Fashion Forward: The NBA

The NBA finals are heading to game #2, and one of the biggest questions remains what will Wade, Bosh and LeBron where at the post game press conference (no reason to worry about Duncan or Parker).  Read in the context of the NBA dress code, the league’s racialized culture wars, the “larger politics of adornment” (Ford), what is “legible and illegible” when it comes to black masculinity (Neal), and countless other issues, NBA fashion is a space for some important discussions.

I had the opportunity to “sit down” (in the google hangout; although I am not visible in the video) with Dr. Tanisha Ford, an assistant professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Massachusetts, and a national expert on race, gender, sartorial choices, and youth culture to talk about NBA fashion.






Michael Bloomberg and the Benevolent White Daddy Syndrome | NewBlackMan (in Exile)


by David J. Leonard

Hypocrisy is nothing new for America’s politicians. It is one of the few postures that remains bipartisan.

This is certainly evident as Michael Bloomberg pushes forward his assault on big sodas alongside his assault on constitutional rights and human dignity with his harmful stop and frisk policy. “For someone who wants to make sure people don’t smoke, waste energy, shoot each other with military-style firearms, or eat a bagel that’s way too big, you don’t express similar urgency when it comes to Black and Latino youth being violated on the streets of New York City,” writes Michael Arceneaux.

Stop and Frisk “has done absolutely nothing to make the city’s streets safer, and instead, fuels the fires of the already tense relationship between people of color and the police? Why focus on all off that when you can walk around telling people what not to eat and drink? Meanwhile, the heads of minority youth are buried into the concrete,” Acreneaux continues.

When defending big soda bans or cigarette concealment Bloomberg consistently notes health and safety, yet as Arceneaux notes, where is the concern for health, safety, dignity, life, and humanity with stop and frisk. Hypocrisy indeed.

Yet, on another level the soda ban and stop and frisk policy operate through the same racist ideologies: white paternalism. In both instances, Bloomberg and others claim discipline and punishment as necessary for the sake of safety, order, and protecting. They both are thought to be “preventative;” they are considered as policies thought to protect the law-abiding from poor choices, from dangerous values, and harmful things. They are considered interventions for bodies of color who obviously need to be controlled by the state.

Bloomberg defends his march on soda by invoking the kids, “I’ve got to defend my children, and yours, and do what’s right to save lives…Obesity kills. There’s no question—it kills…We believe that the judge’s decision was clearly in error, and we believe we will win on appeal.”

Given soda industries targeting of black and Latino youth, and the lack of concern for the turnstile refills at America’s finest restaurants, Bloomberg’s crusade against cola is wrapped up in the logics of race and class. You have to look no further than the exemption of coffee drinks; a massive mocha offers a whopping 360 calories, 19 g of fat, and more than a little bit of sugar. A blended version nets almost 500 calories, yet because it has milk, not to worry, all is supposedly good. The hipsters of Williamsburg have little to worry about as Bloomsberg’s Pepsi police are on the case at 7-11, making sure that sugar + coffee + milk remains the breakfast of (Wall-Street) champions.

Bloomsberg’s class and race-based logic of paternalism and protection, of saving black and brown youth from purported pathologies and dangers isn’t reserved for the soda fountain but also guides his policing policy.

“We are not going to walk away from a strategy that we know saves lives,” noted Mayor Bloomberg. He went on to say, “At the same time, we owe it to New Yorkers to ensure that stops are properly conducted and carried out in a respectful way.”

Scoffing at suggestions that stops should mirror population numbers in the city, he added, “If we stopped people based on census numbers, we would stop many fewer criminals, recover many fewer weapons and allow many more violent crimes to take place. We will not do that. We will not bury our heads in the sand.”

Continue reading at Michael Bloomberg and the Benevolent White Daddy Syndrome | NewBlackMan (in Exile).

