Friday, May 27, 2011

Tiki-Bashing in Glass Houses

I'm ready for the push back when I say this - but is Tiki Barber getting treated too harshly for his thoughtless comment in comparing his situation to Anne Frank?  Maybe - maybe not.

Let's dial the clock back to January 2008.  I wrote a piece on my blog about the first female anchor on the Golf Channel - Kelly Tilghman.  What was she famous for?  Saying that the only way young golfers could keep up with then No. 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods, was to "lynch him in a back alley."  The Golf Channel was going to blow off the gaffe at first claiming she and Tiger were friends and that the young woman didn't mean anything by the remark.  But after push back from civil rights organizations, black talk radio, and other major media outlets the Golf Channel suspended her for two weeks.  Of course, she was able to return in time for Tiger's 2008 debut at the Buick Invitational - so, no real punishment.

Anyway, the whole point of the punishment was to acknowledge that the words were hurtful and inappropriate.  Nevertheless, polled website visitors and found that 68% believed the suspension was too harsh.  Now that brings us back to Tiki Barber.  Everyone agrees his words were thoughtless and inappropriate.  "Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience," Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said. "Tiki Barber's personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.

I just wonder where people like Mr. Foxman were when 68% of people wanted to give Ms. Tilghman a pass on suggesting that golfers lynch Tiger.  The holocaust of slavery is just as real as that of the Jewish people.  It resulted in the enslavement, kidnapping, rape, murder, suicide and torture of millions of Africans for hundreds of years.  And the effects of that holocaust are trivialized daily.

Did Tiki mess up?  Yes.  Are other people messing up too?  You better believe it.  We've got teachers auctioning off black children as slaves in classroom demonstrations.

 Another teacher selected two black children, taped their hands and feet together, and made them crawl under a desk to demonstrate what it was like to be on a slave ship.  When the parent of one of the girls got upset, this was the teacher's response: "My take is that Mrs. Shand has missed a golden opportunity to teach her daughter a couple valuable lessons. First, slavery happened – get over it. Second, we rightfully do not do these sorts of things any more and lots of folks of all colors died so that that is the case. Third, be eternally grateful you live in the United States and not in Africa where people routinely wind up floating down rivers in pieces. But apparently Mrs. Shand is not in to teaching her daughter all that much and is more in to teaching her how to be a victim."

Somehow, I don't think the Anti-Defamation League would think much of teachers putting little Jewish children in closets and the teacher telling them to pretend it was an oven and that they were about to be incinerated.  Or to pretend they were being shackled and being sent to separate concentration camp - never to see their parents again.  Better yet - how about the teacher says, "Get over it, we won the war so you didn't have to grow up in Nazi Germany.  Thank your lucky stars!  Stop acting like a victim.  You're just being a drama queen."

All of these horrors were very real.  And they are very frightening to think of them even now.  I watched the documentary Freedom Riders with my 8 year old a couple of weeks ago.  He had a very hard time comprehending why these young people needed to ride buses to the South.  And why they kept coming back when they were being beaten so viciously as police officers who were supposed to protect them just stood by and watched.

These holocausts, both Jewish and black, have legacies that live with our children.  We will not forget and we cannot let our children forget.  Why?  Because there are those who would trivialize our struggle.  There are those who would like us to forget.  But that will never happen.  That would be like throwing away a part of our family history.  It is what made us the resilient people we have become.  We are survivors - we are not victims.

It took black people hundreds of years to overcome slavery and Jim Crow in the United States.  It turns my stomach every time I hear someone say a black person is waiting for the government to give him something.  Black people have been on this planet since the beginning of time, and I dare say we will be here when this planet is no more.  So believe what you want about black people, but we are preparing our children for the future - whatever that may hold.  We don't rely on anyone to give us anything.  Everything I own, I worked for - just like everyone else I know, regardless of their color.  I try to give my children the best possible education I can.  And every parent wants that - for their child to have a better life than they did.

So, am I saying that Jewish people should get over Tiki's comments?  Absolutely not.  What I'm saying is that America should be equally shocked and appalled when people make callous and thoughtless racist remarks.  I think people ought to be held accountable.  Newt Gingrich recently suggested a poll-test in U.S. History for native-born American citizens to vote.  Now even Tea Party Congressman Allen West wouldn't stand for that.  But where was the outrage that a modern day political figure in 2011 would suggest that we go back to a Jim Crow-era poll literacy test that was designed to keep black people from voting?  And Newt Gingrich is a former college history professor, so he knew darn well what he was suggesting and who it was bound to effect the greatest.

