Category Archives: Race

THE EDUCATION OF TYREKE SMITH: IS IT TIME FOR BUCKEYE NATION TO STAND AGAINST FELLOW BUCKEYES?

One does not have to enter into an in-depth analysis to realize that the average white sports fan can simultaneously cheer for and celebrate black male athletes while remaining indifferent to their well-known struggles in American society. If we learn nothing else from the Colin Kaepernick fiasco, it is that your average white sports fan wants their sports entertainment devoid of political commentary involving racial matters. I am confident that the refrain, “Just play the game, Goddamn it!!!!!!” has dropped off the lips of more than a few sports fanatics.

As a proud alumnus of THE Ohio State University, I am not surprised that the above sentiments represent the viewpoints of a vocal section of BUCKEYE NATION. Verification of this point is offered by my fellow members of BUCKEYE NATION reacting so tersely to a little T-shirt worn by football recruit Tyreke Smith. Mr. Smith, a 6’4” 255 lbs. “can’t miss defensive end prospect” from Cleveland Heights High School arrived at Ohio State’s most recent football camp wearing a T-shirt adorned with a poignant message regarding an omnipresent fear harbored by so many young African-Americans. The alluded to message is a succinct representation of young African-Americans perception of how outsiders, many of them black, consider their presence and worth. The message that has angered significant parts of Buckeye Nation to demand that Head Coach Urban Meyer rescind a scholarship offer to Tyreke Smith reads as follows: “I hope that I don’t get killed for being black today.”

The response to Mr. Smith by a very vocal segment of Buckeye Nation on Ohio State football message boards has been filled with unconscionable condemnation that relates the posters belief that this young man is unworthy of representing THE Ohio State University in any form. When viewed from an emotional position, it is evident that the alluded to fans are offering Smith a quid pro quo arrangement, meaning that if he ceases his attempts to provide commentary on America’s obvious racial problems, they will welcome him into Buckeye Nation with open arms.

To the chagrin of this segment of Buckeye Nation, it appears that Smith has no interest in such a Faustian Deal. According to the Buckeye recruit, “I felt I should wear it because I’m big on the African American culture and know the struggles that our race goes through…Being the individual I am and the spotlight I have, I felt that people would get the message if I wore the shirt.

White sports fans have historically failed to realize that the athletic feats black male athletes perform in sold-out arenas and stadiums are only a minuscule part of their daily existence. In all honesty, playing the game is the easiest part of their day as the sports arena is one of the most race-neutral places in American society; that is if they can be so focused on the game that they do not hear the racial barbs being hurled at them by white fans. The problems begin once they take off their uniform and have to emerge from packed arenas as relatively unknown black males. Even racial apologists such as Charles Barkley and clueless sportswriters such as Jason Whitlock realize that they are only a moment away from a racial incident with either a law enforcement officer, an average white citizen, or a hate-filled fellow black man that could end in lethal violence for reasons that have little to do with them.

When you think about it, the constant trials-and-tribulations of black people in America is a subject that whites of various political leanings and socioeconomic status have little understanding or consideration. It is safe to say that the average white citizen equates the raising of racial bias issues with a routine attempt by blacks to escape personal responsibility for their station in life. And why should whites feel otherwise? Anyone with even a superficial understanding of racial prejudice and institutional racism will tell you that even the most non-racist white person invariably benefits from racism during their daily existence.

So I am neither surprised nor amused by rabid white sports fans ability to check sports websites for information regarding the health status and availability of their favorite black athletes while never relinquishing blasé feelings relating to the fragility of black male lives. The above contradictions are nothing new and will most certainly never disappear in a nation whose midwife was the labor of stolen Africans, and economic might bolstered by King Cotton. Despite our collective hesitation to admit it, that is who we are as a nation.

Unfortunately, I think that young Tyreke Smith is going to learn that in America, Race is a subject “where fools rush in, and Angels fear to tread.” These lessons will be learned regardless of the institution that he chooses to attend because when it comes to racial matters, Martha and the Vandellas said it best, you have “Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide.”

O-H

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

WHAT A SHAME: DONALD TRUMP BECOMES THE LATEST AMERICAN POLITICIAN TO CALL FOR ASSATA OLUGBALA SHAKUR’S HEAD

I have lived enough life to realize that people in possession of some semblance of politico-economic power often convey their true intentions within a palatable message individually crafted to rally an unthinking horde. Trust me when I say that this is standard fare for the politically powerful in this nation. In many ways, the above tactic allows them to generate support via the use of strong keywords that never fail to raise an always-existing blood lust among the unrighteous to a boil.

