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

NewBlackMan (in Exile): Déjà vu: Jordan Davis and the Danger of American Racism

Déjà vu: Jordan Davis and the Danger of American Racism

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Sadly, as I look back at a piece I wrote about Trayvon Martin, I find myself wondering, if I could simply replace Trayvon with Jordan, Martin with Davis. I don’t say this to mean their lives were interchangeable nor do I want to erase their individuality or uniqueness. Yet, American racism brings them together; the daily realities of violence, stereotypes, demonization and differential values ascribed to different brings them together; they are brought by together by what Imani Perry identifies the “conflict between American ideals and our social reality.”

I grew up in segregated Los Angeles. While often celebrated for its diversity, Los Angeles is an immensely segregated community. Divided by freeways, inequalities, and policing, the Los Angeles I remember was defined by its segregation. For middle-class white kids such as myself I was in constant ignorance about the persistence of inequality and differential opportunities. I never thought a second about leaving my house to buy a bag of Skittles; I never contemplated how others – teachers, employers, and even the police – might interpret my saggin’ pants or my hoodie; I did not even give a second thought when I showed up to play basketball at my local park with my hair in braids. The ignorance about privilege and the power of whiteness defined my youth. Yet, the privileges of whiteness were not simply in my head but conferred each and every day. I was able to move throughout the city without fear from driving while white, and without fear of being suspicious, because in America “the assumption is that the natural state of black men is armed and dangerous.”

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Déjà vu: Jordan Davis and the Danger of American Racism.

NewBlackMan (in Exile): Women of Color and the Political Economy of Sympathy

Women of Color and the Political Economy of Sympathy

by Stephanie Troutman and David J. Leonard |

NewBlackMan (in Exile)

“Given the racist and patriarchal patterns of the state, it is difficult to envision the state as the holder of solutions to the problem of violence against women of color. However, as the anti-violence movement has been institutionalized and professionalized, the state plays an increasingly dominant role in how we conceptualize and create strategies to minimize violence against women—Angela Davis.

Words sadly ring true given the daily realities of state violence, and the limited care and concern for the daily realities of violence in our country. What is wrong with us/U.S.? The endless examples (in a long, sad history of violent acts) act of violence against a woman of color to NOT make headlines is beyond devastating. It is pedagogical in pointing to the material consequences of the intersections of race and gender.

This has been all too clear with reports about the horrific circumstances of Glenda Moore, a Black mother who lost her two young sons during Hurricane Sandy. According to The Daily News Moore was “holding onto them, and the waves just kept coming and crashing and they were under,” the mother’s sister told the Daily News at her home. “It went over their heads … She had them in her arms, and a wave came and swept them out of her arms.” In the midst of the storm, Moore knocked on doors searching for help to no avail. As Moore’s sister recounted to The Daily News “They answered the door and said, ‘I don’t know you. I’m not going to help you,’”…”My sister’s like 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. She looks like a little girl. She’s going to come to you and you’re going to slam the door in her face and say, ‘I don’t know you, I can’t help you’?’”

Although there seems to be reticence and an unwillingness to talk about racism and sexism – implicit biases – in this case, the limited (yes there has been some media attention) concern and national mourning for the death of these children, and the pain endured by Moore is telling. While people came together to raise over $313,000 dollars for a tormented school bus monitor, the Moore family is fighting just to raise enough money to bury their children (as of today, there is just short of $11,000 dollars). It is yet another reminder that not all pain, not all suffering is created equal.

While the reports surrounding Sharmeeka Moffitt, who accused several men of attacking her because she wore an Obama t-shirt, proved unsubstantiated, her experiences point to how racism and misogyny is operationalized within contemporary culture. Yet another reminder of the violence besieging the United States and the media’s silence (and complicity) on the violence experienced by women of color; the fact that Sharmeka Moffitt’s name did not initially warrant front-page news, a lead story on the national news, or national conversation is telling. The fact that people required more evidence in this stance is revealing. The fact that people dismissed the initial reports by noting “We don’t know what happened;” “we don’t know the specifics;” “we don’t know if it is a hate crime” is not without consequence.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Women of Color and the Political Economy of Sympathy.

NewBlackMan (in Exile): At the Borderlands of Mass Incarceration: A Review of Middle of Nowhere

At the Borderlands of Mass Incarceration: 
A Review of Middle of Nowhere
by David J. Leonard |
NewBlackMan (in Exile)

With all the talk within social media circles since Ava DuVernay won best director at the Sundance Film Festival, I cannot remember anticipating a film as much I anticipated Middle of Nowhere. While a testament to the film’s use of social media, my excitement reflected its storyline and its offering of a humanizing story. The New York Times aptly described the film as follows: a “poignant portrait of Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi), a nurse doing hard time in emotional limbo while her husband serves a prison sentence.” The Los Angeles Times summarizes the film’s story as somewhat classic with a story of marital crossroads, personal transformation, and self discovery: “the focus is on the couple’s relationship and, gradually, on a different kind of journey that Ruby is making, the classic one of self-actualization, of finding yourself when you feel emotionally in the middle of nowhere, a journey that allows for no shortcuts or easy answers.” While the film does play upon dominant themes, its embrace of tropes and themes specific to the history of African American film, and its intervention in the hegemony of dehumanizing narratives, especially those surrounding prisons, illustrates a film that is battling and challenging in a myriad of ways.

