Orenthal James Simpson (OJ): Cultural Hero Redux

by Earl Smith, PhD and Angela J. Hattery, PhD

 

He deceived us once.  Will he do it again?

Orenthal James “O. J. ” Simpson, nicknamed “the Juice” is a former NCAA Collegiate football hero –having won the coveted Heisman Trophy—as well as a National Football League star running back. After football, he became a broadcaster, actor, advertising spokesman, and then a convicted armed robber and kidnapper having spent a decade in a Nevada prison.

On July 20, 2017, the Nevada Parole Board granted OJ parole from a 9 to 33 year sentence he has been serving for convictions of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Using our research on Black men and mass incarceration as well as the (lack) of opportunities for Black men exiting prison with a felony record, we explore what went wrong and what didn’t in the privileged life of Simpson such that he was tried and acquitted of the charge of homicide and later convicted of armed robbery.   We discuss the life men like OJ face as convicted felons and speculate about the ways his privilege will and will not protect him as he re-enters the free world.

We have to agree with our colleague Dr. Harry Edwards when he says that the new world OJ is re-entering –unlike the world he left when he was incarcerated nine years ago—will trip him up and we can predict that he will be in trouble within a year after his release.

Whether you care about OJ or not, what is fascinating from a researchers perspective is that long after 1994 when he was on trial for the double murder of his then X-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, OJ has been a figure of some celebrity in American society. After the trial for which he was acquitted he quickly became a pariah across America split along racial lines.

It can be argued that Blacks rooted for the acquittal and whites did not.  (Were Blacks rooting for OJ because he was OJ or, just as important, were they just star struck and rooting for a TV celebrity)?

But it was made clear from the start of the hearing that the 1994 trial and decision were not a part of the July 2017 parole hearing at the Lovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, Nevada.

(It has to be mentioned here that when judge Jackie Glass issued a sentence of 33 years for “kidnapping and armed robbery” the consensus was that this was in reality a “payback” sentence for Simpson walking free from the murder trial. In essence judge Jackie Glass issued Simpson a life sentence).

Excessive.  As stated above, whether you support OJ or not, the nine years served turns out to be overly harsh given that OJ did not arm himself when he went to that Las Vegas hotel room to get back his memorabilia.

So, where are we now?

OJ Simpson, barring an infractions, will walk out of prison on October 1, 2017 a convicted felon who has to now deal with parole officers and the rules of the Nevada parole system. At 70 plus years of age, with probably few employment options, OJ had better take his $5 million in a private pension; his NFL pension estimated at $25,000 per month or $300,000 annually. Add in his Social Security benefit that he will access for the first time since going to prison which will pay him $3,538 per month, or $42,000 annually. Finally, for all those goofy movies OJ was in he has a Screen Actors Guild pension worth an undisclosed amount.  This money will allow OJ to live a comfortable post prison life unlike MOST Black men accessing re-entry.

OJ, “the Juice”, is a wealthy man. And, having access to this type of money he should–as we were previously saying above–move on with his life, re-connect with all of his kids and family.  Enjoy retirement.

The odds of this happening are slim to none.  The type of celebrity life OJ lived was expansive–see, especially, the documentary O.J.: Made in Americaand at his age why stop now.  Remember, it has been reported that OJ had a less than harsh life while locked up in Lovelock.

In conclusion we, like so many others, will be listening and watching once OJ is set free on or about October 1, 2017.

 

REFERENCES:

Morrison, Toni and Claudia Lacour. 1997. Birth of a Nation Hood: Gaze, Script, and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Case. NY: Pantheon Books.

Tobin, Jeffrey.  2015.  The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson. NY: Random House.

 

See more of our work:

Women, Work and Family http://bit.ly/1aEKWPI

Race, Sport and the American Dream  http://amzn.to/1gaOJrY

The Social Dynamics of Family Violence (2nd edition)   http://amzn.to/2iOIoGy

African American Families Today: Myths and Realities  http://amzn.to/145G1Tp

Prisoner Reentry and Social Capital   http://amzn.to/15xuWvt

Interracial Intimacies: An Examination of Powerful Men and Their Relationships across the Color Line   http://amzn.to/1b8Ga9L

A Formula for Eradicating Racism: Debunking White Supremacy    http://amzn.to/1jv7Z5y

Policing Black Bodies: How Black Lives are Surveilled and How to Work for Change  http://amzn.to/2fr2E0t

Male Athletes and Sexual Violence Against Women

Ray Rice poster athlete for violence against women.

by Earl Smith and Angela J. Hattery

Boys Behaving Badly? Not really.

They are simply doing what is accepted in their sport culture.

Since the late 1990s scholars have been chronicling the growing incidences of male athletes–college and professional–, across almost all sports where the common denominator is violence against women.

