Category Archives: Sports

Twenty-Six Years After Magic Johnson’s Announcement that he was HIV+, Black Men Remain at the Forefront of this Unfortunate Club

It was one of those “I remember where I was at when _______” moments that rocks you to the core. On this particular momentous occasion I was in my dorm room on November 7, 1991, when my best friend came in and announced, “Man, Magic Johnson just announced that magiche has Aids.” Although we had all heard of the disease, I had already had a close family member die from the disease after contracting it from intravenous drug use. However, in the early 90s, there was an unspoken belief in the African-American community that the disease was one that only gay men contracted through sex.

In the early-nineties, Aids was little more than an urban legend to many of my contemporaries. Not even Magic Johnson’s announcement that he was ending his professional basketball career as a result of contracting something called HIV changed that fact. Apparently little has changed during the twenty-six black aids 2years since Magic Johnson’s announcement. Magic Johnson was so affable and engaging that many of us felt that we actually knew him. One would logically expect this unprecedented moment to have changed Black America in unconscionable ways, unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

The Center for Disease Control relates that African-Americans are currently the group, above all others I must emphasize, most affected by HIV. As of 2010, African-Americans were acquiring HIV gayat a rate eight-times greater than the white population based on population size. “Gay and bisexual men account for most new infections among African-Americans; young gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 are the most affected of this group.” (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)

According to the Center for Disease Control the following facts are true:

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years orblack love older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/JL King100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times   that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men**brepresented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.
  • In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. This number represents a mimidecrease of 21% since 2008. Most new   HIV infections among African American women (87%; 5,300) are attributed to heterosexual contact.c The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African    American women (38.1/100,000 population) was 20 times that of white women and almost 5 times that of Hispanic/Latino women.

Source (http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/racialEthnic/aa/facts/index.html)

Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie. The greater question facing the African-American population, I use the word population and not community intentionally, because a community bonds together to aid one another and solve common problems, I am personally unsure if we are a community, is a simple one of ‘how long will you act as if this issue, and a host of others that pivot upon matters of personal responsibility, should not be at the forefront of issues on our collective agenda. Maybe it is time that we lay the cross of victimization down in regards to repeated reactionary responses to racism and begin with a stern movement toward socially responsible individualism.

On this date, the twenty-third anniversary of Magic Johnson’s announcement that he had contracted HIV, I think that it may be imperative that we each take a moment to recognize those that have fallen victim to this horrendous disease, but also take nickiproactive steps on an individual and collective basis to address the matter. As a college professor, I am constantly bombarded with the issues of unprotected sex among collegians, I hear male students, hetero- and homosexual, bragging about their sexual conquests; rarely do I hear any mention of safe sex or any type of protection being used. I am almost certain that similar conversations occur among my female students. Regardless of if we want to admit it or not, we are each inextricably linked with one another and my Lord, what a tangled weave have we created?

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

#ManhoodRaceCulture

WHY FENWAY PARK, THE HOME OF THE BOSTON RED SOX WAS THE PERFECT VENUE TO TALK ABOUT ONE OF THIS NATION’S FAVORED PASTIMES

Let me be forthright in my sentiments regarding not only the Boston Red Sox but also everything associated with that organization, “I hate everything about them.”

In fact, the opportunity to intensify my hatred for Red Sox Nation is one of the most significant benefits of being a New York Yankees fan. If you are wondering where my hatred of Red Sox nation emanates from, consider the following.

  • They were the last team in baseball to desegregate.
  • Their long-time owner Thomas Yawkey was an ardent racist.
  • The street bearing Yawkey’s name remains outside of Fenway Park.
  • The city of Boston was the last major U.S. city to desegregate its schools.
  • Many residents of Boston consider racial bias, racial hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and institutional racism its grandest traditions.
  • Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles was repeatedly called the “N-Word” while playing in Fenway Park this year.
  • Many MLB superstars have demanded a no-trade clause to the Red Sox as they wish to avoid such virulent racism from its fanbase and city residents.

It is this realization that makes me applaud the protestors who were able to infiltrate last night’s Red Sox game, a game that the Red Sox lost to the Oakland Athletics (7 – 3) I gleefully add, and unfurled a banner over the vaunted “Green Monster” in Left Field that offered an unmistakable truth in the city that the American Revolution began. The banner read “Racism is as American as Baseball.” From my perspective, there was no grander place for this message to be displayed than Fenway Park.

Although the banner offered a relatively simple message, it provided a snap shot of what most reasonable minded Americans recognize as a historically supportable truth. By the time the Founding Father’s who refused to “be the slaves of Britain” declared their Independence from the Crown, it was evident that this nation had nurtured a rapidly developing system of racial discrimination that benefited them in unconscionable ways. Make no mistake about it, even the British realized that the exponentially increasing strength of this rag-tag bunch of farmers who dared to stand toe-to-toe with a professional army was due to force and power flowing from chattel slavery; there is no better explanation for why the initial step that the British took toward quelling the pending revolution was the outlawing of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

So the assertion that “Racism is as American as Baseball” is historically verifiable from many angles. In fact, the sport that is commonly termed America’s favorite pastime was a bastion of institutional racism in and of itself as it refused admittance to Negro League players. Often missed in celebrations of Jackie Robinson’s token integration of “Major League Baseball” is the fact that to this moment there are no black owners of an MLB team; before you holler that is untrue, let me tell you that I am well aware of famed Yankee Derek Jeter’s inclusion in the group that purchased the Miami Marlins. Reasonable minded people view the integration of the Major League’s without the addition of a single black owner from the Negro League ranks to be a hostile takeover and raiding of black ballclubs for talent, not any form of power sharing that real integration would lead to as with the merging of the NBA and ABA.