Hating Marshall Henderson | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

by David J. Leonard

I hate Marshall Henderson. There I said it. I realize that my disdain for all things Marshall ran deep recently, where I couldn’t help but sit in front of the television to watch Ole Miss-Florida in the SEC tournament finale. I am more likely to watch the Real Housewives of Iowa than an SEC basketball game, yet it was must see-TV because of my disdain for Marshall Henderson.

But let me clear, I am not a hater. In fact, my feelings have nothing to do with Marshall Henderson. I don’t know the man. Nor do I have an investment in his daily performance.

My thoughts about Henderson have as much to do with the myopic celebration of his accomplishments, “colorful” personality, and “swagger” given the sordid history of integration at Ole Miss. Given the “ghosts of Mississippi,” and given the historic mistreatment directed at African American students at this “rebel campus,” it is telling that Henderson has elicited praise. It is telling that he has been elevated at the expense of his teammates, erasing their contributions to the team.

My emotional reaction is not about Henderson himself but the narrative, the media coverage, and the double standards that he is embodies. “Marshall Henderson is the Charlie Sheen of college basketball – an unapologetic poster-child of white privilege,” notes Charles Moriano. “Despite a litany of on and off-court behavior that normally send sports media pundits into “what about the kids” columns with African-American athletes, Henderson has been most often been described as ‘passionate’, ‘colorful’, and ‘entertaining’.” Greg Howard describes the double standards that anchor the media response:

He messes with any racially essentialist expectations of what a white basketball player is supposed to be. He’s an incessant shit-talker who tosses up 30-footers, rarely passes, and has a conspicuous lack of “hustle” stats. He tokes an invisible joint after made three-pointers…Marshall Henderson by all rights shouldn’t exist. And if he were a black athlete, he wouldn’t—not as far as big-time basketball is concerned.

My contempt is about the public persona that he has created along with a media that seems not only OK but rejoicing in behavior that has become the basis of the sports-punditry-hater-industry when it comes to today’s black athletes.

Matt Rybaltowski is illustrative of everything I loathe about the Marshall Henderson story: “In an age of political correctness and the contrived sound bite, Marshall Henderson is an anomaly, a free-spirit college basketball hasn’t seen since Jason Williams brought his killer crossover to Gainesville in the late 1990s. Dating back even further, it’s not a stretch to consider Henderson a Bill Walton in a shooter’s body.”

Sports pundits are incapable of offering comparisons that are not racially segregated. Whereas Bill Walton loved the Grateful Dead, protested the Vietnam War (he was even arrested during his junior year), and joined Kareem Abdul Jabbar and others in support of the civil rights movement, Henderson loves playing quarters and his “hoes.” I guess we can say Henderson protested injustice, calling those coaches who didn’t vote him first team all-conference as losers. Comparing Henderson to Walton is like comparing Justin Bieber to Eric Clapton; white and involved in same vocation.

Whereas black ballers are continuously criticized for selfishness – “there is no I in TEAM” – Henderson’s aspiration to “get his money” or his propensity to taunt fans is a sign of his being free spirit. He is celebrated for saying what is on his mind even if his mind seems to begin and end with himself. It is a striking moment of hypocrisy where not only does Henderson get a pass for his trash-talking, self-promotion, and his shot selection, but when he is imagined as exceptional. In an age of media scrutiny, where (black) athletes are routinely criticized for deviating from the prescribed scripts, it is striking that he is celebrated by the same media that makes millions off telling today’s (black) student-athlete to shut up and play.

Continue reading at  Hating Marshall Henderson | NewBlackMan (in Exile).

