Here’s Why the Penn Frat Christmas Card Isn’t Actually Racist

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Well, it’s been quite a year for race relations in the United States. From the Ferguson and Eric Garner grand jury decisions and their related protests to Donald Sterling and the Redskins, there has been plenty of racism (and accusations of racism) to go around. And anyone who doesn’t think that racism is an endemic, deeply rooted problem that won’t easily (or ever) be solved is delusional. But that doesn’t mean that everything that offends our heightened racial sensitivities is, in fact, racist. Read more »

Why “I Can’t Breathe” Matters

Dec 8, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) wears an " I Can't Breathe" t-shirt during warm ups prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center.  Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 8, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) wears an ” I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt during warm ups prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There was once a time in sports where it was cool to be an anti-hero. Charles Barkley ran a money-making campaign to prove he was not a role model. Michael Jordan, the best to ever do it, never made it his business to prove that he cared about the community either, despite how the hood’s love of Jordans has kept his money long in the years after basketball.

“Republicans buy shoes, too,” he once said. (Or possibly didn’t. Either way, Jordan was famous for his non-political stances during his playing career.)

The 1980s and early 90s, the years of modern excess, were years where anyone could say anything what they wanted, because everyone seemingly had everything they wanted. It was easy not to care, especially if you were one of the world’s biggest athletes.

But something’s changed in a major way. There’s something very special happening in sports right now. People care.

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In Policing Debate, Ferguson Is a Bad Example

National Guard stand in front of the Ferguson Police Department Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri's governor ordered hundreds more state militia into Ferguson on Tuesday, after a night of protests and rioting over a grand jury's decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a case that has inflamed racial tensions in the U.S.

National Guard stand in front of the Ferguson Police Department Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri’s governor ordered hundreds more state militia into Ferguson on Tuesday, after a night of protests and rioting over a grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a case that has inflamed racial tensions in the U.S.

I like Mike Missanelli. I could listen to him talk sports and pop culture for hours on end, and have. Mike is the afternoon host on 97.5 The Fanatic radio station and a fellow contributor to PhillyMag.com. But he is wrong in continuing to use the police shooting in Ferguson as an example of a pervasive racial bias in police departments across America.

Missanelli made his case on this site last week when he chastised sports commentator and Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley because he “didn’t express outrage at the non-indictment of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the confrontational shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.” And because Barkley said “the grand jury was righteous in its weighing of the evidence, and defended police officers as deterrents to even worse things that can happen in the ’hood.”

All of that is true and based in fact. Barkley is right.

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Facebook and “Friends” in the Wake of Ferguson

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Scene from last Wednesday’s protest march (top); detail from a controversial post on the Facebook page of a Central Bucks West guidance counselor.

As a 29-year-old woman, this is how my Facebook feed tends to look: baby picture, wedding picture, baby-at-a-wedding picture, Supernatural spoiler (that last one might be my own contribution).

But over the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed an even less appealing trend: racist rant, thinly veiled racist rant, confusing meme that I suspect is a racist rant.

To clarify, I’m from the Northeast.

This is not, necessarily, to say that my hometown is any more backward than your own hometown. (Unless you’re from Amherst — you guys are pretty squeaky clean.) There’s an ugly, dumb contingent in every group of humans, and most of the time, I love that place. But post-Ferguson, I find myself rethinking my Internet relationship to the (Often, But Not Always) Great Northeast.

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I Like Charles Barkley, But He’s Wrong on Ferguson

TV personalities Kenny Smith (left) and Charles Barkley watch action from their set during the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium.

TV personalities Kenny Smith (left) and Charles Barkley watch action from their set during the championship game of the Final Four in the 2014 NCAA Mens Division I Championship tournament at AT&T Stadium.

What are CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, the Drudge Report, and every conservative radio talk show going to do now that Charles Barkley will no longer be a regular guest on the Mike Missanelli Show?

For the last two weeks, these news organizations have fed like piranha to a gyro spindle on Barkley’s opinions about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, thanks to a bet I made with Charles. The bet was that Barkley would come on my show the day after every 76ers loss and we would donate $200 per loss to his favorite charity. Charles was sure the Sixers were close to a win — he is very supportive of the Tanking Mission the local professional basketball team is on. I, however, felt that the losing streak could stretch out to as many as 30 games in a row, which would have meant a cool six-grand to charity.

