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]