Rotten at its core or it’s bigger than Rutgers

In classrooms across the nation, future Olivia Popes will learn about Rutgers University as an example of what not to do when responding to crisis.   From President Robert Barchi not watching the video of his basketball coach abusing student athletes to their failure to properly vet the academic credentials of new basketball coach Eddie Jordan, Rutgers has shown a level of ineptitude comparable to Tim Tebow’s throwing arm and Dwight Howard’s free throw shooting.  Yet, their failures are systemic; the consequences are severe.  The most recent example of not just incompetence but a level of blindness to the fundamental problems facing college sports can be seen with the hiring of Julie Hermann.  Dave Zirin describes the situation as such:

That’s what makes the goings-on at Rutgers University so maddening. In looking to move the school forward following the scandal that cost bullying former basketball coach Mike Rice and athletic director Tim Pernetti their jobs, school president Robert Barchi hired former Louisville assistant athletic director Julie Hermann. After the homophobic, misogynistic invective that will define the Mike Rice era, appointing an extremely competent woman must have seemed savvy. Unfortunately, in aiming to get beyond a bullying scandal, the school hired an athletic director with a history of bullying. In attempting to show that the athletic department is not a haven for misogynists, they hired someone with a history of misogyny. And worst of all, in boasting about the depths of their research into Hermann’s past, they missed a series of incidents that a Google search followed by ten minutes of follow-up phone calls could have revealed.

While clearly Rutgers has shown what not to do, while the reports about Julie Hermann are troubling and while what has gone on Rutgers from Mike Rice forward are an indication of the warped and troubling values of higher education, I find myself wondering if she is being held to different standards than her male counterparts. Is she becoming a scapegoat? It would be nice if male ADs and coaches (and professors, administrators….) were held to same level of scrutiny and accountability. It would be nice if we talked about police officers who go from one force to next with a rap sheet of complaints about brutality with same level of interest and questions about past behavior.

One can only wish that the anti feminist and sexist culture that pervades sports and university culture be called out in every instance.  One can only hope that the abuses and exploitation be highlighted, whether it be the sensational or the examples of the entrenched nature of collegiate athletics. One can only wish that warped values that lead to a barrage of racist, sexist, and violent tweets that follow each and every loss be called out.  One can hope that we begin to connect the dots from from incidence of abuse and violence to ever growing emphasis on sports within today’s sports culture.  Whether abuse at Rutgers and Penn State, or the decision to have weeknight football games at the expense of academics for student-athletes and their non-participating peers, profit in front of people, wins in front of education, TV contracts ahead of tenure track lines, define today’s collegiate landscape.

We don’t have to look any further than Chicago where Rahm Emmanuel is leading the charge to build a stadium and not schools.  Worse yet, he might as well be moving the nuts and bolts from some 50 schools in Chicago to this new stadium at Depaul. Is this gentrification we can believe in?   Dave Zirin highlights the profit before people mentality:

It all starts with the person who seems committed to win the current spirited competition as the most loathsome person in American political life: Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The same Mayor overseeing the closing of fifty-four schools and six community mental health clinics under the justification of a “budgetary crisis” has announced that the city will be handing over more than $100 million to DePaul University for a new basketball arena. This is part of a mammoth redevelopment project on South Lakeshore Drive consisting of a convention center anchored by an arena for a non-descript basketball team that has gone 47-111 over the last five years. It’s also miles away from DePaul’s campus. These aren’t the actions of a mayor. They’re the actions of a mad king.

These are symptoms of the value placed upon sports within society; they are indications of upside down priorities.  It reflects a shared disregard for the future, innocence, and livelihood of youth of color, whose schools are being shut down in record numbers furthering the both the school-to-prison-pipeline and the athletic scholarship-to-school pipeline, which each in their own ways are defined by exploitation, abuse, control and profit.   Its bigger than Julie Hermann or Rutgers.  Quoting Blue Scholars, in their song “Oscar Grant,

I hear them sayin that this shit don’t never happen in Seattle
And if it does is just a couple bad apples
But if you keep it count you will see this shit is not the apple is the tree
Its rotten underneath. Oh say, can you see no way that is true

When talking college sports, it’s not the (bad) apples, it’s the tree . . .  rotten at its core.


