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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Race: The past is never dead, it is not even past

In this season when a black man is running for reelection to an office I would have sworn he would never be elected to in the first place and the inevitable talk of race and racism has erupted in full force, encouraged by things like bumper stickers that exhort white citizens not to “re-nig in 20012” or to put the “White back in the White House” , I just watched a special on television about Ole Miss and its football team in 1962, the same year James Meredith was admitted to the university amid riots and protests and with armed federal marshals defending him.

Many young folks of all races think the images of riots, police brutality, dogs been turned loose on children, people being beaten, hit with water hoses, etc. are images of a bygone era, one that was awful, but is over. Having lived in the South now for about 10 years I can tell you there are still remnants of that era although the weapons that are used to deny opportunities are much more subtle and much more insidious and much tougher to fight. For example, the mascot of Ole Miss is the Rebel, named after men from the college who volunteered to go fight for the Confederacy, many of whom were killed or wounded in battle. The mascot honors them. I find it hard to believe that I am the only person who would find it ironic that black students and players would not have a problem honoring someone who was fighting to keep their ancestors as chattel property. But, I will write another blog about the perceptions of some Southern blacks that I find puzzling.

I went to a Southern Research 1 institution in the spring of 2003 with great expectations of what could be accomplished there in the area of race. They claimed to want more black faculty, a better climate for racial and ethnic minorities and lots of other things. That did not prove to be true. What they wanted was a cover for the maintenance of the status quo. Ergo, I found out quickly I was not going to ever fit in, not really. Oh, I had my fans, quite a few I can immodestly say, but I was not willing to be nice about what I saw as social injustice. And they were not willing to change.

The past ( and that is a paraphrase of Faulkner–one must give the citation or be accused of plagiarism) is not the past. The past influences the way black people experience life every day. We no longer sit in the back of the bus, but we have to endure things like white people trying to tell us what is racist and what is not, attempts to convince us that racism is dead–even though we know it most certainly is not, and efforts to encourage “color blindness”, in other words let’s pretend everyone is white.

A poster on Facebook recently reminded me of the motto of the US E Pluribus Unum–from many, one. I am not sure if he is uninformed or naive or just stupid. America has never been a melting pot, and the “one” has almost always been white, male, rich  and straight. Let me say right now that I have absolutely nothing against white, male, rich, straight folks. I have quite a few friends who fit into that category, some of them quite beloved. But, to pretend that America has ever been a place of equality for all is a fool’s tale told by a liar.

Ole Miss today still has Confederate flags around, still has Confederate statues of “heroes”, as does my campus for that matter and no doubt still has some lingering racial problems. The author of the piece I watched, basically an apologist for his beloved state, admitted that last year the Chancellor had to intercede because some of the students were chanting ” The South Shall Rise Again!” before a football game. I am sure you know that Ole Miss football, like all division 1 football has quite a contingent of black players. Who do you suppose the crowd of students was directing their comments to?

I recently went on a job interview for a VC ( Vice Chancellor) postion at another Southern University–why? Because I am crazy I think, or an eternal optimist. I will not get the job, I know that because I refuse to pretend to be someone I am not. The same scenario will play out that has happened to me several ( more than 3) times before. The committee will select me, the people who came to my open forum will adore me ( one woman , a black professor approached me after my public talk, grasped my hand, looked me in the eye and earnestly said “God sent you here.” ) and the Chancellor will over rule them all.

I am not obsequious enough or grateful enough or humble enough for the Chancellors and Presidents of the South. I do not know my place. I know my stuff, I could work quite a bit of change, given the authority, but there lies the rub. They do not want change. The past is not dead, it is alive and well on campuses all over our favored land, and not all of them are in the South I must hasten to add. Black faculty numbers continue to be miserable at the vast majority of campuses, and even the campuses that have a large population of black undergrads rarely translate that to their graduate and post doctoral ranks. The past is not dead.

Racism will never be gone from America and certainly will not be gone from education until the majority, read white, decide not to tolerate it period. Like the other sins of sexism and homophobia and classism, racism exists because the majority culture tolerates it, often acting like racism is just a social gaffe like farting or burping loudly, something you personally might find distasteful, but that is best handled by turning your head and forgetting pretending you didn’t see or hear it.

The football players from Ole Miss were nostalgic about their time in 1962, and, of course, expressed their horror at the actions of the white students at the time, even though one of the players admitted to throwing a Molotov cocktail at one of the soldiers guarding the building Meredith was in. The entire tone of the program “Ghosts of Ole Miss” on ESPN was a paean to how the football team had pulled together to go undefeated that year. The narrator said, ” Having seen the worst of Ole Miss ( the riots) it was time to show them the best.” I snorted with laughter, if he thought that all white team was the best athletic talent in Mississippi then or now he is sadly mistaken.

