#RacismEndedWhen: College Football in Alabama? (Participation)

#RacismEndedWhen: College Football in Alabama?

Dave Zirin on December 2, 2013 – 10:16 AM ET

The main difference between a big-time Division I college football game and an NFL contest – other than the unpaid labor on the field – is the crowds. Aesthetically, side-by-side, they are like one of those before-and-after pictures. The crowd at the college games tends to be young and fresh-faced: the people who show up early to the club ready to rage. People NFL games look like those same people at the party except it’s 4 AM and in those last six hours they’ve been living hard.

I get why the young people at the college games look as caffeinated as they do. The adrenaline, the excitement the lunacy, and the wide-open nature of it all produces a narcotic that few sporting events can match. This is not an activity that promotes introspection. But lasts weekend’s Iron Bowl demands it. For the uninitiated, The Iron Bowl is the annual game between two of college football’s most intense interstate rivals, Auburn and Alabama. This past year’s game was like nothing we have ever seen, arguably the most exciting college football game ever played, as Auburn withstood a 99-yard touchdown pass and came away with a 34-28 victory. Auburn beat the number one team in the country and did so on a 108 yard missed field goal return for a touchdown with no time left.

But this was more than just a football game. The broadcast registered an 82 share in Birmingham, Alabama. That means 82% of all of Birmingham’s televisions that were in use were watching this game. That is bonkers. This is not 1960. We have more than two channels now. In our divided entertainment culture with 500 options, video games that are realer than real life, and all kinds of diversions on social media, the idea that 82% of any city was doing anything is frankly mind-boggling. The introspection part is demanded because this gravitational national pull toward football in Alabama took place 58 years to the day (give or take a day) that Rosa Parks entered history and would not be moved from her bus seat in nearby Montgomery. 58 years ago in the storied Southeastern Conference the only way an African-American player could get on the field would be to tend to the grounds. Yet on Saturday millions of Alabama viewers and an overwhelmingly white crowd of damn near 100,000 people crowded the stands shouting themselves hoarse for two teams that are overwhelmingly African American.

The other titanic story in college football is also taking place in the southeastern United States albeit not the Southeastern Conference. African-American football star, quarterback Jameis Winston at Florida State, could lose both The Heisman Trophy and a shot at leading his team to a national championship because of rape allegations that could turn into formal charges any day. I am not commenting on the guilt or innocence of Mr. Winston, but I am going to comment on what we do know: he is being vociferously, even violently defended by the Florida State faithful. His accuser has been pilloried over social media by Winston’s fans in Tallahassee, with ESPN’s Jemele Hill reporting that she had already “been sent several photos that are reportedly of the accuser, in addition to screen grabs of her Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts. All this information is being circulated rapidly and thus becoming the Internet version of flogging someone in the town square.”

The young woman was also allegedly warned off of pressing charges by a Tallahassee police detective who was also a Florida State booster. This is sick and if found to be true, this detective should be run out of town on a rail. Once again I have to take a step back and ask, what would Rosa Parks say? This is a woman who started her activist career and first traveled to Montgomery as an organizer against rape and sexual violence visited upon African-American women by white men. [Read the book  At the Dark End of the Street to hear this story in full.) In Rosa Parks’ day it was not uncommon for African-American men to be lynched on accusations of sexual violence if they were found in any sort of relationship with a white woman. I do not know the race of the Jameis Winston’s accuser, but to see the police and a college town in Tallahassee rally to protect their African American quarterback from rape charges to save their championship season, is like entering Dixie through the looking glass. What would Ms. Parks say? What would she say about a world where just the act of playing football has turned so many of these historical racial tropes upside down?

No matter what the Republican National Committee tweets, racism is not over nor did Ms. Parks end it. (Their tweet led to the #RacismEndedWhen hashtag on twitter.) On every conceivable level, from life expectancy, to prison sentencing, to hiring practices, racism still plagues this country. Yet does the iconography of black college athletes actually make racism less pernicious? It would be easy to understand why people would mark the spectacles in football in the south east as some kind of progress. I think they would be wrong. In fact it is highly more likely it’s seeing African-American athletes on the field allows people to turn a blind eye toward the very real effects of racism in society. This is not in any way exlusive to the south and it is not unlike the argument against using Native American icons as mascots. Celebrating teams like the Redskins allows the dominant culture to turn a blind eye to very real conditions on Native American communities. It doesn’t push for engagement and actually creates disassociation. Look at the 1980s when a national embrace of Michael Jordan, the Cosby Show, and Oprah calmed white America into thinking we had reached some sort of civil rights finish line. The 2008 election of Barack Obama created a similar dynamic. I will never forget hearing comedian turned right wing pundit Dennis Miller say after the 2008 election, “If nothing else, we don’t have to talk about [racism] anymore.” The RNC tweet about Rosa Parks ending racism was not a slip of the computer keys but a slip of the mask. As for the rest of us, confusing iconography for progress will just leave us confused.


SJSU president on black student: ‘I failed him’ (Participation)

  • Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, speaks to students on the San Jose State campus about the incident. Photo: James Tensuan, SFC
    Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, speaks to students on the San Jose State campus about the incident. Photo: James Tensuan, SFC

The head of San Jose State University said Monday that the school should have stepped in earlier to stop the alleged abuse of a 17-year-old African American student by his white roommates, who have been charged with battery and hate crimes.