From Tampa Bay Rays catcher Derek Norris to the “Yankee Clipper”Joe DiMaggio who beat and abused his wife Marilyn Monroe to UFC fighter Thiago Silva to professional boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., to professional football star O.J. Simpson who severely beat his wife Nicole Brown Simpson to pro football player Greg Hardy to Sean Burke  NHL hockey player beat his wife and many, many more.

What this ip of the iceberg list shows is that many men who hone their skills in perfecting some sport are also prone to violence off their playing field.

Our analysis of this in several publications is that sport, many of which are violent (even NASCAR), produces a physical action embedded within a culture of violence that deeply impacts the participants.   That is to suggest that the male athletes that perpetrate violence against women have poo coping skills and do not possess the tools necessary for deescalating violence situations. Immediately they revert to physical violence.

It behooves intercollegiate athletics and professional sports organizations to incorporate into their programs (and not just bring in someone to give a speech) violence prevention training for their athletes.

 

References

Smith, Earl. 2014. Race, Sport and the American Dream. Carolina Academic Press.

Hattery, Angela J. 2010. Intimate Partner violence. Rowman & Littlefield.

White people have an addiction problem, Black people have a crime problem

Dozens of studies conducted over the last several decades have demonstrated unequivocally that drug use rates are remarkably consistent across racial groups.  In other words, Blacks and whites use drugs at the same rates.

 

What differs is the kinds of the drugs they use and the public reaction to this drug use.

 

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that crack is more dangerous than opioids, as both drugs are addictive, both can lead to overdose deaths, and both can lead to an increase in crimes that addicts commit to support their habits.  And babies are born addicted to crack and opioids, the only difference is their mother’s drug of choice.

 

And, yet, the community response, in hospitals and police departments around the country, and even in the hall of congress is decidedly different.  White people have an addiction problem and Black people have a crime problem.

 

Congress’s approach to the crack epidemic was to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into policing, and as a result, the incarcerated population in the United States tripled between 1986 and 2000 and the number of people incarcerated on drug charges increased by a massive 8 times.  This policing approach extended to mothers addicted to crack as well.

 

In her influential book, killing the black body, Dorothy Roberts argues persuasively that crack became an easy target for the War on Drugs.  And, low-income Black women became the “poster child” providing a powerful and visual rationale for this war. Chief among their major offenses was delivering babies addicted to crack.  “Crack babies” quickly became of primary concern to policy makers, not necessarily because they were addicted to crack per-se, but because of the perceived, but not necessarily substantiated claim  of the  burden they would place on society.  A burden that could have been avoided had their mothers simply behaved responsibly, at least according to the instigators of the “War on Drugs,” including Presidents Nixon and Reagan.   And, thus began the policy of criminalizing pregnancy.  Black women who delivered babies with even a trace of crack in their system were sent to prison, convicted of child endangerment, for long sentences.

 

In contrast, Congress’s approach to the opioid epidemic, which differs only from the crack epidemic in that the typical user has a lighter complexion and lives in suburban or rural area, has been to declare that the primary problem is not crime but addiction.  And, rather than sending hundreds of millions of dollars to police departments, the monies are diverted to hospitals that can provide treatment for addicts and the babies they deliver. Some money is even given over for research.

The new US Senate -healthcare bill under consideration has a line item for opioids with a dollar figure at $45 billion for opioid addiction treatment. This package of money is headed to states like Ohio (Ohio’s Montgomery County is now the per-capita leader in overdose deaths) and Pennsylvania, especially the rural areas where the population is mainly white.

According to sources reporting to the New York Times, most of the money would go to addiction treatment, but some would be used to fund research into better treatments for pain and addiction.

 

According the New York Times, doctors are now “rethinking” their approach to treating babies born addicted to opioids.  They have found, not surprisingly, that when babies are separated from their mothers, they require more significant treatment, often low doses of morphine, and much longer stays in neo-natal ICUs.  In contrast, some hospitals in rural Kentucky have experimented with allowing mothers to “room in” with their newborns and not surprisingly, the babies, in the supportive arms of their often still addicted mother, respond more quickly, few require morphine treatment, and they go home, on average, 3 weeks earlier.

And, this is fantastic.

But it’s quite a contrast to the experience of 28 year-old Cornelia Whitner, as detailed in Dorothy Roberts book, who in February 1992 gave birth to a healthy baby.  Upon conducting a urine test on the baby, traces of crack were discovered.  The baby was healthy and in her court hearing Whitner begged to be sentenced to a residential treatment program in order to address her addiction and become a good parent.  The Judge responded “I think I’ll just let her to go to jail.’ He sentenced her to a startling 8 year sentence.

Finally, when we look at the decades’ comparisons between the approach to Black addicts and the 2015-2016-2017 approach to white addicts we see an alarming pattern: treat whites as in need of treatment and rehabilitation and treat Blacks as criminals.