And there lies the problem, looking back at your past you want it to be pretty, pleasant, made up of good memories, so we engage in euphoric recall. Not just whites, blacks do it too. Recently on Facebook some of my era friends were posting about how great their junior high and high school years were in Xenia. I had to rain on their parade. We were integrated in junior high and only two of us–none of the ones talking about their lovely time, were allowed to take honors classes. Not only that we were not represented in any way in the student government and most of the clubs I belonged to might have had one or two at the most other blacks. I was on the very large scholarship team with only 3 other black students and we struggled to get a black cheerleader chosen. In addition the basketball coach at the beginning of our school years, Kaylor, refused to start more than three black players no matter how goo they were.

I enjoyed high school and people, teachers and students, treated me well, but most of my black classmates from East Jr. Hi, disappeared academically and socially at the white school. Who knows how their futures might have been different if they had not had the opportunities denied them to achieve more academically? It was not their intellect that was at fault, it was the view, sadly still present in much of education, that black people are not as smart as white people.

Someone , not a friend, but a friend of a friend, shared a right wing article with me with the position that if Barack Obama does not win re-election it will not be because he is black. I do wonder how many times we have to hear a lie to make it the truth? Being anti-Obama does not make you a racist, but that does not mean that a significant number of those who are against Obama far more than they are for Romney are not racists.

America has never dealt with race effectively or honestly. In Canada they have Anti-Racist Education. We have Diversity Training which can range from soul-food carry-ins to Community Seders. Diversity means nothing, we are a diverse people we don’t need lessons in diversity, we need lessons in how to treat each other and even more importantly in learning about each other’s realities, culture and history. . What we need to call it is what it should be about Anti-Racist, Anti-Homophobia, Anti-Misogynistic, Anti-reinventing history to make you and your ancestors look good Education.

The past is not dead, it is not even past. That quote is never truer than when applied to race in this country.

 

Myths exploded: The Gospel according to St. Cookie

Hello valued and wonderful readers! In this season of duplicity and dishonesty i simply have to set the record straight on a few things.

!) Even though this is America, the land of opportunity, the best one does not always win. I have had the misfortune of having several incompetent bosses in my career–who hasn’t? As a matter of fact they outnumber the competent ones, and that is not just hubris talking. My bosses have been, for the most part, people who are not intellectuals, they are plodders and they were not imaginative, visionary or clever. They have usually been good company people, however, so I guess quality is in the eye of the beholder. Having been born with a very weak respect for authority gene and a nonexistent suck-up  gene, I suppose I am doomed to only a certain level of success. If people are paying you obscene amounts of money I think you should be able to demonstrate some value beyond the ability to know your place and keep it. Any job that requires you to subvert who you really are in order to succeed is flawed and the people who hold them are doubly flawed. And, they do not advance the institution of which they are a part, they hold it back, but they do not cause trouble. Trouble is required for progress. If you want to be safe you are going nowhere folks.

2) Any woman who votes for the GOP has some serious issues. From redefining rape to binders of women to refusing to pay for birth control to outlawing abortions ,the War on Women is not a fictitious issue made up by us liberals. These completely loony antediluvian ideas shared by some Republicans are examples of what they really think of women and how they think women should be both treated and viewed. The American Taliban is quite real and yes, my friends, it is all, every stinking one of them, on the right. The fact there are women who support them is astounding to me. Oh they give excuses like , ” I am concerned with the economy, that is why I am voting for Romney.” Let me ask you two things sweetie pie,; 1) Who was in office when the economy went to hell in a handbasket, Democrats or Republicans? Republicans wreck the economy Democrats fix it and the Republicans come back into office on the stupid premise that it was not fixed well enough or fast enough. Just because many of the super rich are Republicans does not mean they are going to get your sorry butt out of your financial difficulties. They would not spit on you if you were on fire! and  2) If the lovely men who do not think you should be in control of your own body and should only work at jobs that ensure you can be home to cook dinner are in power what kind of economic opportunities do you think you are going to get from them? Considering their ideas about rape and sex perhaps a job as an escort or lady of the evening might be a growth field under them, pun intended.

