration. It also ended with a racial and nationalist taunt from several fans from Alamo Heights, who chanted “USA, USA, USA” to celebrate its primarily white team and the school’s victory over the mostly Latino squad. While the Alamo coaches tried to quiet the crowd, the damage was done.

“Our kids try real hard and work extra hard to get to the regional tournament, and then we have to worry about them being subjected to this kind of insensitivity,” noted Edison coach Gil Garza. “To be attacked about your ethnicity and being made to feel that you don’t belong in this country is terrible. Why can’t people just applaud our kids? It just gets old and I’m sick of it. Once again, we’re on pins and needles wondering what’s going to happen.”

This incident was not the first anti-immigrant outburst on the floor in San Antonio. In 2011, Cedar Park High School, a predominantly white school with an equally white basketball squad, battled Lanier, a high school with an all-Latino squad. During the course of the game, Cedar Park fans chanted a myriad of anti-Latino chants, including “USA, USA.” They also cheered “Arizona, Arizona,” a clear reference to SB 1070, legislation that institutionalized anti-Latino racism. And, fans yelled “this is not soccer, this is not soccer” clearly linking their teams success (and ultimate victory) to their whiteness over and against a group of foreigners, marked as such because of their project affinity for and ability at an un-American game. Stereotypes about Latino and soccer reduced the basketball court to nothing more than a competition for racial superiority, another opportunity to police the border through the assertion of white nationalism.

The chant represents a brief, local reiteration of the long-standing equation where USA equals White within the national imagination. It reflects and is a consequence of the vitriol and the anti-immigrant sentiment that dominated the national landscape in recent years. The chant should not be surprise in a moment when presidential candidates “joke” about immigrant deaths or wish they would just deport themselves, when state legislatures make culture and skin color probable cause, and when public officials declare ethnic studies illegal. The chant reflects the same sentiments as those articulated by Rush Limbaugh, who has described America’s immigration in the following way: “[S]ome people would say we’re already under attack by aliens—not space aliens, but illegal aliens.” It is an outgrowth of a historic sentiment that imagines Latinos irrespective of citizenship as foreigners and undesirable. It reflects an increasingly ferocious anti-Latino sentiment that both represents and treat Latinos as “illegal aliens” neither welcome nor deserving of the legal protections of the United States. It should come us no surprise given this larger history and the ramped up anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years. It embodies as Tanya Golash Boza, assistant professor of sociology at University of Kansas, told one of us: “In the white American mindset, the only group that gets an unhyphenated American identity is white.” It should come us no surprise given this larger history and the ramped up anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years.

According to Alexandro José Gradilla, an Associate Professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at Cal State Fullerton, the chant embodies “a new political climate of ‘papers please’” where all Latinos are presumed to be outsiders, threats to the national success of the United States. The racial hostility and the nationalist celebration at these high school basketball games, notes Gradilla, “signal a new racializing paradigm of conflating Mexican Americans with Mexican Immigrants—hence the chants of USA USA were appropriate to use against these possibly ‘illegal’ and ‘alien’ people.” Given the history of sports, so often a place to authenticate national superiority, play out racial tensions, and exhibit masculine prowess, the efforts to nationalize the basketball, to use the victory as evidence of national/racial superiority, is reflective of the political orientation of sports.

The staging of anti-immigrant sentiments at a basketball game and the ease with which chanting for a predominantly White team slides into rooting for America is not surprising. The outrage and the ultimate apology from the school district (“Unfortunately, after the game, we had a handful of students who made a bad decision and we’re very sorry it happened. They made a mistake and we’re going to use this as a learning experience…”) has prompted conservative commentators to argue political correctness run amuck and to otherwise deny any racial animus.

via SLAM ONLINE | » Remember the Alamo (Heights).