If you're going to claim moral high ground on issues, be consistent.  Don't sit on the high ground only when it suits you.  Sit on it because that's where you're comfortable.  Sit on it because that's where you intend to live.  Sit on it because that's home.

So, if you want to throw rocks at Tiki Barber, that's fine.  But gather up a big bag of rocks because there are a lot more people you need to be slinging them at.

Monday, February 15, 2010


As everyone knows, people in the deep South go crazy when it snows.  Although I spent some time living in Rhode Island, that experience is of little help when you live somewhere where they don't have trucks that drive around dispensing sand or salt to keep the snow from taking over the roadways.

By the time I got home from work on Friday evening, my neighborhood was almost covered and the roads barely showed a single set of tire tracks to mark the way.  And when I wanted to make a short trip to the store at about 7:30 pm, my Yukon would only fishtail halfway up the driveway before sliding back down.

The boys, of course, had fun the next morning.  With six inches of fresh snowfall, the neighborhood had a massive snowball fight and culminated the day with the construction of an 8 foot snowman and the boys and I made vanilla snow ice cream.

So, here are a few pictures to chronicle the day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Youth Protection Ordinance

If any of my home folks are reading this, and you know who you are - please take time out to sign the internet petition that I have created to stop our City Council and local law enforcement from enacting a curfew for teenagers in our city. This curfew is touted as a protective act for children; however, there are already state laws that protect children who are endangered at any hour of the day or night. This curfew is certainly bound to be enforced more heavily in African-American dominated neighborhoods. The city has failed to provide adequate programming for teenagers in these areas and would rather enforce punitive measures than address the real need to engage children under the age of 17 in age appropropriate activities. Please don't sign this petition if you don't live in my city. The petition will be presented to City Council on June 9, 2008 when this ordinance is scheduled for a first reading. The ordinance was originally scheduled for first reading on April 28, 2008, but there was such a loud objection from the African-American community that it was post-poned. We must keep the pressure up. We must demand more from our city government. We must demand services and programming before we turn to punitive measures. Thank you, and don't forget to sign the petition - IF you live in my city.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lynching Comments By Golf Channel Commentator

More and more African-Americans tune in to golf tournaments each weekend to watch the No. 1 player in the world, Tiger Woods. Unfortunately, the media is slow to respond by providing more diversity and cultural sensitivity in golf broadcasters. Recently, the Golf Channel made an effort to break that trend when it made Kelly Tilghman golf’s first female anchor last year when it garnered a lucrative 15 year deal with the PGA.

Last Friday during a broadcast, Tilghman, while co-hosting the Mercedes- Benz Championship with golf great Nick Faldo made the comment that for young golfers to compete with Tiger they would have to, “…lynch him in a back alley.”

The Golf Channel did not immediately take action against Tilghman. She had apologized to Woods personally and his agent, Mark Steinberg, responded that Tiger and Kelly are friends. He has known her for about 12 years and did not believe that her comments were made with any ill intent. But after Tilghman’s comments continued to be discussed on black talk radio and other media outlets such as CNN and Fox Sports, the Golf Channel took action on Wednesday with the following statement. “The GOLF CHANNEL regrets the poorly chosen remarks made by Kelly Tilghman on a recent broadcast and, again, extends our apologies to anyone who was offended. There is simply no place on our network for offensive language like this. While we believe that Kelly's choice of words were inadvertent and that she did not intend them in an offensive manner, the words were hurtful and grossly inappropriate.
Consequently, we have decided to suspend Kelly for two weeks, effective immediately.”

Tilghman’s suspension will end in time for the Buick Invitational on January 24, when Woods will make his 2008 debut.

The real problem here is that although Tilghman was suspended by the Golf Channel after a bit of pressure, the statement released by that network clearly indicates it doesn’t agree with the offensive nature of the language despite it claims to the contrary. In addition, ran a poll today asking if Tilghman’s suspension was too little, just right, or too harsh. At the time of the writing of this article, the poll was that 68% of responders thought the 2 week suspension was too harsh. Finally, this claim that people do not realize that lynching is a racially charged term is simply not credible. It harkens back to the underlying Jena 6 offense where prosecutors would have Americans believe that the white youth who hung the nooses in the “white tree” did not know the connotation of hanging a noose in a tree.