3) Polls should be routinely ignored. Not only do they fluctuate wildly and weirdly they are totally unreliable. They were still calling for a close presidential race in 2008 right up to the last minute. Yet, I was in bed by 9:00 because Barack Obama had already nailed down enough electoral votes. Many groups are under-sampled, minorities and young folks to name two, both of whom vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. A lot of the 30 somethings who will be voting do not have a land line telephone. And most of them who do would not answer a blocked call, they know better. It is only us old codgers who find a ringing telephone an imperative to pick up because that is how we were trained.  The news media, owned by corporations I might add, want you to keep watching and reading. They are going to make it a horse race if it kills them. I presume their need to make money trumps their ethics, if they have any.

4) It does matter who the president is, it especially matters if you are not rich, white, male and straight because buttercup things are in the wind that would set this country back decades in the area of social programs and human rights. The election of Barack Obama scared the sheets off of some of our fine citizens and the backlash has been persistent, purposeful, concentrated and well financed. It brought together groups of people who had one thing in common, they did not want a black man in the White House. Some of them did not care about his race, but his party and his programs, but they were perfectly willing to climb into bed with the racists, as the GOP has been doing since the 1960s, in order to defeat the President. What fascinates me is the idea that a person who is making minimum wage and scraping out a living thinks he or she has any commonality or common interests with a bunch of millionaires. If they liked you snickerdoodle they would have done something about your degraded state long ago. They have enough money to buy hundreds of thousands of you a new double wide and have enough left over to buy a new flagpole for your Stars and Bars. They do not care about you. They are using your bad habits of racism and xenophobia to make you think they are your friends. They have no problems with black people, unless they get in office and begin to talk about GASP maybe making it so that some cannot have elevators in their cars while some cannot afford food. The shame of it! Redistributing wealth! What an idea. The rich deserve to be rich, no matter how they got there, and the poor deserve to be poor no matter how they got there. Social Darwinism says so! No one needs to help anyone else, last of all the government ( ignore all those subsidies and tax breaks and things behind the curtain) .

And finally—stop breathing sighs of relief, I can hear you— Sarah Palin aka the Snowbilly and Ann Coulter, known as poster girl  proof that birth control properly applied would have benefited humankind, and people of their ilk need to be ignored except when you are boycotting any product associated in any manner with them. People like this did not used to get notice from legitimate media, but now that everything in America is for sale they have a platform. There is no money to be made being intellectual, rational, ethical and sane, so if you find yourself slipping out of the public eye say something racist or homophobic or sexist, and bingo you are front page news. The freaks get the money and the freakier the more they get. Welcome to 21st century America. Now, who do you think would be more likely to try to restore some class and decency to America? The rape and women’s body obsessed GOP or the bleeding heart Democrats?

I’ll have a platter of Obama with a side of Biden please, hold the Romney, I’m allergic!

 
 

Tales of Xenia: I’m talking baseball!

I am sure I have already written some about sports in Xenia. It was an important part of our family history. My oldest son, Michael came out of the womb wanting to play ball, any kind of ball. Being a study nerd myself, and proud of it, I wanted a thin-necked, be-speckled, little geek. Although Mike was and is quite intelligent, and was a very good student, he was a born jock. His class of 1986 may still be the last class to have won the league in football, baseball and basketball, and he was a star on all three teams. His 21 year old daughter, Marrisa, told me not long ago she is hesitant to go into some places in Xenia because she is accosted with cries of ” Are you Mike Newsom’s daughter??”

My husband, Wayne, did the typical dad thing, coaching Mike in football and baseball and basketball when he was in elementary  and continuing to coach him in baseball into his high school years. During those years, when the baseball season went on and on, transitioning from the cold and frost of the early school season to the heat and dust of the late summer, we met and interacted with and, yes, befriended, some people we would otherwise never have met, and a few one had to be embarrassed to know.

There was the couple, both divorced, who had found each other in their middle years who could not seem to keep their hands off of each other. They would sit in the stands and watch the games until the fires of love began to burn too strong and then they would go get in their car and , ahem, shall we say cuddle. Because their heads were not visible above the seats the cuddling no doubt took something out of them and they, therefore, had to frequently lie down evidently until they regained their equilibrium.

It would have been easier to ignore if they had not had a bad habit of getting out of the car and adjusting their clothing on their way back to the stands. Generally speaking they tried to disguise their forays into mid-day intimacy by pretending to go to the concession stand. It was rare, however, that either of them came back to the stands with anything other than a new hickey. Ah love!