Perhaps as many as a half a million Black people are incarcerated for low-level drug offenses, they are addicts, while the same addiction among whites has police departments welcoming them into local precincts to turn over their drugs and be transported safely, without handcuffs or criminal records, to local hospitals specializing in the latest rehabilitation techniques.

When, we ask, will Black drug use be treated as an addiction and not a crime?  When will we stop ripping Black babies out of their mothers arms and sending the mothers to prison and the babies to foster care?  When we will we treat addiction equally regardless of the complexion of the user?

The War on Drugs in Black and White.

To read more: see our upcoming book, Policing Black Bodies!

 

Prisoners are Smart: But Not Smart Enough to Stay Out of Prison

Everyone knows that prisoners are smart. What everyone does not know is that they are not smart enough to remain free once released

With approximately 2.3 million in American jails and prisons –and almost all of them returning home at some point in time–and with the policies that shape American arrest and penal philosophy forever changing (Jeff Sessions op-ed) — re-entry norms must change.

 

Recidivism in Focus:

What does all this have to do with SMART PRISONERS?

This!

The men and women we gawk over for their ingenuity while “inside” (escape from South Carolina prison using a cell phone & drone!) have nothing to offer on the “outside.”

With rehabilitation all but wiped from state and federal prisons those currently incarcerated just do their time. Even those inmates “lucky” enough to be working for any of the 100 or so companies that exploit their labor at .28 to .38 or .50 cents per hour (Paul, a prisoner in upstate New York told us he has to work three hours to pay for a bottle of water. The water in his cell is not drinkable!) they, too, just do their time only in a different setting.  These same companies that they work for inside will not hire these prisoners when they are released:

McDonalds

Victoria Secret

Unicor

Starbucks

Microsoft

Honda car parts

JC Penny

Hitachi

Pruno (wine)

The point of the matter is that there are no (or few) real transferable skills (from inside to outside) that make re-entry seamless.  Men and women still struggle –as we noted in our 2010 book entitled PRISONER REENTRY AND SOCIAL CAPITAL: The Long Road to Reintegration.  These X-prisoners struggle on a daily basis to find a way to make the adjustment from incarceration to living freely in society.

To conclude, the point of  this blog was to point out that the little things (or big0 that prisoners do inside that attracts our attention and this to proffer the label of “brilliant” have little need on the outside and, therefore, many cannot make the adjustments needed for a happy, successful post-prison release life.

 

**For more of our work goto: http://www.smithandhattery.com

 

 

There is an “ordinariness” to the police murders of Black men

                  By Earl Smith, PhD and Angela J. Hattery, PhD

 

Philando Castile

Since August 26, 2016 when Colin  Kaepernick (who at that time was a San Francisco 49er quarterback) started taking a knee during the National Anthem, police have killed approximately more than 780 people.  Approximately 193 of those killed have been Black.

And, while the numbers may not be complete, they alone do not tell the whole story.  Here we talk about the “ordinariness” of these killings especially those that involve Black men like Philando Castile in Minnesota.  Black men have been in America since the founding of the Nation State. Some are fathers; some are professionals such as lawyers, Wall Street bankers; some are incarcerated and some play NCAA and NFL football. What binds all these men together is that across all demographics that defines them – members of these categories have been killed by the police.

Just recently (June 14, 2017) officer Jeronimo Yanezthe the Minnesota police officer who killed Mr., Castile was acquitted by a jury on all counts. While love ones and others were looking for a conviction the outcome was not surprising.  In our data we looked at the 10 highest profile killing of unarmed Black men killed by police officers and all of them–from Trevyon Martin to Michael Brown to Sean Bell to Amadou Diallo–the officers were not charged.

Looking carefully at the prior activities of some of these men we learn that they were involved in simple, ordinary activities just prior to their deaths. In the case of Mr. Castile he was out with his girlfriend, her 4-yesr old daughter shopping for groceries.        The video of the death was widely circulated first on FACEBOOK then the police officially released it June 20, 2017.

The “ordinariness” of police killings of Black men does not stop unfortunately with Mr. Castile.  Young Tamir Rice was killed in a Cleveland playground November 22, 2014.  He was twelve years old.  And, like most pre-teens he was playing some type of boy-game with a toy gun.

These ordinary activities that lead to premature deaths are incredible for their ordinariness!  White males do not face death after completing ordinary activities.

Several commentaries have railed about the silence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) on the killing of Mr. castile who had a legal license to carry a concealed handgun.  Who, even telling officer Yanezthe that he had a gun on him was killed anyway reaching for his wallet.

This violence in not new.  Under JIM CROW (the system of law commonoly know as de jure segregation and the illegal practice known as de facto segregation both mandated the segregation of public schools, public places, and public transportation, housing and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and drinking fountains for whites and Blacks) often resulting in violence to maintain separateness between whites and Blacks.  The practices were heavily policed.