We all get the message. Why don’t we just stop playing around and admit that we speak the same language and have some open and honest dialogue about race relations in this country?

Friday, August 03, 2007

A New Generation Rises

Time moves on for many of us and new generations rise and take on the challenges of the future. And so it comes about that it is time for my oldest son to move forward into the world. Jared graduated with honors from high school in June and will begin his freshman year at Clemson University next month. His major is elementary education and his minor is athletic leadership. His dream is to become a Super Bowl winning football coach.

Everyone has to start somewhere and Jared will start at Clemson as a part of a mentoring and cohort program called Call Me MISTER. It is a program designed to train African-American men to become teachers, especially in early childhood and elementary education because they are so under-represented in the classroom and the nuclear family and over-represented in the prison population.

I've met with the Director of Call Me MISTER and many of the staff members at Clemson and have been very impressed with the program. It is an innovation that South Carolina should be proud of and a model that we should proudly be carrying to other states.

Although Clemson houses the directorship of this program, it extends through a number of other colleges, universities, and technical colleges throughout the state in the hopes of luring our best and brightest African-American young men into the teaching profession.

Right now, the MISTERs are focused on earning their degrees and mentoring their own students for the four years they are in college (part of their contract with the program), but I would love to see them going into the high schools and encouraging their former peers to follow them into the teaching profession and demonstrating to this immediate gratification generation that we have somehow created that there is more to life that how much you can get and how fast you can spend it.

An interesting article from the Black Collegian discusses Call Me MISTER further.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Art is in the Eye of the Beholder

I don't get to talk about art here too much, but on February 15th I went to the opening of a show for rising artist Cassandra Gillens. She is an African-American woman who paints in silhouette which allows the viewer to imagine almost anyone as the subject of one of her pictures. That's how I felt when I saw the painting entitled Mama's Boy. It depicts a woman about to receive a kiss from her son while her younger daughter hangs onto her skirts. The picture really spoke to me since my oldest son, Jared, is graduating from high school in June and leaving for college this fall. His sister, Leah, is just turning 16 and is very vulnerable as she stands on the cusp of womanhood. I had the opportunity to speak with Cassandra about the feelings her painting (or should I say my painting, since I bought it that day?) inspired and she told me how it gave her a chill just to hear that because it was just the type of emotion it was intended to evoke - the swift passing of childhood and the rapid departure of our children out into the world.

I am so glad I had an opportunity to buy one of her pieces. If you are interested in art, please take a look at her work. Although not cheap, her originl works are affordable compared to other more famous African-American artists and will become a very valuable, as well as beautiful, investment.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Are You a Christian or Are You Saved?

Are you a Christian or are you “Saved?” Should you turn the other cheek or fight back? It’s hard to say these days. I’ve been listening to a popular local talk radio host this morning, and there have been a number of calls about what the difference is between being Christian and being “Saved.” Some callers seem to think that you have to live a meek, humble existence and constantly forgive those who wrong you to be “Saved.” They seem to believe that if you have fight injustice wherever you find it and become belligerent and vocal about it, you’re not “Saved.” But what would Jesus do? A little of both, I think. He called out the Pharisees and the Sadducees for their wrong-doing, but He always kept his cool and never allowed them to upset Him, even when He was crucified.

I think we ought to emulate Him. We should always fight against injustice, but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to wallow in the mire that others have created. We don’t have to get down on their level. We need to be proactive and productive in creating better communities, better governments, and better educational institutions. We don’t need to rant and rave. We need to keep our cool and win our opponents over with logic and righteousness, not by calling them all manners of epithets, especially when we’re talking about our own people. Ever heard of diplomacy? If we’re going to call politicians down about the way they vote, then let’s look at their record and take our vote to the ballot box accordingly. Let’s speak out for candidates who will serve our communities well. Let’s research the facts of situations and individuals before going off half-cocked when we hear a rumor. Don’t be afraid to call or send e-mail to your local politicians and question them about matters that concern you. There’s no need to attack them personally – just let them know what matters to you and demand some accountability and follow-up to your concern. That’s what Jesus would do – whether he was “Saved” or not.

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