The moment that I heard that Donald Trump was planning to reverse Obama’s efforts to re-establish relations with Cuba, I knew that the name Assata Shakur, a sixty-nine-year-old grandmother, would be hurled by this nation’s leader. In many ways, Assata Shakur’s Cuban exile reminds one of a ‘Cold War’ period that has recently been ratcheted up by the repeated allegations of Russian interference in the most recent Presidential election.

Unbeknownst to the vast majority of African-Americans and the chagrin of American law enforcement agencies, Cuban President Fidel Castro granted former Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and Black Liberation Army leader Assata Shakur political asylum over thirty-years ago. To Castro’s credit, he has offered similar protection to many African-American political activists such as Robert F. Williams, Huey P. Newton, William Lee Brent and Eldridge Cleaver. Despite the derisive statements habitually propagated to the American public about the Cuban “dictator”, during his life, Castro offered refuge to African-Americans who were unjustly persecuted by the American judicial system. From American politicians and law enforcement officials perspective, the Cuban leader’s granting of a haven for African-American activists served as an inexcusable blemish on not only his but also his nation’s record.

Make no mistake about it; the pursuit of Assata Shakur undoubtedly displays the indomitable will of American law enforcement officials and agencies at Federal, State, and local levels to correct what they perceive to be an inexcusable wrong. Indicative of this thirst for vengeance, the United States Government placed Assata Shakur on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. Many have wondered why America has pursued Assata Shakur with such desperation.

The answer to the above question revolves around a shootout between members of the Black Liberation Army and the New Jersey State Highway Patrol on May 2, 1973. Although there are conflicting stories regarding what occurred during the altercation, there are several things that are factual and therefore unchanging. Facts state that a New Jersey State Trooper stopped a vehicle carrying three members of the Black Liberation Army; Assata Shakur was a passenger in this vehicle and wanted by law enforcement agencies for her determination to secure the liberation and salvation of her people, a dedication that led to her assuming a prominent role in the Black Power movement. Law enforcement agencies alleged that Assata was “the mother hen who kept them all shooting.” Evidence gathered from not only the scene but also the hospital that Shakur was taken to after being shot by a New Jersey State Trooper, definitively prove several things: (a) she had not fired a weapon that night, (b) she had been shot while sitting in the vehicle that she was traveling in, (c) she was shot with her hands up, and (d) she was partially paralyzed along one side of her body as a result of nerve damage caused by the trooper’s bullets. However, little of that mattered as the State of New Jersey decided that Assata Shakur must pay for the murder of a New Jersey state trooper.

Further aggravating American law enforcement agencies is not only the swell of support Assata Shakur received while she stood trial for the incident mentioned above but also her subsequent escape from a maximum security facility after a murder conviction. Making matters worse for law enforcement officials was the reality that they were never able to re-capture Assata during the five years between her harrowing prison escape and her unceremonious arrival in Cuba.

Assata’s escape is akin to consistent irritant to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies that have been rubbed raw. The greatest indicator that American law enforcement agencies, as well as this nation’s elected officials, are still riled by Assata Shakur has been their repeated attempts to recapture her. For example,

  • In 1998, the United States House of Representatives passed Concurrent Resolution 254 that requested that the Cuban Castro-led Government expeditiously return Assata Shakur to America. The measure passed with a 371 (yea) – 0 (Nay) vote.
  • In the same year, the United States Senate passed the same piece of legislation, Concurrent Resolution 254, by a unanimous vote.
  • In 2005, the United States Department of Justice entered the fray in a major way when they increased an already hefty award for Assata Shakurs capture to $1,000,000.00
  • In 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that was headed by the tyrannical J. Edgar Hoover and his Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) when the pursuit of Shakur began, not only placed Assata on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List, but also raised the bounty on her head to $2,000,000.00. The FBI now characterizes Shakur as a ‘domestic terrorist.’

Since she escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in Union Township, New Jersey, Assata Shakur has morphed into a never-ending irritant to powerful whites and evidence that white power is not immutable. There is no doubt that it is Assata’s defiance that has heightened white political leaders’ maniacal pursuit of her for the past thirty-plus years. Put simply; in the minds of white politicians and law enforcement authorities, Assata is a rebellious slave whose escape inspires others currently ensnared by the chains of mental slavery and economic exploitation.