In all of the talk about “Constitutional Rights” the NRA over the years–and especially after the Columbine school killing (1999) it maintained that Americans have 2nd Amendment rights to arm themselves.  The NRA fights to make this message clear at every turn. In commentaries after the Castile murder it is being said that this right does not extend to Black people.  That is, had Castile been white he would have never been shot.  This sentiment was strongly echoed by

“an appalled Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton who said that police wouldn’t have shot and killed Philando Castile if he’d been white and called for justice with the greatest sense of time urgency.”  

Let us not fool ourselves, with all the police killings of Black unarmed men these murders are not random.  There is something going on in 21st Century America that renders ordinary Black lives less than the lives of other racial/ethnic American citizens.

For Black men it is, to be sure, the “ordinariness.”

 

To read more of our work, go to:

In Black & White: The Violent Sexual Predator Crossing the Colorline

Angela J.Hattery, PhD & Earl Smith, PhD (2017)

 

 

We have a theory.  Serial sexual male predators like Bill Cosby (1) Bill O’Reilly (2) and Darren Sharper (3) play out their violent fantasies often going after innocent women of a race different from theirs.  This predatory sexual violence is not about challenging norms of interracial relationships, it is about power.

 

Very few things in the United States are more heavily and strictly policed than the relationship colorline, and specifically the taboo on intimate relationships between Blacks and Whites.  Fifty years after the famous Loving v. Virginia case that declared anit-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, clearing the way for Blacks and Whites to legally marry, only 9% of marriages in the United States in 2010 involved a Black and a White partner, and fewer than 1% of Whites were married to a Black spouse (Smith and Hattery 2013).

 

When it comes to sexual violence, less than 10% of all rapes are intraracial.

 

It’s interesting then, that despite the fact that the relationship color line is heavily policed and interracial sexual violence is very uncommon, a significant number of the cases of high profile cases of serial (more than one victim) interracial sexual violence have been broadcast and discussed on our television screens and through other news outlets.

 

How can we make sense of this?

 

Intersectional theory requires us to look at phenomenon critically and come to conclusions only after we have examined various iterations of that phenomenon.  For example, how is the gendered wage gap also shaped by race?

 

When interracial sexual violence occurs, what is the context?  Who is doing the perpetrating?  Does it look the same if the rapist is Black or White?

 

Cases like those of Darren Sharper, Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly reveal to us the strength of the sexual stereotypes about interracial sex.  For example, in our work (2 books on interracial relations (Smith and Hattery 2013; Smith and Hattery 2009; two papers on athlete’s violence against women (Smith 2010); (Hattery 2010) and especially in our work “Cultural Contradictions in the South” (2010) we demonstrate explicitly that predatory men–black and white–are mesmerized with “the other.” (6)

 

What intersectional theory allows us to do is complicate the racial and gender contours of interracial sexual violence.

 

White men have been sexually violating Black women’s bodies since the first slaves arrived on American soil after having been kidnapped from Africa.  Historically we have to look no further than Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, Third President of the United States, a known predator of his Black female slaves.  Was the initial encounter between Jefferson and Sally Heming rape?  (3)

 

How can a White man who believes that Black people are inferior, as Jefferson did, or as Bill O’Reilly might, sexually violate Black women’s bodies?  The answer is simple: because sexual violence is not about relationship built on love and respect. No!  It is violence perpetrated against the objectified female body.  In the O’Reilly’s case, it seems any woman’s body would do.  A “pussy” is a “pussy.”  O’Reilly is a serial sexual harasser, with at least a dozen victims.

 

In contrast, as a result of the lynching’s of tens of thousands of Black men for the mere accusation, almost always false, of raping a White women, very few Black men have any sexual relationship with White women, consensual or violent (Blackmon 2009).  The average Black man who rapes a White woman serves decades in prison for his crime.  In fact, many Black men have served decades in prison after being wrongly convicted of raping a White women .

 

That being said, intersectional theory allows us to explore what appears to be an exception to the rule of gender and race hierarchy.  Black men who have power—as athletes and entertainers—and who engage in sexual violence against White women are almost never held accountable.

 

Bill Cosby drugged and raped more than 50 women.  The majority of whom are White.

Darren Sharper (4), who was finally convicted of 16 rapes, is a serial rapist whose many victims aren’t just similar in terms of their allegations—they are also similar in appearance: white women, most of whom had long blonde hair.

 

Where as White men sexually violate Black women’s bodies because they can, under the rules of patriarchy and racial domination, some Black men may engage in sexual violence against White women because in this inverted race and gender hierarchy they, too, have more power.  And, the sexual violence may in fact be perpetrated precisely because it threatens the power of White men.  In these cases, White women’s bodies are selected by the serial abuser because their bodies are the object that allows Black men to express their power.