Dave Zirin breaking it all down

NewBlackMan: Two Visions of ‘Black’ Evil, One White Gaze: Reading Kony 2012 and the Murder of Trayvon Martin

Two Visions of ‘Black’ Evil, One White Gaze: Reading Kony 2012 and the Murder of Trayvon Martin

by David C. Leonard | NewBlackMan

In the wake of 9/11 and the ongoing war on terror, the United States has increasingly relied on national narratives that offer certainty, comfort, and security. In catchphrases and sound bites, pundits and politicians remind Americans of the importance of protecting the homeland, the role of all Americans in safeguarding national space and American democratic values, the need to guard against the enemies of freedom and civilization, and the promise of spreading democracy throughout the world. As countless bodies fell, injured and dying, shattering families and communities over here and over there, multinational corporations have profited on an increased militarism, diminishing natural resources, and public panics. Within this climate, many in the United States have sought refuge in comforting narratives of good versus evil, civilization versus savagery. The power and cultural importance of these narratives has been evident with the murder of Trayvon Martin and in the spectacle of Kony 2012.

Prior to the start of the 2012 All Star game (I previously wrote that it was at halftime but based on timeline that appears to be incorrect), Trayvon Martin, a 17-year African American, decided to walk to the local store to get some candy and drinks. Tragically, it appears that he died because he was walking while black in a gated predominantly white community in Florida. Shortly after calling 911 to report a “suspicious” person within his community, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, confronted Martin, who was armed with skittles and an Arizona Ice Tea. What happened next is unclear, yet what is without much doubt is that Zimmerman shot Martin dead with a Kel Tek 9mm semi-automatic gun. Identified as a “threat” Martin fell victim at the hands of a gun.

In a world where African Americans, particularly black male youth, are consistently represented as threats, to the security, peace, culture, calm, and order, how can “threat” be seen outside of the context of race? In a world where racial profiling is routine and where explicit and implicit bias has created the criminalblackman, is it even possible to think about the confrontation and ultimate death of Martin outside of the paradigm of a criminalized of black body? The 911 call, the confrontation, and the ultimate death fits a larger pattern whereupon blackness is consistently imagined as threat, as danger, and as EVIL; as a cultural and social pariah blackness needs to be controlled, discipline, and ultimately punished. According to Michelle Alexander, “Just as African Americans in the North were stigmatized by the Jim Crow system even if they were not subject to its formal control. Black men today are stigmatized by mass incarceration and the social construction of the ‘criminalblackman’ whether they have ever been to prison or not” (p. 194). In a review of Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Max Kanter describes the specter of criminalization as follows:

This is evidenced in part by dominant media and cultural narratives, institutionalized (and legalized) racial profiling, and police efforts to build mass databases of “suspected criminals” which contain information almost exclusively on racial minorities who have often done nothing criminal at all aside from having been born to black and brown parents. In addition to the numerous studies showing that most white Americans see crime in racial (nonwhite) terms, studies conducted by Princeton University also reveal that white felons fresh out of prison are more likely to get hired for jobs than equally qualified black men with no criminal record. African American men without criminal records are more ostracized and widely perceived as being more criminal than white men who have actually been convicted of felony crimes. That is how deeply black people have been stigmatized as criminals and social pariahs in our society.

This is the context that we need to understand what happened to Trayvon Martin not only on the fateful evening, but also in terms of police response and that of the media and general public.

The death of a child under suspicious circumstances would have thought to have led to Zimmerman’s arrest, yet no charges have levied against him to date. It represents another reminder of whose life really matters. Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, told the Huffington Post that the police basically saw Zimmerman as a good guy giving them reason not to arrest him at this point:

They respected [Zimmerman’s] background, that he studied criminal justice for four years and that he was squeaky clean.” He continued: “My question to them was, did they run my child’s background check? They said yes. I asked them what they came up with, and they said nothing. So I asked if Zimmerman had a clean record, did that give him the right to shoot and kill an unarmed kid?”