It is through this prism that I view both Donald Trump’s call for Assata’s return and the commentary of current U.S. Senator (New Jersey-D) and Cuban-American Bob Menendez. According to Menendez, Trump’s “announcement is a step in the right direction to reverse an ill-advised and misguided Cuba policy that has failed to deliver on its promises, left the Cuban people worse off, and allowed American fugitives, like wanted terrorist and cop-killer Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakru), to escape justice.”

I most certainly would love to state that figures like Trump, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Menendez or those that occupied similar political positions before them are not serious about their decades long pursuit of Assata, however, I have witnessed the actions of unwise men for far too long to believe that their dedication to such a task does not match that of a “radical Islamist” that they are quick to denounce. Assata Shakur’s existence holds the potential to inspire droves of politically conscious black people who agree with her fight against the Capitalist principles and white world supremacy that this nation has come to represent more forcefully than any that ever existed before its creation. Predictably, the alluded to inspiration that Assata provides to black freedom fighters is just as strongly felt by opponents such as Trump, Christie, and Menendez. From such individuals perspective, Assata and her kind (Mutulu Shakur, Fred Hampton, Bunchy Carter, Geronimo Pratt, Karl Hampton, Huey P. Newton, Tupac Amaru Shakur, William Lee Brent, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Rush, George and Jonathan Jackson, and the list goes on and one) are analogous to the free blacks that white slave-holders wished to repatriate to Liberia and Sierra Leone as their non-bonded status gave their enslaved brothers and sisters radical ideas and desires for freedom. Hence it should be expected that a figure such as Donald Trump would publicly call for the head of our beloved sister Assata Olugbala Shakur.

At this moment, it is imperative that Black America’s response to these demonic actions not only be a vociferous “No! No! No!” but also be prepared to extend our anger further than mere rhetoric or casting a vote within the very system that oppresses us. We must be willing to follow Assata’s revolutionary example by every means imaginable.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

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Author, Creating Revolution as They Advance: A Historical Narrative of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

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ALL EYEZ ON ME: A MISSED OPPORTUNITY TO POLITICIZE YOUNG BLACK AMERICA

Although it may sound strange, I was saddened by the prospect of a biopic titled All Eyez on Me based on the life of Hip-Hop icon Tupac Amaru Shakur. Ironically, it is Tupac Amaru Shakur’s complexity and multi-dimensionality that birthed my reservations regarding this project. At the center of my concerns was a fear that a mere biopic from some random Hollywood studio would fall far short of capitalizing on this gripping story by failing to tell this story in a courageous manner that exposed the most recent generation of youth around the globe to the genius that I knew as Tupac Amaru Shakur.

Unfortunately for Tupac’s legacy, my fears and consternations regarding this project have come to fruition. Put simply; the makers of this biopic have dropped the ball at a crucial moment and thereby wasted a never to be retrieved opportunity to raise the consciousness of a nation regarding contestable issues such as Manhood, Race, and Culture.

After viewing All Eyez on Me it is clear that the filmmakers were doomed from the beginning as the traditional two-hour time constraints placed on a big screen biopic is too brief a period to convey the life of a figure whose life mirrors sixties radicalism and the ends-justify-the-means materialism that had come to represent Black America at this present moment.

If Bigger Thomas was Black America’s Depression Era Native Son, Tupac Amaru Shakur holds the same position for his generation. The life of Tupac Amaru Shakur reflects the hopes of Black Powerites, the failings of black love, the pain of being entrapped in a disassembled urban community, and the joy of occasional, fleeting triumphs.

It is the multi-dimensionality stated above that eludes so many writers and filmmakers who attempt to capture both the essence of Black America and the life of Tupac Amaru Shakur. Make no mistake about it, Tupac was an elusive character who at opportune moments willingly adorned himself with every caricature that supporters and opponents place on African-American males: revolutionary, thug, intellectual, hoodlum, genius, emcee, Panther, prophet, prognosticator. Tupac wore all of these hats for a gawking audience that somehow managed to not see the purity of Tupac’s soul despite his eagerness to reveal its contents to anyone willing to listen intently.

There is little doubt that Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X serves as the defining moment in the politicization of legions of African-Americans across several decades, All Eyez on Me held the same potential. Unfortunately, this biopic is a convoluted mess of missed opportunities. Instead of digging their heels in and sacrificing elements of entertainments by accentuating significant political issues and matters that Tupac faced throughout his entire life, filmmakers too frequently abandoned this noble path in favor of stereotypical clichés of “ghetto” behavior that ultimately degraded both black men and women.