 

There is no better case than that of the violent thuggery of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver is well known. (5)  He spells this all out in his book Soul On Ice (1968) telling us that his victims were White women –although he practiced his rapes on Black women first before crossing the tracks to White neighborhoods–and infamously said he was getting back at the “man” by raping his women.

 

Only when we examine the sexual violence perpetrated by men who at first glance seem as diverse as Bill O’Reilly, Darren Sharper and Bill Cosby through the lens of intersectional theory, with a focus on the intricacies of race and gender hierarchies, can we see that not all serial predatory sexual violence across the color line is the same.  But, one thing is always the same: it is always about POWER and it is always about treating women’s bodies, regardless of their race, as sexual objects on which to demonstrate masculine power.

Postscript: On June 20, 2017 Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial.

______________

To see more of Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith work go to:  http://www.smithandhattery.com

 

 

Further Reading

  1. com Reporter, “Shattered! Bill Cosby’s legacy on The Cosby Show questioned by controversial Ebony Magazine cover.” 17 October 2015     http://dailym.ai/2pOGvwG

 

  1. Steel, Emily and Michael Schmidt. 2017. “Bill O’Reilly Is Forced Out at Fox News”, April 19, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/business/media/bill-oreilly-fox-news-allegations.html

 

May, Charlie. 2017. “From ‘hot chocolate’ to triumphant: Woman whose account may have been final straw for Bill O’Reilly speaks out.” Salon   http://bit.ly/2owm4U1

 

3, Wiencek, Henry. “The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson.”

SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, October 2012

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-dark-side-of-thomas-jefferson-35976004/?all

 

  1. Freeman, Mike. 2014. “Who Is Darren Sharper? Date-Rape Allegations Raise Serious

Questions.” Bleacher Report,   http://ble.ac/2pnWZyT

 

  1. CreWisdom, “Being Anti-Black woman is NOT new. Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver admits to hating and raping Black women.”   CreWisdomDecember 7, 2015

http://bit.ly/2p6ar9D

 

  1. Halsell, Grace. 1999. Soul Sister. Crossroads International Publishing.

 

  1. Smith, Earl and Hattery, Angela. 2013. Interracial Relationships in the 21st Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

 

  1. Smith, Earl (ed). 2010. “Violence in Sportsworld.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 4(2):101-108.

 

  1. Hattery, Angela. 2010. “SportsWorld as a site of violence against women.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, 4(2):109-122.

 

  1. Smith, Earl and Angela J. Hattery. (2010). “Cultural Contradictions in the South.” Mississippi Quarterly Vol 63 (2): 145-166.    http://bit.ly/1mwQu34

 

  1. Blackmon, Douglas. 2009. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Anchor; Reprint edition.

 

Capacity…

 

I recently participated in a program, Dear World, in which we were asked to identify a message that we wanted to share with the world and write it on our bodies to be photographed.

 

I had arrived at the event planning to use black marker to write “Fight for Justice” on my arms.  But, the organizers dissuaded us from using pat phrases from a Hallmark card like “Be the Change” or “Value Diversity!” Rather we should choose words and phrases that connected to the moment one realized the concept or word.

 

Immediately my mind was flooded with many messages, but the one recurring theme always came back to moments, and there have been many, including the recent illness and death of my mom, that were about feeling overwhelmed, about not being able to carry everything I was asked to.  To capacity.

 

I often talk to women who are overwhelmed, who are “at capacity,” who like Shel Silversteins’
“Giving Tree” are nothing more than some crumpled roots underground, literally stripped, with nothing left to give.

 

At the event itself, without disclosing my own word, several women shared their words or phrases: “sucked dry,” “never good enough.”  Earlier in the day, a woman with whom I work broke down in tears in the restroom.  When I asked her what was wrong, she said she was overwhelmed.

 

Ok, so it’s not just me.  This got me thinking about the gendered nature of work, in the workplace, at home, in our communities, and especially the emotional labor that many women perform as they care for spouses, children and aging parents.

 

In my field of higher education, women advise the majority of students, we do the majority of committee and other service work, all on top of having to perform twice as well in teaching and research in order to be awarded tenure and to be promoted.

 

At home, though there have been changes over the years, even when they work for pay outside of the home, women do more housework and significantly more child care than their male partners.

 

 

Often not long after women enter the empty nest stage, they begin caring for their aging parents.  According to research done by Family Caregiver Alliance  66% of family members caring for family members are women.

 

No wonder my colleagues and friends are breaking down in the bathroom or choosing phrases like “sucked dry” to describe their experiences.

 

We are often simply tapped out.  At or over CAPACITY.

 

In my household my spouse and I share the work, including many of the time intensive tasks like cooking.  My spouse cooks way more than half of all our meals, including preparing breakfast and lunch for me to take to work every day!