NewBlackMan: Business as Usual: Big Time College Sport and Inequality

Business as Usual: Big Time College Sport and Inequality

by Richard C. King and David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

On December 6, 2011, amid the jubilation of students and alumni, fanfare from the marching band, and media hype, Washington State University (WSU) presented its new football coach to the public. After four losing seasons, the announcement that a proven winner would take the helm had Cougar nation in a frenzy, excited by the high scoring offense and return of fun to the Palouse. Much of the media coverage echoed fan sentiment: With headlines like “Why Mike Leach is Awesome” and “Leach is a Dream hire,” journalists and pundits alike celebrated the bold decision making of Athletic Director Bill Moos and the promising future of the once great program.

Apparently, the unfolding sex abuse scandals at Penn State and Syracuse, the play of Ndamukong Suh, and the NBA labor agreement have exhausted the always-limited critical powers of the sport media and sport fans alike. Even in a social moment seemingly primed for connections between sport and society, few, if any public voices seemed willing or able to do so: the short lived outrage sparked by Taylor Branch’s “The Shame of the Game” a scant two month earlier had no lasting resonance, no place in public discourse. In fact, when framed critically for students on campus, our classes reacted with indifference, if not hostility.

Two fundamental issues are lost in the hype, pleasure, and possibilities surrounding the new hire: the racial politics of college athletics and the increasingly inadequate resources devoted to higher education. Indeed, the hiring of Mike Leach exposes the workings of higher education in stark terms, highlighting the ways in which the status quo simultaneously perpetuates economic and racial inequality and masks structures of power.

Fifty years after integration of it began in earnest, big time college athletics remains one of the clearest of examples of racial inequity and racist exclusion in the United States. Historically white colleges and universities exploit black bodies for publicity and profit. Although black athletes have dominated football for decades, few coaches and fewer administrators are African American. Efforts by organizations like Black Coaches and Administrators have made a difference to be sure: African American head coaches have rise from 1 in 1979 to 25 at the start of this season and today 31 of 260 offensive and defensive coordinators (11.9%) are black. The recent firing of Turner Gill at the University of Kansas not only reduces the total number of active head coaches, but reminds us how limited the success of black coaches is: only one black coach (Tyrone Willingham) has been hired after being fired as a head coach (see here for additional information). The hiring of Mike Leach thus fits a broader pattern. Historically white universities headed by white Athletic Directors, such as Bill Moos at WSU, tend to hire white coaches.

Arguably more troubling is how Leach was hired. The search committee appears to have been Moos, who wanted to make a bold statement about Cougar athletics, increase attendance and alumni interest, and make the program relevant again. This too resonates with prevailing practices in college athletics, ranging from unilateral hires to selecting internal hires groomed for the position, and virtually ensures the unbearable whiteness of college coaching, where the failure to take measures to cultivate and promote a diverse athletic leadership, it is unlikely it will ever materialize. This has nothing to with overt racism and isn’t a question about the intentions of any individual. Rather priorities and preoccupations render such questions largely unthinkable, and when asked they are deflected by defensiveness about “how race doesn’t matter” and how he was “best qualified person.” In the end, don’t we need to reflect on why, how and the significance of candidate pool being overwhelmingly white?

In its most recent Annual Hiring Report Card, the BCA gave WSU a C for its hiring practices. No doubt, the fait d’accompli hiring of Leach would receive an F. But one might wonder when did grades ever stop fans and alumni from enjoying college football. As with the larger shifts in our society that has resulted in further economic inequality, even more evident as we examine persistent and worsening racial inequality, we are struck by the symbolism here of the a millionaire white coach profiting off the labor of black players even while the students, faculty and staff at the university are left behind by tuition increases, worsening working conditions, and a culture defined by budget cuts.

As with much of the 1%, Leach’s salary far exceeds that the 99% of faculty and staff at Washington State University. Earning an astounding 2.25 million dollars per year, Leach is set to become the third highest coach in the Pac-12. Compared to the average associate faculty members’ salary, who makes $74,700, the disparity in income is significant.

via NewBlackMan: Business as Usual: Big Time College Sport and Inequality.