White Riot: Kentucky Fans, Trayvon Protesters, and The White Privilege Conference

White Riot: Kentucky Fans, Trayvon Protesters, and

The White Privilege Conference

by Charles Modiano On April 4, 2012(cross posted from POPSspot)
What if Travon Martin Protesters Did This?

Oh, here we go again. This week brought us another sports fueled violent white riot after Kentucky won the NCAA Basketball Championship. The riot, which many had predicted would happen, came just 60 fires and two days after the first one where Kentucky fans burned cars to celebrate its win over Louisville.

The Final Four riots came just months after Penn State fans took to the streets,  crashed down lamposts and flipped over trucks after football coach Joe Paterno was fired for not using his power to prevent the rape of young children.

The Penn State Riots came a year after the Vancouver Canuck Riots which came a year after San Francisco Giants fans cheered their World Series win by looting, setting fires, and attacking cars — or as The San Francisco Chronicle put it — “joyful mayhem“.

And when the games are over, and real life problems come up such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the larger criminal justice system that his death symbolizes, and the rallies across the country demanding reform. Led by, but not limited to a divisive conservative media, many have wondered: “Is The Media Inciting Violence?” and “Is Spike Lee’s Tweet the Same kind of Violence That Killed Emmit Till? while “Sanford Frets About Prospects of Riots Over Trayvon Martin Killing“.

Ironically, while thousands of mostly white Kentucky fans were tearing up the Kentucky campus this weekend, more than 1400 mostly white people were gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico for The 13th Annual White Privilege Conference. At WPC13, participants attended four days of workshops and supportive caucuses to better understand what white privilege iswhat it is not, what’s inside the “invisible knapsack” of privileges, and using this knowledge to facilitate positive social change.

Saturday’s keynote address on “Intersectionality in the Age of Post-Racialism” was given  by law professor Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw. Besides being a pioneering scholar, Dr. Crenshaw  also happens to be a big sports fan rooted in childhood heroes named Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali. I had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Crenshaw to get her thoughts on today’s sports landscape. In part of the interview which took place just a couple of hours before the first Kentucky riot, she had this to say in response to The Penn State Scandal and protest of Joe Paterno’s firing:

“Fundamentally, we see the difference between how outrage, hurt, and pain is framed sympathetically when it’s about white pain, white institutions, white patriarchs, white heroes, and how just the fear of that kind of acting out [by African-Americans] will create such reactions.

So nothing bad has happened around all of the protests around Trayvon Martin, but everybody is saying: ‘just so it’s non-violent’… ‘just so it doesn’t get out of control’… and ‘let’s not desecrate his memory’.

Well, nothing has happened.

So that very disparity represents precisely the disciplinary fear of Black people that led to Trayvon’s death in the first place.”

By calling into question the inner fears that produce greater concern for imagined Black violence over real actual white violence, Dr. Crenshaw questions the sort of mindset or “gutset” that continually produces so many variations of Trayvon Martin (see Ramarley Graham, Oscar GrantKenneth Chamberlain, Howard Morgan, etc.).

Her comments were in line with the goals of The White Privilege Conference which served as an introspective and productive ”gut-check” for white people (and others) to help eradicate harmful biases by first recognizing their existence .

Says WPC Founder and Program Director, Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.:

“The White Privilege Conference is designed to critically examine, critically push, and critically challenge participants amidst a loving, family-oriented, and community environment.

In that context, it is important to look at white privilege in comprehensive ways so when you look at Trayvon, you don’t say “I AM TRAYVON MARTIN”, but instead you explore the various ways in which you could identify and say:


Dr. Moore’s statement signifies an honest recognition of everyday skin privilege, even if it means getting away with less than murder. This declaration also means identifying with George’s stereotyping of Trayvon, even if his gunshots are replaced with disapproving stares.  While identifying with Zimmerman may not be quite as comforting for white participants (including this author) as throwing on a hoodie in symbolic support of Trayvon, it’s definitely necessary if we are going to get real about about racism.

In this broader context, recognizing white privilege includes questioning ”the white right to riot” while the larger white community never has to pay a racial price. Those guys who set all those fires in Kentucky? “It wasn’t me — not my problem.” Being white means the privilege of never having to suffer from “group punishment“.

In her analysis of the OJ Simpson Trial,  Dr. Crenshaw explains that African-Americans received “group punishment” by whites in the aftermath of the case. Despite legitimate reasons for doubt (and , African-Americans were viewed, discussed, and punished as a group — both socially and politically — for the celebratory response to ”The Verdict”.