 

But, even when tasks are shared, women, including me, do much more of the emotion work.  Since my mom has passed, my dad calls me sometimes 6 or 7 times a day just to say hi, or to share a memory of my mom.  And, as much as I love these calls and I’m happy to support my dad through such a difficult time, sometimes these calls leave me feeling beyond my capacity.  Some nights I fall asleep praying the phone won’t ring at least until the next morning. Or sometimes I wish my brother would take a call.  Just one.

 

When I get up, sometimes refreshed and sometimes not so much, I prepare myself to answer his phone calls again, because I know I have to, who else, including my brother, is going to answer the phone?

 

This is another common theme that my women friends and I often discuss…no matter how tired we are, how far we are above our capacity, our children, our parents, our spouses, our friends, our colleagues and our communities depend on us.  So, each day we must get up and keep doing the work, both physical and emotional that sustains them and allows them to thrive.

 

And, for many of us, it is other women who help when we simply can’t carry the load anymore.  We are quick to give a sister a hug, send a supportive text, surprise each other with a cup of tea, or even drop off a meal or drive carpool so that our sister can catch a break.  And, for this I am so grateful to be a woman.  To know I can count on my sisters.

 

But, my question is, when will men pick up the load?

 

It is said that women hold up half the sky….I’d argue that in fact we hold up way more than half.

 

We are persistent and resilient and committed and competent.  But we are also tired.  We need our partners, sons, fathers, and male-identified allies to lend a hand with the heavy lifting.  For when they do, not only will women be less tired, but we’ll be even better partners, parents and colleagues! We’ll be better able to achieve our goals and to support our families and communities in reaching theirs.

 

To read more follow me @AngelaHattery, on FB: SmithandHattery and on our website: smithandhattery.com

 

The Meaning of the Women’s March

Many people may wrongly assume that the Women’s March, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump is about having our feelings hurt or being vindictive that “our” candidate didn’t win.  And, though many of us, myself included did have our feeling hurt, the Women’s March is about so much more than that.

 

For some/many women this is an opportunity for catharsis.  Though not all women supported Hillary, many did so even if less than enthusiastically.  Many of us believed that the glass ceiling would crack just a bit more with her election.  And, when that didn’t happen, many of us mourned, not just her loss, not just Trump’s victory, but also yet another discouraging moment in the fight for equal rights.  The march is a chance to come together and remind the country that women are still here, we may be discouraged but we are still deeply embedded in the fight for equal rights…we aren’t going anywhere, we need to be taken seriously, and perhaps next time around we will indeed see a crack in that glass ceiling.  For many women to be surrounded by other women will be cathartic and healing.

 

It’s nothing newsworthy that many women found Trump to be reprehensible…his “locker room” excuse for sexually harassing behavior just the last straw in a string of offensive remarks and actions.  And, of course the Women’s March is in part a reaction to him.  But, I think even more so, it’s a reaction to what many of us believe are real threats to women’s civil and human rights.

 

Many of the proposals that Trump ran on and that the republican congress seems poised to act on will significantly set back women’s civil and human rights and will threaten women’s lives.  We fear that Planned Parenthood will be defunded this year, that the clock could be turned back on the fight for equal pay, which, despite the Lilly Ledbetter Act, is still far from guaranteed, and that the overturning of Roe V. Wade may be a reality that is not far off.  Indeed many states are already enacting rigid restrictions on abortion and with the way the Supreme Court appointees are likely to go, these state laws will likely be upheld and the dismantling of Roe may not be far behind.

 

It’s not just reproductive justice that is at stake, many issues that women care about, from education to health care, safe and affordable housing, criminal justice reform and immigration rest in the balance as well.  And, Trump’s nominees to date leave us little to be optimistic about.

 

Women are far more likely to live in poverty, they are almost always the one’s left behind caring for the children of their husbands, partners and sons who go to jail.  Women are not only more likely to use preventative health care than are men, but our health care needs are different, especially as they revolve around reproductive issues and child bearing.  Women are the caretakers of our children’s education and housing.  And, because women are far more likely to live in poverty, access to safe and affordable housing, child care, and affordable health care are all issues that impact women and their children perhaps more profoundly than they do men.  We need people running agencies like Health and Human Services and the Department of Education who understand the needs that women and our children have.  We need them to be committed to equal access for all who live in our country, not just for those who can afford private school tuition or to rent, let alone buy, a home in a safe neighborhood, or to purchase private health insurance.  Sadly, we have reason for concern: we have a nominee for Secretary of Education who hopes to dismantle our public school system rather than identify weakness and propose and enact reforms.  We have a nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who knows nothing about the challenges facing not only those who live in public housing, but those who are long waiting lists to move into scarce units.

