18 May 2014

Two Stories That Give The Finger To Post Racial America

Over the course of the last 48 hours, I've been on a bit of an emotional roller coaster: can't really pinpoint what it is that's causing me stress and strain: all things considered things are going well in life. I have a loving wife that probably cares more about me than I do myself. I have a job that I know I'm doing well as, as well as doing good at. I'm in relatively decent health, and I think most people in my boat would be looking for ground to kiss. 

But that's just not how I roll. 

The world we live in has a lot of things going on that, when I read about these things, it blows the mind, kills the spirit, and frankly, makes me hate people more than I currently do, which is a arduous task. But on Friday, as I'm surfing the web, i come to an article titled:

Town's Racial Tensions Laid Bare After White Baseball Player Leaves Game To Join Fight Against Black Man. 

I can't make this stuff up. Summary of the story: Baseball Player in Spiro, OK, a Thriving Metropolis along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, was playing in a game when he realized his family was in the process of beating the shit out of a black man, who had been dating the stepsister of the player for four years. Apparently, they believed the warrant for his arrest (for an outstanding speeding ticket) was the result of some argument. After the fight was over, the player was allowed to continue playing the game. There are a variety of things that are mind-numbing in this situation: 

1) There was one arrest: The Black man. Devon Perry, who was attacked by the baseball player and by his family, was arrested at the end of the confrontation- he was accused of punching and kicking wildly (not an uncommon response when you're getting jumped). Now if you arrest him and the entire family, i get it. But for him to be the only person arrested? As the NFL Prime Time crew might say: Come on, man!! At least make it look like it might not be racially motivated, 

2) The baseball player was given a degree of latitude unheard of in sports. Now in general, it is frowned upon when players leave the field of play and get into physical altercations with members of the audience. The Indiana Pacers in general and Ron Artest specifically learned this lesson the hard way.  

The fact that a coach let a player leave the field, attack a black man and return to the field of play speaks volumes about a) the coaches character, or what I'd like to call, none, b) the racial tension in the town must be off the charts for this to not be an issue for anyone playing (for example, if I'm in the game, I'm probably pretty pissed off about having to wait for you to fight some dude so I can play). 

3) The school board and the administration of the school must also be of weak will to not put up more of a fight. This is one of those things that, even if you thought "that nigger had it coming" as an administrator, would probably not want the negative press behind racial tensions not only swept under the rug by their school, but probably made worse by their inaction. The Black students at the school protested, with many of them sitting out of school as a protest to the inaction perpetuated by Spiro High School by not only failing to punish the student, but by allowing him to continue playing in the playoffs. 

This story had me in a bit of a tail spin. Don't get it twisted, I don't harbor any thoughts or beliefs we live in a post-racial world. For example: I think I'm really good at my job, but I feel like white assistants of "significant" programs are more highly evaluated than I am- when if you just looked at my record vs. theirs in only the time they've been "ballers" I still crush them- and this pretends that all the time when they were in short pants that I wasn't producing team after team after team. I recognize that Mark Jackson and Lionel Hollins can't get NBA jobs after producing at the NBA level and people were pushing each other out the way to see who could get Steve Kerr fastest, who has ZERO experience as a coach and, other than a connection to Phil Jackson, no reason to believe he'd be better than an experienced coach. I get it. It kills my spirit, but I get it....

...I know it's not post racial- I know racism is everywhere- and that the way society projects itself on its most marginalized citizens has deleterious effects on them...that it might lead to some long term trauma. Turns out that it does: that 30% of all kids that live in the inner city have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD- and that it has devastating effects on kids ability to learn. One of the things about PTSD is, usually, the stressor that causes the PTSD is a temporary one: if you're in Afghanistan and you see your unit blitz attacked, you won't have to worry about that when you're back stateside. If the stressor was the devastation after a major hurricane, that will eventually go away. The problem with PTSD for these kids is that the stressor is their home environment, which means as long as their home is their home, the stressors never leave. This makes it a unique form of PTSD, one more dangerous than your father's PTSD. And since this PTSD is more insidious than the type soldiers coming back from war face, the kind that rattles soldiers to their core and is a major cause for a lot of the homelessness among returning veterans, you'd think you'd give it the kind of name that would generate the necessary mobilization to make things happen. And, with all the might of the Harvard scientists that did the research could muster, they come up with: 

Hood Disease 

Now I guess I could just be happy they're making an attempt to point out a problem. And maybe I would be, if I believed, at all, that their goal was to resolve the problem. It's obvious this has not been a concern. Why do I think that? Let's first start with the name. Hood Disease. This indicates that only people in the inner-city will get it. This creates a means for all those for whom it would be near impossible to get to brush it off and not concern themselves with it- and as we all know the only way to get a problem resolved is to get the average person behind it. And the average person knows that if they're not from the hood, don't live or know people from "the hood" then they never have to worry about it. I think it would fall in the category of Sickle Cell Anemia- a blood disorder that causes the body to create sickle shaped red blood cells which reproduce at different rates, cause clotting and generally lower life expectancy by 15+ years. If you've never heard of it, it's probably because you're not black- as it's a disease that, in America, effects Blacks almost exclusively. I'm not saying that whites say "fuck niggers and their sickle cells"- I think it's more like it's not an active action, but much more like passive inaction- i'm not NOT looking for a cure to Sickle Cell, but this also means they're not LOOKING for it, either. And really, most problems don't get resolved if you're not trying. 

I guess the most frustrating thing to me is that this would have been incredibly easy to make a neutral interpretation of. PTSD is a clinical term, one you might find in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). And we can all recognize that the term "Hood" is not a neutral term- it's not the abbreviation of neighborhood that it used to be. It draws a very specific connotation, one that is by definition not neutral. It seems we should make an effort to not conflate our neutral medical terms and our racially charged identification terms. The negativity of those terms will, at best, neutralize attempts to mobilize action- at worst, it gives people that might have helped (because they understand how messed up PTSD is- and the idea of not being able to remove the stressor might hit home in the same way the gay member of their family allowed them to change their views on gay marriage) a reason to not help (they're in the hood- if they want help they need to follow Horatio Alger and pull themselves up by their bootstraps- something they'd be enraged if you told a Vietnam Vet to do that). Our connection points are the avenues where we can see difference and hold it up to the light and see that those points are not that different than ours. And it's with those actions that we can move beyond where we are. So one day, calling something Hood Disease would piss off someone other than me. 

Or that one day everyone in a town like Spiro might think, when they hear a baseball player leaves the field to go beat up a black man, does so and re-joins the game, they might think what i did:

That's fucked up.

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