We got two sessions in with Barkley before the Sixers stopped their losing streak at 17 games — the all-time record for losses at the start of an NBA season is held by the New Jersey Nets at 19 — but those two sessions yielded a mother lode of material, for which Barkley was either excoriated as a traitor to the black race or embraced by white America as one black dude who “gets it.”

Clearly, when Charles Barkley speaks, the entire world listens, and reacts.

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What Is Your Excuse for the Cop Who Killed Eric Garner?

Protestors at the City Hall tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday evening. Photo | Bryan Buttler

Protestors at the City Hall tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday evening. Photo | Bryan Buttler

“Negroes — Sweet and docile,
Meek, humble, and kind:
Beware the day — They change their mind.”
—Langston Hughes

Black people are angry. I don’t mean this as a euphemism. I mean this to say that the people you see protesting on the streets are pissed off and fed up. I mean this to say that I know quite a few black folks that cried at work yesterday. That may include allied folks of other communities, because it’s not just black people you see out there with signs. There is a storm brewing.

When I first started to write this piece, I was going to explain why the protests have continued long after the decision to not indict Darren Wilson. I was going to explain that it’s not just about Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis or Renisha McBride or Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo or Tamir Rice (I could go on, really). I was going to use phrases I’d lifted from signs about how the system needs to be indicted. I was going to lay out a rational argument.

And then I got a phone call.

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Don’t See Race in Ferguson? Then You’re Part of America’s Race Problem.

Officer Darren Wilson (left, courtesy of St. Louis County prosecutor's officer); Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown's mother (right, AP | St.. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

Officer Darren Wilson (left, courtesy of St. Louis County prosecutor’s officer); Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother (right, AP | St.. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

Like many, I’ve struggled to find a way to come to terms with the grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown. The known facts of the case paint a wildly inconsistent picture. Despite indignant claims to the contrary on both sides, none of us know what truly happened that August day in Ferguson, Missouri. Due to the grand jury’s decision for the case not to go to trial, we probably never will.

When an acquaintance indicated to me a desire to have an open, sincere discussion about the situation in Ferguson and its aftermath, I welcomed the opportunity for dialogue and reflection. I made the deliberate decision to speak honestly and emotionally in an attempt to break through the barriers so many of us have built — barriers that help us shield ourselves from alternate viewpoints about the case and its implications.

I shared my pain at the thought of having to one day sit my beautiful baby boy down to explain to him that he won’t be allowed to make the same mistakes his white friends will — because of the color of his skin. In tears, I spoke about the fact that some people already hate my son, despite his incredible, loving spirit, simply because he is biracial. My baring of painful, personal emotions exposed in the wake of the grand jury’s decision was met with this response: “I don’t see race in this case.”

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Ferguson, Under Cover of Darkness

Mike Brown’s mom while hearing the decision.

A video posted by Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) on

There was a video posted on social media the night that St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch stepped in front of a worldwide audience to deliver the news that Officer Darren Wilson would avoid trial. The video featured the diminutive Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown, stepping down from her perch outside the police station, amid a crowd of protesters, anguished and fed up.

For 109 days, McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr, the father of the teenager who was shot and killed by Wilson, waited for answers. They, like the rest of us, found out about McCulloch’s announcement by watching CNN.

It’s a curious thing, to make these types of announcements at night. It’s always curious to do anything in the dark of night that could just as easily be done in the day, especially when things are as tense as they have been in Ferguson. For weeks, the National Guard has been present among the people in Ferguson without any (public) disclosure of whether an indictment would fall; it took four days for the National Guard to arrive in the drowned city of New Orleans after Katrina.

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Grand Jury Makes Ferguson Decision

AP reports: “A St. Louis County grand jury has finally reached a decision on whether to charge Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr., several media outlets reported Monday. The panel’s ruling is expected to be revealed during a press conference at the courthouse in Clayton later today.”

This will be a big deal in Philadelphia. Activists have already announced plans to demonstrate here on both the day of the announcement — today, apparently — and the day after. Philly Police have been planning for the protests and meeting with organizers.

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