 

This march, like so many, provides a moment for community and solidarity, for healing, [hopefully] for bridging race and sexuality differences, and also an opportunity for social action and protest: an opportunity to remind the world and the republican led congress that women are still here, we are still relevant, and we are willing to engage in social action to protest and seek remediation of our civil and human rights.  We take this opportunity to stand up and demand that the Trump administration and the republican led congress invite women of all identities and backgrounds to the table, to listen to experts on issues of housing and health care and education, who can predict which types of programs will allow women and their children to pursue the American Dream and which will keep us further from it.

 

I don’t necessarily believe that bad things happen for a reason, that the election of Trump can somehow be turned into a positive, but Trump’s election sounded a siren.  Nothing that we have taken for granted for the last forty years is safe.  And, though we’ve seen the erosion of welfare benefits and reproductive rights take place for decades, including under the watch of President Bill Clinton, there is nothing like the election of Donald Trump to remind women that we need to be ever vigilant; just as civil rights have eroded for Black Americans, so they have for women, and both trends will continue in this direction if we do not constantly hold those in power responsible for protecting the civil and human rights we worked so hard to attain.

 

The Women’s March will likely mean many things to many people, and it will be many things; but above all else, let it be a reminder that a glass ceiling still exists in every part of life when it comes to gender equality; the struggle goes on so that we can ensure that our daughters have better opportunities, more access, and more control over their own bodies than we did, rather than less.

 

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR THE BLACK MALE ATHLETE

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR THE BLACK MALE ATHLETE

Every few weeks or so we have this conversation.  There seems no better time to have it again than now, on the heels of college football bowl games that included athletes who have been accused of acts of violence against women.  These are certainly not the first cases, but they shine a light on a perplexing phenomenon: the unconditional love of the Black male body, at least as long as he can throw, run, catch, dunk and score in an athletic contest.

 

For centuries, as is well documented by Angela Davis, Orlando Patterson, and many others, Black men have been lynched, perhaps as many as 50,000, for allegedly violating the gender-sexuality-race intersection, that is; for the accusation, almost always false, of raping a White woman.

 

Let us be clear: under no circumstances should a Black man, or any man, be lynched for rape.  Lynching is not an appropriate punishment for any crime.  Furthermore, as much of our research demonstrates, we care deeply about the rights of the wrongfully accused and convicted and have worked tirelessly to bring attention to those serving long sentences for crimes they did not commit, most often the wrongful conviction is of a Black man who was accused of raping a white woman.

 

We have extensively researched this miscarriage of justice hence, we get it.

 

This intersection has a long and very complex history that continues to ruin Black men’s lives even today.

 

That being said, we find it perplexing that within this context of the hyper policing of Black male bodies as they intersect with White women’s sexuality, a special case of unconditional love is reserved for Black male athletes.

 

And, not just by Black people but especially by White men: coaches, athletic directors, boosters, teammates, sheriffs, judges and fans.

 

During the last days of 2016 and the first days of 2017, several college football teams faced scrutiny for their protection of Black men accused of heinous crimes, including 12 football players at the University of Minnesota who are accused of gang-raping a woman in October and a player at the University of Oklahoma, Joe Mixon, who is seen on video punching a woman in the face, leaving her unconscious. In both cases, the perpetrators of violence are Black and the victims are White.

 

It’s not at all surprising to us that athletes who are accused of, caught on tape, and even convicted of abusing women are defended, by both men and women, get to keep their jobs, and continue to be revered…names like Jameis Winston, Ray Rice, OJ Simpson and so many others make that case for us.  But what we find intriguing is the extension of that unconditional love when the crime involves the rape of a white woman by a Black male athlete.

 

Clearly that love does not extend to the more than 500 cases of Black men exonerated after spending decades in prison for the rape of a white women they did not commit.

 

Orlando Patterson argued in Rituals of Blood that the lynching of Black men was in large part a reaction of fear that Whites had of Black male bodies and especially of Black men’s sexuality.

 

Yet, when powerful, physically imposing Black men who play football or basketball engage in the same behavior, White men not only turn a blind eye, but in fact go to great lengths to defend the Black man, by paying for top lawyers, by hiding evidence, and even by extolling their right to a second chance as Brent Mussberger did during the broadcast of the 2017 Sugar Bowl when Joe Mixon led his team to victory.

 

In general, violence perpetrated against women is rarely taken seriously, regardless of the race of the victim.

 

But, that being said, how can we explain this unconditional love in the context of hundreds of years of lynchings?

 

One explanation could be that the love of so many White men (and women) have for famous athletes transcends their sense of justice.  But we argue that it is deeper than that; this unconditional love that White men extend to Black male athletes must be analyzed using Patterson’s lens: Black male bodies are revered when their power is limited to the one place where Black men are allowed to excel: the athletic field, as Earl Smith argues in Race, Sport and the American Dream.  As long as Black men are segregated to this singular place, as athletes, not as owners or coaches or anyone with any real power, then they are extended an unconditional love, even when they transgress the sacred space of White women’s sexuality.  In this sense, their expression of power, even when used to abuse White women, is not threatening to White men, it does not threaten White men’s roles as leaders in business, entertainment, politics, the economy or even in sports.  Therefore these Black men’s bodies not only need not be policed, but they can continue to be worshipped.