He had a son who played on the same team as Mike, she had two younger children, a girl and a boy.  One Saturday, at Bob Evans Fields ( where if the games went late and they started slaughtering the pigs you had to explain to the small children the pigs were making those noises because they were having a party) her son, Tommy was playing with some older boys waiting for their turn to take the field and one of the boys hit Tommy in the head with the baseball bat. A nice spray of blood ensured and all of us mothers rushed over to attend to him. This, of course, led to questions of “where is his mother?” His mother was at the time busy doing the horizontal hula with his step-father in the back seat of their car, which was parked under a tree some distance away. One of the mothers, Peggy, a total innocent, turned to the little girl, the sister of Tommy and said, ” Go get your mother!” The rest of us, more worldly moms shouted ” NO!” in unison and one of the mothers volunteered to go get the mom. We did not want the daughter, about 6 at the time to learn the facts of life in quite that manner.

Another of our co-parent couples in the baseball cabal were obviously alcoholics. Nice people, funny, jovial, salt of the earth types, but partiers to the core. They never showed up for an early morning caravan to some Babe Ruth League game in a distant town without a shaker of bloody Marys which they tried to push on everyone else, wanting some company. Their best friends, another hard-drinking couple with a son on the team, usually were the only ones who joined them. Because we had several good church folks in the group these four who I will call the Bakers and the Marshes were often frowned upon, but it did not intrude on their good time, fueled no doubt at least in part by the fact they were pretty much blotto most of the time and oblivious to the scorn directed at them by the righteous.

One year the baseball group decided to attend the Greene County Fair to celebrate the end of a successful year of baseball. We would take the kids, make a day of it. In order to do that we decided we would all pull our cars into the infield of the race track, take a picnic lunch and enjoy the races and let the kids run around, ride rides, play games and visit the arcade.

The Bakers and the Marshes rode together, packed their food together ( including a few shakers of Bloody Marys of course) and generally hung out together. We all brought lawn chairs, blankets and coolers, ready to enjoy the day and the evening at the races. Nothing like a day and evening at the Fair.

All was going well until Mr. Baker began to show the signs of having had too many of the cups of spirits that they were dispensing out of the trunk of the Marshes’ car. Because it was not legal to have liquor in the infield, or anywhere on the fairgrounds, they had been discreet and keep their drinks out of sight of the rest of us, although the increasingly slurred speech and loud talk made it rather obvious that it was not kool-aid they were going behind the car to get.

After about the third race Mr. Baker began to announce rather loudly that he had to pee. Everyone tried to quiet him down, we were kind of there as a group after all and half the town came to the Fair in those days. Because we were in the infield you could not just cross the track any time you liked, you had to wait until there was a break between races to cross, unless you wanted to risk getting run over by a pacer or a trotter.

Getting very red in the face Mr. Baker finally announced he was going to ” whip out his one-eyed trouser snake ” then and there unless he was allowed to cross the track and go to the bathroom. Mr. Marsh took him in charge after seeing all the disapproving glances he was getting from us and the other infield denizens. He drew him away from the area where most people were sitting and we were afraid he was taking him to a darker area of the infield to pee.

It turned out Mr. Marsh knew more, and was more sober, than we gave him credit for, shortly after he drew his friend away, the race ended and they were allowed to cross the track to the bathroom. The trip out was uneventful, but the trip back hit a snag. They took too long in the bathroom and the next race was about to begin, which would mean they would have to wait for at least that race and the aftermath of horses trotting around the track to cool off to come back.

They did not want to do this. Mr. Marsh, a tall blond man, decided he could jump the railing that surrounded the infield. Mr. Baker, a much shorter, mostly bald man, decided he could too. Perhaps he could have had he been sober. We saw them start across the track, not at the approved crossing spot, which was already closed off for the race, but further down the track. They jumped the fence in front of the grandstand and hustled across the track, trying to make sure they beat the starting gate car.

We saw them reach the infield, saw them climbing the railing, and then Mr. March appeared on the other side of the railing, coming up the ditch beside it. He was smiling jauntily and almost made it back to the group before he realized what we had noticed already. Mr. Baker had disappeared. Turns out he had cleared the railing, but being shorter and drunker, he had fallen into the ditch and could not get up.

Needless to say upon hearing that his injuries were only scrapes and bruises and nothing more the laughter of the group almost scared two of the horses into breaking stride. Mr. Baker not only had to be scraped up out of the ditch, because an EMT crew was stationed in the infield in case of injury to the riders, they insisted on putting him in the ambulance and examining him. His querulous voice could be heard far and wide declaring ,” It is not my head, it is my goddamn knee! Look at my goddamn knee! Leave my head alone!” The boys and girls who had come back to the infield for food, or money, got quite a kick out of the entire event. I hope it taught them that alcohol and horse racing do not go together, but I am not sure that the lesson took, it was, after all, darn funny!

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Athletes, Xenia