While Trayvon Martin is not trending on twitter nor eliciting 500,000 views on YouTube, much less 70 million, Kony 2012 has captured the national (global) imagination. With millions of views on YouTube and Vimeo, with ample donations directed toward the film’s producer – Invisible Children – and a national conversation about Joseph Kony and his crimes against humanity, Kony 2012 has elicited an outpouring from all corners of society.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: Two Visions of ‘Black’ Evil, One White Gaze: Reading Kony 2012 and the Murder of Trayvon Martin.

Marc Robinson: Priceless Footage, but Limited as a Teaching Tool: Black Power Mixtape (2011)

Priceless Footage, but Limited as a Teaching Tool: Black Power Mixtape (2011) – Film Review

Marc Arsell Robinson

Special to No Tsuris

Black Power Mixtape (2011) is a documentary about the Black Power Movement that uses footage taken by Swedish filmmakers between 1967 and 1975.  It is the latest in a string of documentaries about the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements released in the past few years.  These include Negroes with Guns: Rob Williams and Black Power (2005), Neshoba: The Price of Freedom (2008), Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 (2009), and Soundtrack for a Revolution (2010).  The archival footage in Mixtape contributes priceless visual imagery of 1960’s and 1970’s Black politics, but the film itself lacks a coherent or engaging narrative.

The film does provide exceptional moments, such as when Stokely Carmichael interviews his mother about their family’s struggles during Stokely’s childhood.  Best of all is an impromptu speech given by Angela Davis about White repressive violence and Black self-defense.  As David Leonard wrote in another review of the film, “Humanizing the movement and focusing on the interpersonal dynamics in a core theme of the film.”

However, as a historical text, I found the film disappointing.  Undoubtedly, the movie was limited by the footage available; and it even opens with the following statement, “This film…does not presume to tell the whole story of the Black Power Movement, but to show how it was perceived by some Swedish filmmakers.”  Thus, its creators deserve credit for recognizing Mixape’s shortcomings.  Yet, although the documentary’s weaknesses can be forgiven, they unfortunately limit the film’s use as a teaching tool.

At times Mixtape presents an inaccurate chronology, like when it introduces the Black Panthers in its 1969 section, even though the organization was formed in 1966.  In addition, the latter section of the film, on 1970-1975, becomes increasingly unfocused as the film shifts to concentrate on Black ghetto life and drug usage.  The narrative further breaks down when the War on Drugs is discussed, which did not begin in earnest until the 1980’s.  While the introduction and promotion of drugs like heroin, and later crack cocaine, certainly deserves a place in the story of Black Power, here it undermines the films coherence.

Moreover, the section on the 1970’s leaves out other notable developments such as the proliferation of Black cultural nationalism in the form of fashion, food, entertainment and culture.  Also left out is Black Power’s increasing presence in electoral politics such as the Black Panthers’ bid for offices in Oakland and the Black Political Conventions of the early 70’s.  Other topics that could have been address were the proliferation of Black Studies and Black Power’s impact in education, as well as the issues of masculinity and gender within the movement.  Unfortunately, Mixtape ends up perpetuating the erroneous notion that the Black Power Movement was effectively over by 1971, save the Angela Davis trial.

Therefore, Mixtape would not be best for 100 or 200 level students, or as an introductory source on the Black Power Movement.  Certain sections might be useful, but other films like Eyes on the Prize: Power!, Eyes on the Prize: A Nation of Law?, Negroes with Guns, and Scarred Justice are better suited for introductory purposes.  However, for advanced students and scholars of the period, the film provides invaluable imagery of the 1960’s and 70’s Black Freedom Struggle.

Marc A. Robinson is a PhD candidate in the American Studies Program and teaches in the Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies Department at Washington State University.  His dissertation is on the Black Student Union and Black Power in the late 1960’s.  Follow him @MarcARobinson1.