 

To read more see our books:

Prisoner Re-entry and Social Capital: The Long Road to Re-entry

Social Dynamics of Family Violence

 

 

NOTRE DAME’S WALK- ON ‘RUDY’ INCOGNITO

The male “walk-on” in college sports, and in particular in football, has become a joke.  Announcers voraciously proclaim that Joe Blow or John Caric is or was just a walk on but now performs at a level above and beyond coaches expectations is a farce.

 

Whether a “recruited” walk-on or a “regular” walk-on these athletes are now enjoying a kind of notoriety as outlets like ESPN glorify their existence making it seem like this is a now coveted position to be in as an athlete. Of perhaps greater concern is that this glorification of the walk-on is critical to producing an ideology that anyone who arrives on campus, at least any man, has the opportunity if he works hard enough to join the ranks of the most elite, he may soon be wearing the jersey of the Ohio State Buckeyes and taking the field with 100,000 people screaming his name.

 

What is never mentioned in this glorification is that this spot is only reserved almost exclusively for white men who can punt or kick a football.

From our perspective, the true meaning of the term “walk on” is exemplified best in the movie RUDY.

 

In this fictional account of Notre Dame football Daniel Rudy Ruettiger (played by Sean Astin in the movie) so wants to play football at Notre Dame that he does what it takes to be a member of the team, including washing uniforms and taking care of the grounds, and painting the famous Fighting Irish! helmets the night before the tame.  Thoug Rudy Ruettiger is real, his characters has ceased to exist in real life. Walk-ons today don’t wash uniforms or paint helmets.  Instead, the walk on of today can often hold down a first string (starting position) on the team – even though he is a walk on.

 

How can we can explain this phenomenon?  On the face of it, this does not make sense.  Football and basketball programs at Division 1 colleges and universities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each on recruiting, not to mention the salary of recruiting coordinators, and the time spent watching tapes, taking in high school games and visiting mom and grandma in the living room.  (Dad’s are rarely the focus of recruiting visits.  For an interesting perspective on this check out Oscar Robinson’s auto-biography: The Big ‘O’: My Life, My Time, My game).  Why then would a coach invest any energy into developing a walk-on or extend playing time to a player that simply “walked on” instead of in the players he has spent nearly a decade trying to recruit?

 

Perhaps the answer lies in the way that financial aid and scholarships are doled out to high profile football and basketball programs.

 

Division 1 football programs provide a minimum of 85 full scholarships.  Yet their rosters typically list an additional 15-20 players, non-scholarship athletes or “walk-ons.”  Football programs “coordinate” with financial aid and scholarship offices such that the “walk on” receives financial support that is equivalent to at least a partial athletic scholarship.

 

This seems find on the surface, how nice that a football team can bring an additional 15-20 players to campus to earn an education.  And, yet, these 15-20 players are more often than not receiving aid that otherwise would have gone to non-athlete students.  Artists, musicians, smart kids who have financial need and no athletic ability.

 

So, why are most of the walk-ons we see on Saturday afternoon football games white?  Is it simply because most punters and kickers happen to be white?  Or is there something else at work here?  That is, you don’t see Black players who are “walk-ons.”

 

As I argue in Race, Sport and the American Dream, stereotypes about the genetics of athletic ability result in coaches rarely if ever recruiting mediocre Black players.  Black players, in college and in the professional ranks, must be “Blue Chip” athletes if they are going to be recruited or drafted.  The data on starters bears this out.

 

So, what?  Well, for starters, it means that an under-developed Black player is unlikely to be afforded the opportunity to “walk on” in the same way that an under-developed white player will be.  Second, and this is likely to be more controversial, for all the concern that many white students have about under-prepared Black students being given financial support—vis-à-vis—the athletic scholarship—to attend college, it is actually white student athletes who, as walk-ons, are dipping into the financial support once reserved for non-athlete students.  Third, if the walk-on is not receiving anywhere near a full scholarhip but is playing regularly, this furthers the already deep exploitation of athlete labor; in this case the athlete may be receiving little by way of “payment” for his services while contributing to the revenues generated by his team http://amzn.to/1gaOJrY.

 

Finally, it begs the question, what does it mean for a university to provide an additional 15-20 scholarship to a football team that already has 85 scholarships of its own, and plays, on average, no more than 30-40 players in a given season?  Along with many other things, the walk-on is yet another example of athletic departments hi-jacking the system of higher education in America.

 

To read more see: Race, Sport and the American Dream [http://amzn.to/1gaOJrY]