Hence, I think that it is was incredibly appropriate for Boston’s Fenway Park to be the location that the message of “Racism is as American as Baseball” to be shared for the world to see. There is truth in the statement, after all.

Play Ball!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2017

What Black America Must Learn from the Unemployment of Colin Kaepernick and Suspension of Ezekiel Elliott

Public Disclaimer: I am a proud alum of THE Ohio State University and a lifetime fan of the Dallas Cowboys. I promise to let neither of those things significantly affect my reflections on what the 6-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott means.

In the aftershocks surrounding Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-game suspension for violating the National Football League’s (NFL) ‘personal conduct’ policy, I have heard many of my African-American peers lament that the punishment dispensed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as grossly unfair. A few have taken the step of insinuating that the fact that Elliott’s accuser is a white female is a deciding factor.

Although I consider Goodell’s punishment to be harsh when compared to prior league decisions regarding similar matters, I do not think that the Commissioner’s actions are attributable to any inherent personal prejudice or institutional racism in the NFL. However, I do believe that racial matters impacted the decision indirectly.

If one views the recent ruling regarding Elliott and the continuing unemployment of Colin Kaepernick from an unemotional position they would see that the decisions of Commissioner Goodell and team owners are motivated by rising concerns regarding league popularity; a polite way of referring to league finances. Put simply; the stewards of the NFL brand are caught in a peculiar predicament that forces them to do business in a manner that lessens the chances that those whites purchasing the bulk of game tickets remain loyal to the NFL brand.

When viewed in this light, it is apparent that Kaepernick’s difficulty in securing employment is an occurrence of collusion by NFL owners unwilling to offend patriotic whites who will never forgive the embattled figure for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Elliott has likewise been sacrificed to appease women’s rights groups, many of which are filled with black women eager to follow their white ‘sisters’ lead in attacking the Dallas Cowboys running back regarding the highly questionable allegations. Make no mistake about it; the NFL realizes that if such groups disapprove of their handling of the Elliott case, their reaction will be furious and immediate.

In many ways, the most significant lesson that African-Americans can take from both matters is that regardless of the skills black workers possess, they are never so essential to operations that they can not be jettisoned the moment they affect bottom line financial realities. Although difficult for black workers to accept, when it comes to industry, they are never the machine performing the work, they are the grease that will be used until it is of no more use and then discarded.

We must never forget that for American Capitalists, it is ALWAYS about the money. And there is not a darn thing that Black Americans can do to alter that reality in this or any future life.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

A HAIR CUT WOULD SOLVE ALL YOUR PROBLEMS: WHY MICHAEL VICK’S ADVICE TO COLIN KAEPERNICK REVEALS HIS STATUS AS A BROKEN MAN

I remember it like it was yesterday when Dr. Julianne Malveaux, the former President of Bennett College dropped this nugget of wisdom regarding institutional racism and the forgiveness it affords white males. In her famed style, the remarkable economist remarked that ‘a skinhead ain’t nothing but a white boy who needs to grow some hair. And when he does, he can walk into any company and be assured of securing some semblance of employment, regardless of his qualifications for the position.’

The alluded to wisdom that Malveaux shared with a room full of African-American collegians was daunting, yet true. Every American should realize that white privilege is enjoyed by whites regardless of their effort to secure it or desire to receive it. Hence, it is puzzling, if not bewildering to hear former NFL Quarterback Michael Vick, a black man who once was the personification of a thug in the eyes of white America, offers the following advice to Colin Kaepernick on FS1’s show “Speak for Yourself.”

“First thing we’ve got to get Colin to do is cut his hair. Listen, I’m not up here to try to be politically correct…I don’t think he should represent himself in that way in terms of just the hairstyle. Just go clean-cut. You know, why not? You’re already dealing with a lot of controversy surrounding this issue. The most important thing that he needs to do is just try to be presentable.”

Vick’s uninformed diatribe continues below,

“(I) didn’t listen until the end, until I was going through the turmoil and the hardships…Listen, I love the guy to death. But I want him to also succeed on and off the field…It’s not about selling out.”

When one considers Vick’s words, it is evident that life’s experiences have taught him the primary lesson that educator Jane Elliott reveals as the only path for black people to get ahead in America, “Conform!!!! Act white!!!! That’s how you get ahead in America!!!!”