President Mohammed Qayoumi spoke as police reports emerged showing that when a Confederate flag was flown in a window of the victim’s four-bedroom suite in a freshman dormitory, the university’s housing office only asked the residents to remove it.

The flag’s owner then hung it up in the common area of the suite, the reports say.

The abuse began at the start of the school year in August and continued until a dorm manager reported it Oct. 14, authorities said. The four students implicated by campus police, though, were not suspended from school until last week.

“By failing to recognize the meaning of a Confederate flag, intervene earlier to stop the abuse or impose sanctions as soon as the gravity of the behavior became clear, we failed him. I failed him,” Qayoumi said of the African American student, who has not been identified.

Task force to be formed

Qayoumi said he would name an “independent expert” to lead a task force to study the case and propose reforms.

Authorities said the student’s roommates nicknamed him “Three-fifths” and “Fraction” as the semester began – references to the Constitution’s original formula that counted slaves as three-fifths of a person.

Some of the roommates, authorities said, clamped a U-shaped bike lock around his neck, barricaded him in his room and displayed Nazi and Confederate symbols in the suite.

Charged with misdemeanor battery and hate crimes are Colin Warren, 18, of Woodacre, Logan Beaschler, 18, of Bakersfield and Joseph Bomgardner, 19, of Clovis (Fresno County). Charges against a fourth student, a juvenile, have not been disclosed.

According to police reports, the investigation began when the black student’s parents, after seeing the Confederate flag as well as a racial slur on a dry-erase board in the dorm suite, made a report to the housing office.

A housing manager spoke to the student and went to police – though she told them initially that the student wished to keep police out of it. But the campus police force pursued the case.

In interviews, the student told investigators that he didn’t know whether his roommates were motivated by racism or a desire to pull off pranks. In any event, he said he was scared and often stayed in his bedroom or avoided the suite altogether.

References to slavery

The student, according to police reports, said race had “always been used” in the abuse. He said he viewed the bike lock attack and the flying of the Confederate flag as references to slavery.

The roommates, meanwhile, told police that they had no animosity toward black people. They and other dorm residents said the African American student had been targeted as part of a series of pranks involving residents.

Asked about the Confederate flag, which included the slogan “The South shall rise again,” Beaschler said it was a reference to his Southern California roots and was meant to “ruffle people’s feathers,” according to a police report.

Beaschler said his posting of Nazi symbols and his writing of a racist slur on the dry-erase board were jokes with no ill intent.

Some students said the alleged abuse wasn’t motivated by racism but a desire to pull off edgy pranks. A Korean American woman who lived across the hall from the African American student referred to the racist symbols in the suite as “dark humor.”

Police quoted the woman as saying she “grew up in the era where it (prejudice) doesn’t seem present to us, it’s just in the books. It doesn’t seem like a big deal for us to do things like this.”

She said the black student had become the focus of pranks because “he’s an easy target and he takes it well.”

Demian Bulwa is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: dbulwa@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @demianbulwa

Three black students waiting for bus arrested after cops order them to ‘disperse’ (participation)

Three black students waiting for bus arrested after cops order them to ‘disperse’

By David Edwards
Monday, December 2, 2013 10:59 EST
Raliek Redd, Wan'Tauhjs Weathers and Daequon Carelock arrested while waiting for bus (WHEC)

Three African-American students who were waiting for a school bus in Rochester, New York were arrested on Wednesday morning when police officer told them to “disperse,” even though witnesses said they did nothing wrong.

According to WROC, basketball coach Jacob Scott had arranged for a school bus to pick up the boys to take them to a scrimmage on a day when school was closed.

A police report claimed that the boys were blocking “pedestrian traffic while standing on a public sidewalk…preventing free passage of citizens walking by and attempting to enter and exit a store…Your complainant gave several lawful clear and concise orders for the group to disperse and leave the area without complaince [sic].”

But the students and the coach dispute the police version of events.

“We didn’t do nothing,” student Raliek Redd explained. “We was just trying to go to our scrimmage.”

“We was just waiting for our bus and he started arrested us,” student Wan’Tauhjs Weathers added.

Daequon Carelock, who was also arrested, lamented that anyone could be “just downtown, minding your own business, and next thing you know, anything can happen.”

Coach Scott arrived just as the boys were being handcuffed and was also threatened with arrest.

“He goes on to say, ‘If you don’t disperse, you’re going to get booked as well,’” Scott recalled. “I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?’”

“One of the police officers actually told me, if he had a big enough caravan, he would take all of us downtown,” he noted.

Scott called the incident a “catastrophe” for the boys and witnesses who were traumatized by the arrest.

“These young men were doing nothing wrong, nothing wrong. They did exactly what they were supposed to do and still they get arrested,” Scott remarked. “I’m speaking to the officers with dignity…and still and yet – they see me get treated like nothing.”

Rochester school board member Mary Adams expressed her outrage at the arraignment last week.

“I think the charges should be immediately dropped and I think the district attorney’s office should be stepping in and looking at these kinds of matters,” she said.

“I’m very concerned about a pattern of young people being abused by police authority,” Adams told WHEC. “To me, this seems like a really clear case, part of a pattern.”

A trial for the three students is scheduled for December 11.

Watch this video from WROC, broadcast Nov. 29, 2013.