When considered in its entirety, All Eyez on Me is at best a superficial portrait of Black America’s most prominent post-Black Power Era figure; yes, I do believe that Tupac’s influence extends well beyond that of former President Barack Hussein Obama. What is most disturbing about this biopic’s failings is that Tupac Amaru Shakur’s story holds so much potential to explain the rocky road that Black America has traveled during the past four decades. In every way, the glaring failings and missed moments that mar this biopic are inexcusable. Such issues are made more significant when we realize that this grand opportunity to offer a new generation the biting social and political commentary that undergirded Tupac Amaru Shakur’s entire existence is a missed opportunity that will never be reclaimed as we will never see another Tupac as long as we live.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.

Jason Whitlock Proves Once Again that it is Possible to be Black and Totally Ignorant of American Racial Dynamics

For some unexplainable reason, there is an expectation that African-Americans are born with a keen insight regarding the “color line” that W.E.B. Du Bois termed the problem of the twentieth-century. Trust me when I say that many a black schoolchild can share stories regarding a moment when the issue of Race reared its head and caused all of their white classmates to slowly turn toward their direction as if they were equipped to deconstruct America’s greatest social cancer. I am sorry to disappoint America; however, the vast majority of African-Americans know very little, if anything, about Race beyond very limited personal experience. Trust me when I say that when it comes to racial matters, caution is the best advice that I can offer to anyone stepping foot into this minefield.

The latest example of a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread is sportswriter Jason Whitlock; in fact, this is not Whitlock’s first foray into the turbulent waters of American racial matters. And to his credit, Whitlock is very consistent as he never fails to make an absolute fool of himself while analyzing racial issues.

Whitlock’s latest unwise foray into this highly volatile arena occurred moments after the public was made aware that Cleveland Cavalier Lebron James’ L.A. home had been vandalized by someone spray painting “the N-Word” on the gate. James addressed this cowardly attack with his usual dignity and poise. Whitlock pounced on this issue as if he and his ravenous appetite were unleashed at Fogo de Chǎo.

In short order, Whitlock verified my previous assertion that blackness does not endow an individual with an innate ability to understand American racial dynamics. According to Whitlock,

“Racism is an issue in America, but it’s primarily an issue for the poor. It’s not LeBron James’ issue. He has removed himself from the damages and the ravages of real racism. He may have an occasional disrespectful interaction with someone, a disrespectful inconvenience.”

I am always surprised when individuals such as Whitlock who have been gifted with a national platform do not understand basic principles surrounding Race in America such as the difference between prejudice, discrimination, and institutionalized racism. Like so many other nationally renowned commentators, Whitlock has fallen into the usual trap of believing that his status as a black man is a substitute for the years of focused study that one must devote to the issue of Race to truly garner any significant insight. Most troubling of all are that the seriously flawed perspectives that figures such as Jason Whitlock haphazardly hurl into flexible public spaces occupied by an unknowing public carry significant weight.

It appears that while making his commentary that Whitlock channeled the spirit of Pino, a white character in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. Consider the following dialogue between Mookie, a black character, and Pino, an individual who believes that fame shields one from racial bigotry.


Mookie: Pino, who’s your favorite basketball player?
Pino: Magic Johnson.
Mookie: And who’s your favorite movie star?
Pino: Eddie Murphy. 

Mookie: Pino, all you ever talk about is nigger this and nigger that, and all your favorite people are so-called niggers.
Pino: It’s different. Magic, Eddie, Prince… are not niggers. I mean, they’re not black, I mean – Let me explain myself. They’re – They’re not really black. I mean, they’re black, but they’re not really black. They’re more than black. It’s different.
Mookie: It’s different?
Pino: Yeah. To me, it’s different. 

Despite Whitlock’s well-documented inability to offer anything of substantial to any discussion of racial matters, I am unsurprised by his failure to realize that neither fame nor money shields black athletes and entertainers from racial bigotry. Now there is no denying that the financial resources possessed by individuals such as Lebron James provide creature comforts and options that the vast majority of African-Americans will never know; however, the American historical record definitively proves that such resources fail to move this segment of Black America out of institutionalized racism’s large shadow. Rest assured that such evil is much more disruptive than the relatively mundane racial conflict the average African-American will ever experience.