As an educator privileged to watch thousands of young black males transform during their undergraduate years, I have always found it humorous when a figure that white America and a particular segment of ‘well to do’ black America would consider a ‘thug’ transforms into “the company man.” The company man is ironically a desperate attempt by the disenfranchised to replicate the persona and worldview of those that have historically taken glee in vilifying him. The alluded to figure is impeccably groomed, never found in anything less than designer clothing, and arrives at informal social gatherings dressed business casual. Shockingly, the alluded to transformation often extends far beyond physical appearance as it affects their word choice and diction; I swear that a few of my students picked up a strange accent that vacillates between British and French to complete the transformation. This persona that Harlem Renaissance Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar termed “the Mask” is always an uncomfortable fit for those that consider it an indispensable accessory.

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

 

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

 

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

(Paul Laurence Dunbar)

There is no doubt that those who wear Dunbar’s “mask” do so with the realization that it is the most certain means of having their material needs satisfied. However, if given enough time, these same individuals will realize that they have made a lopsided deal with the Devil that ultimately leaves them as one of the “tortured souls” that Dunbar writes about in his poem.

In many ways, Michael Vick’s advice to Kaepernick is revealing as it displays what he has learned from his very public troubles. Apparently, Vick believes that one must curry favor with white power-brokers ‘by any means necessary.’

I guess that silly is as silly does, and Michael Vick’s silly advice to Kaepernick has actually achieved one thing for certain; that being, it has ensured that he is firmly entrenched as the starting Quarterback on an All-Star team of unwise and stupid athletes who should have been benched long ago when it comes to addressing racial matters, a duty they are incapable of doing well.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017

What People Will Do For Money: The Sad Saga of Ray Lewis’ Commentary on Colin Kaepernick

If you possess any level of wisdom, I am certain that you agree that paying close attention to the actions and statements of others for an extended period of time provides you with significant insight regarding their character. This very simple process also holds the potential to highlight an individual’s understanding, or the lack thereof, of history. Ultimately, this process concludes with the observer deciding if a person is a man of substance or a fraudulent charlatan willing to change their viewpoints at opportune moments for financial reward or material accruements. Trust me when I say that the latter persona is the most prevalent in Capitalist America.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker and self-styled political commentator Ray Lewis has once again proven himself to be a fraudulent charlatan willing to alter his viewpoints according to the direction that political winds are blowing the strongest. It does not take a genius to realize that Lewis is constantly positioning himself for a future economic windfall.

Consider for a moment that Ray Lewis has miraculously re-created himself as a person of some substance, a far-cry from the thug persona he relished during his time as the ultimate enforcer for the Miami Hurricanes and Baltimore Ravens; let us not forget that Lewis’ hooliganism was a fixture in his social interactions as well. If one seeks verification for Lewis’ penchant for melding together his on-field activities with his off-field conduct, they need to look no further than his guilty plea for obstruction of justice during the investigation of the murder of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. The plea bargain that Lewis agreed to was given in exchange for his testimony against his compatriots Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, for their role in the murder of Baker and Lollar after a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta, Georgia on January 31, 2000. Unbelievably, Ray Lewis has been able to not only escape a career-ending murder charge, but also reshaped his persona as public figure that has been provided access to the likes of Donald J. Trump and a who’s who of Black America. If nothing else, Ray Lewis’ publicist deserves a significant pay raise and accolades for re-shaping his public image.

A crucial portion of Lewis’ persona has been his ascension as a motivational speaker who provides adherents with words of wisdom and inspiration. Consider the following advice from Lewis, “We get one opportunity in life, one chance at life to do whatever you’re going to do, and lay your foundation and make whatever mark you’re going to make. Whatever legacy you’re going to leave; leave your legacy!” One would be hard-pressed to not consider Lewis’ sentiment as Poignant! Relevant! Inspirational! Unfortunately, if one has paid close attention to Lewis, particularly his recent comments regarding Colin Kaepernick it becomes clear that at best he is woefully inconsistent in regards to honoring his words and thoughts.

Consider for a moment how Lewis’ vitriolic diatribe aimed at Kaepernick, a figure whose public protest regarding the continuation of racial bias in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” betrays the above quote about leaving a lasting legacy. Within a context that has seen NFL owners refuse to employ the more than capable quarterback, Lewis attacks Kaepernick’s political activism by remarking “Kaepernick has to make up his mind. Do you want to play football or do you want to be an activist.” Make no mistake about it, this was a conscious move by Lewis that displays his extreme desire to extend his access to the NFL trough owned by the same white powerbrokers who have colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the NFL. Additionally, Lewis’ unfortunate commentary conveys either his ignorance regarding the extended tradition of politicized athletes such as Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell or his determination to never ‘bite the white hands’ that feed him.

Although I would love to think that Lewis’ commentary was solely directed at Kaepernick, however, I am unable to do so as its meaning covers the entire pantheon of politicized black athletes. Lewis’ message reduces to an antiquated, yet familiar message that one would expect to hear from racist whites during the Jim Crow era, not a black man in the new millennium. In many ways, Lewis’ tired routine casts him as the “House Negro” that Malcolm X stated loved and identified with his master so much that when the master became ill, the House Negro responded, “What’s wrong boss? We sick.” What a terrible person, Ray Lewis has become, just absolutely terrible.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017