Middle of Nowhere gives voice to an all-too-familiar circumstance facing million of American families, particularly those of color. It chronicles the impact of mass incarceration on families, living on the outside, with relatives on the inside. According to a report entitled “Children of Incarcerated Parents,” in 2007 America was home to 1.7 million children (under 18) whose parent was being held in state or federal prison – that is 2.3 percent of American children will likely be celebrating father’s day away from dad. Despite hegemonic clamoring about family values, the prison industrial complex continues to ravage American families. Since 1991, the number of children with a father in prison has increased from 881,500 to 1.5 million in 2007. Over this same time period, children of incarcerated mothers increased from 63,900 to 147,400. Roughly half of these children are younger than 9, with 32 percent between the ages of 10 and 14. This reality is not just about children but about families forced to live at a crossroads between lack – of contact, lack of physical contact – and desire – to be free, to touch, to be with family. It is a reality that separates families and pushes members farther and farther apart. On average, children live 100 miles away from their incarcerated parents. This is the same of partners, and other family members, who are dislocated, punished and literally left out in the cold.

Chronicling the story of Ruby and Derek (Omari Hardwick) Middle of Nowhere shines a spotlight on trickle down incarceration, whereupon arrests and imprisonment travel downstream to the detriment of both families and communities. From Ruby’s conflict with her mother over her decision to wait for her husband to be released from prison to her choice to forgo medical school for a career in nursing because of their financial needs; from Derek’s inability to pay child support to his daughter’s mom, to the amount of time families must spend on buses just to remain connected to their loved ones; Middle of Nowhere brilliantly reveals the costs and consequences of mass incarceration. Derek is literally stuck in the middle of nowhere, detached geographically, physically, emotionally – he cannot see his daughter; his wife cannot kiss him. With no his release precarious at best and his future bleak given the lifetime sentences resulting from felony convictions, Derek is resigned to the middle of nowhere, existing without any paths toward freedom or even existence. It is not just Derek and his fellow incarcerated men and women housed in places like Victorville are confined to the middle of nowhere, hidden behind barbered wire fences, walls, and isolation, but their families as well.

Continue reading 2 NewBlackMan (in Exile): At the Borderlands of Mass Incarceration: A Review of Middle of Nowhere.

NewBlackMan (in Exile): Ballin’ at the Graveyard: A Film Review

Ballin’ at the Graveyard: A Film Review

by David J. Leonard | special to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Growing up in Los Angeles, I spent many weekends, some evenings, and most of my summers on the basketball court. Whether on the courts at my high school, at any number of local parks, or other spots spread out around West Los Angeles, pickup basketball was a fixture of my teenage years. I love to play ball; while a mediocre player on my best days the chance to run with my boys or prove myself to others was something I relished growing up.

Through college and graduate school, I continued to play whenever I made it back to Los Angeles; visits home came with an expectation of multiple days of ballin’. Although kids and AGE, not to mention geography (not a lot of pick-up games in Pullman) has resulted in my retirement from the game, the cultural, social, and personal significance of this space remains strong in my mind. Based on both nostalgia for the Saturdays spent on the court, calling “next,” and even the arguments about a travelling calls, and my intellectual curiosity about the subculture of the “pickup game,” I was very excited to watch Ballin’ at the Graveyard, a new film from Basil Anastassiou and Paul Kentoffio.

Chronicling the weekend battles at Albany, New York’s Washington Park – the Graveyard – the film is much more than a basketball film. It is a glimpse into the sociology – the rules, the community – of the subculture of pickup basketball.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): Ballin’ at the Graveyard: A Film Review.

NewBlackMan in Exile: Freeloading Muppets: Mitt, the Conservative Right and its Assault on Sesame Street

Freeloading Muppets:

Mitt, the Conservative Right and its assault on Sesame Street

by David J. Leonard

| NewBlackMan in Exile

During last night’s presidential debate, which was lackluster to say the least, Mitt Romney finally unveiled some specifics as it relates to his slash the deficit, taxes, and spending economic plan – the “no reason to hope, the future will be grim” plan. He announced his desire to defund PBS, which according to Neil deGrasse Tyson, accounts for .012% of the federal budget. His war on Muppets prompted a deluge of social media posts ranging from images of an unemployed Big Bird to an angry Elmo seeking revenge.

While reflecting people’s anger and anxiety about the nature of the political process, his oft-handed remark is revealing. At one level, it demonstrates the Republican Party’s opposition to public support for institutions and organizations that advance a social good. It represents their contempt for the social contract. At another level, it embodies an ideological movement that promotes divestment from public education, health care, and countless other social programs. The recasting of Cookie Monster, Grover, and Snuffy as freeloading welfare recipients constitutes a continuation of the GOP’s structural adjustment program that started some thirty years ago. Whether or not Mitt Romney like’s Big Bird, or public teachers, firefighters, or health care workers is irrelevant.

The gutting of public higher education throughout the nation, the destruction of America’s parks and recreation facilities, and now the proposed foreclosure on Sesame Street is part of a larger movement to divested from public support and institutions, that which is utilized by the middle-class, working-class and America’s poor. It is yet another example of the true essence of the GOP AKA POP – Privatization Old Party.

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan in Exile: Freeloading Muppets: Mitt, the Conservative Right and its Assault on Sesame Street.