Quite possibly the most dangerous effect of Whitlock’s uninformed commentary is that his penchant for not knowing is incredibly infectious among an American populace that has never acknowledged its storied past of lynching, rapes, Jim Crow, housing segregation, and discrimination in the employment sector. Although I am certain that Whitlock will seek to shield himself from criticism by stupidly alleging that there is room for multiple voices within the black community regarding substantive issues, his voice is not merely divergent from mine, it is one that works against both the fortunes of Black America and the illumination of every American citizen in regards to an increased understanding of racial matters. I most certainly agree that there is room for a plethora of voices that will sometimes conflict with one another; however, such a realization fails to provide a voice such as Whitlock’s that is so uninformed regarding racial matters that it serves no purpose other than to delay a real discussion on American racial matters. Put simply; Whitlock’s penchant for using his platform to spew uninformed opinions regarding American race relations muddies a toxic river. Whitlock should know better. However, I long ago came to understand that “stupid is as stupid does.” And experience has taught me that there are some levels of stupidity that cannot be reversed.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

THE PURSUIT TO SILENCE AMERICA’S RACIAL PAST: WHY IT IS IMPORTANT THAT CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS REMAIN

During my opening lecture for my History survey courses, I purposefully inform my students that History is not dead; it is a living and breathing entity that causes daily disagreements. There is no greater evidence validity to this statement than the current conflict regarding the removal of statutes that honor a rebellious Confederacy throughout the South.

While white nationalists and sympathizers of a defeated Confederacy illogically hold onto a legacy of defeated Confederate leaders like Robert E. Lee, black nationalists scream indecipherable counter-messages aimed at achieving an impossible task of altering their opponents perspective regarding a political legacy forged within the bosom of racial hatred. Rest assured that this latest frontier of racially based historical animus will not end anytime soon as there are over 700 statues dedicated to different aspects of the Confederacy found on public lands throughout this nation.

As usual, my training as a historian informs my belief that these Confederate statues that inspire a re-emerging white supremacist cadre should remain in place as they are reminders of this nation’s sordid past. Instead of seeking to remove such reminders, it is essential that they are used to educate this nation regarding our despicable history; failure to do such makes each of us willing participants in a conspiracy that ensures that America will be false to its past, present, and future. No matter how ugly the past may be, it is crucial that we examine it. It is this past that informs our understanding of the path forward.

Indeed, my perspective regarding this matter will be met with vociferous opposition from figures that I am usually aligned with. However, I will never mute my voice to appease anyone. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu disagrees with my contention that the statues must remain in their current place. According to Landrieu, “These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for.” Although I follow Landrieu’s impassioned plea and consider it partially correct, I also realize that the only effective counter to a history and monuments that “…celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy (and) the terror that it actually stood for” is educational offerings that serve to bolster this nation’s understanding of its all too often grotesque past.

Although contemporary supporters of the Confederacy disagree with my perspective that the path to obliterating the historical illiteracy that serves as support beams for their racial bias is education, the fact remains that we should not recoil from these statues and monuments that serve as crucial pieces of the American story.

I refuse to believe that those supporting the removal of Confederate leaders from public view are so simple-minded that they think that the favorite saying “out of sight, out of mind” holds any significance in this matter. In fact, when one considers the ignorance that those still clamoring for “the South to rise again”, the removal of these alluded to iconic figures will lead to a knee-jerk reaction of doubling-down on their racial bias while solidifying their unknowing state by refusing to leave echo-chambers that they share with like-minded individuals possessing identical agendas.

In a recent interview, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser related that the removal of the iconic statues translated into “a sad day for Louisiana history. People come to Louisiana for our culture and our history. Some of it is unpleasant, but it is history. You’re not going to right a wrong by taking down a monument.”

Considering that so much of what occurs in this nation is a result of always shifting political winds, it appears at this moment that in short-order Confederate statues will recede from our view. African-American activists will celebrate this “victory” and return to a community that is still economically marginalized and politically confused with even less understanding of why and how they were born into what can only be characterized as a second class citizenship status. Unfortunately for future generations of Americans, this movement to sanitize America’s past severely curtails any opportunity for either understanding contemporary race relations or moving toward a solution. If this trend continues, future generations of America will be handicapped by these alterations of history as they seek to solve contemporary problems due to the absence of gaping portions of information.

I hold out hope that those seeking to remove these reminders of a racist past will abandon this pursuit and understand that these monuments are a significant portion of our collective history. After all, what would America be without that past? It made her what she is today.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.