Conversely, the immediate response to Joe Paterno’s firing drew no group punishment or even group analysis of “white culture” or a “culture of white male privilege”, but instead focused on every  conceiveable “sub-culture” besides race. Even after months of reflection, a recent poll found that Pennsylvania voters favor changing the current stadium name to Joe Paterno Stadium. The poll wasn’t just college fratboys — but registered voters.  And while none of those “yes votes” were likely cast by the then-child victims of rape that Paterno had the power to protect, the life-long trauma of those victims might be worth a national discussion.

But honest national conversations by white people about white people as a group just don’t happen.

At least not in too many circles outside of The White Privilege Conference where I learned at least three things:

1) I have largely taken my hoodie-wearing for granted like I’m Bill Belichick.

2) ”Errupt Big Blue” means the right to riot twice in 48 hours without racial repercussion, and


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Paterno, White Patriarchy and Privilege – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY

Paterno, White Patriarchy and Privilege

OPINION: The hero’s farewell given to the disgraced coach speaks volumes

By David Leonard Writer

When the news broke that Penn State’s football coach, Joe Paterno had died of lung cancer, one might have thought there had been some sort of great national tragedy based on the media coverage. The spectacle that began with this “breaking news” did not end with the initial reports, but has continued with ample columns, discussions, tributes, and memorials to a football coach. Described as an “icon” a “revered coach,” “a leader,” and “a legend,” Paterno has been further lionized the short time after his death. Ivan Maisel, in his tribute to Paterno, captures the hyperbolic tone of the post-death commentaries

The 409 victories, while record setting, are not the full measure of the man. The young men he left behind, the campus to which he devoted his life, a campus whose leaders shoved him aside in the panicky, feverish days after the scandal broke, also give testimony to the life of Joseph Vincent Paterno. The whole of his life renders the seismology of modern-day journalism moot. The facts of a 62-year coaching career were shaken. They did not topple over.

Eulogies citing his success on the field, his millions of dollars in donations, his “fatherly” relationship with his players, and his importance in the community, have sought to elevate Joe Paterno as saint. Despite everything that has happened, the sports punditry has sought to resuscitate a “the image of Joe Paterno,” one which Bomani Jones noted “is null and void.”

This is not to say that media coverage has erased his connection, involvement, and culpability for the alleged child molestation committed by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky (see here for discussion). The tragedy in his death rests with the cloud of uncertainty, contempt, and unease about Paterno’s legacy. The ubiquity of the memorials reflected a societal unease that “he was, like so many of the characters in the books he told us to read, unable to have a perfect ending.” The references to the scandal become the pretext for the celebration because without it, there would be no reasons for the story of redemption and hero worship to the extent we are seeing. His connection to the sex abuse scandal has thus been pushed aside, serving as little more than a footnote to justify the societal mourning of a great football coach. “I really do believe that the drama of his last two months has fueled the media barrage. There is a high-octane effort aimed at defining his legacy as positive. That takes a lot of sweat equity given the recent scandals,” noted Dave Zirin in a message to me.

In many regards, the discussion around his death is framed around the last few months, his firing, the scandal itself, and his involvement. This is why there is so much celebration and this is why it is breaking news. It is difficult to imagine the extent and scope of the commentaries and celebrations had the last two months not occurred; I would be hard pressed to come up with an athlete or sports figure (celebrity) whose death has provoked so much memorializing as we have seen with Joe Paterno.

The efforts to memorialize and the hyper celebration also reflect the power of White masculinity and nostalgia within the cultural landscape. Described as a “model of law-abiding sportsmanship,” “a disarming mix of a lofty diploma and Brooklyn-bred blue-collar grit,” and as someone committed to education and honor, Joe Paterno’s importance exists apart from titles, victories, or football within the national conversation. As noted by Rick Reilly, Paterno “was a humble, funny and giving man who was unlike any other coach I ever met in college football. He rolled up his pants to save on dry cleaning bills. He lived in the same simple ranch house for the last 45 years. Same glasses, same wife, same job, for most of his adult life.”

The celebration of Paterno as patriarch, as the embodiment of a White working-class ethic, as a coach of a different era, sits at the core of the demoralization of Paterno. The national mourning in this regard reflects both a desire to redeem him in the face of the sex abuse scandal and to celebrate nostalgia for a different era of college sports and a heroized White working-class masculinity.

Continue reading @ Paterno, White Patriarchy and Privilege – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.