When the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: Silver’s Golden Idea

It’s time to Break It Down!

In a couple of previous posts I’ve written about the NBA and it’s efforts to integrate females into the fabric of its coaching rubric. In 2014, the Spurs hired Rebecca (Becky) Hammon as an Assistant Coach. I first mentioned her in a post on August 6, 2014, entitled, “First The Spurs Won The Title: Now They Are Making History!” That story detailed the Spurs opting to bring her into the organization. Subsequently, I reprised her as a subject July 22, 2015, in a post entitled, “The Spurs and Becky Hammon: Another Chapter Added!”

This story discussed her leading the Spurs to the Championship of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League the previous Monday evening. In a more recent footnote, Hammon became the first Female Assistant Coach for an NBA All-Star Team in 2016 (coincidentally, the winning West squad). Clearly, even though she largely flies beneath the radar, she is amassing serious NBA coaching bona fides. However, if one takes a step back, low profile notwithstanding, it should not come as a surprise that the League, which like other professional sports businesses, is exploring staging teams internationally, is also looking for ways to leverage its commitment to this element of coaching diversity.

NBA Commissioners are noted for their heavy involvement with various League protocols. Former Commissioner David Stern, who at one time responded to his concern about the image of NBA Players, actually instituted a dress code to ensure that players comported themselves in an acceptable manner, sartorially speaking, anyway. To that end, it is entirely conceivable that if this Commissioner believes (and it is clear he does) the League will benefit by adding women to its coaching carousel, it almost certainly will do so. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN discussed the matter with Commissioner Adam Silver and reported that the Commissioner not only believes it could happen, but that it could happen in the near, or at least, not-to-distant future. According to the ESPN reporter, Silver said:

“There definitely will (be a female NBA Coach), and I think it is on me to sort of ensure that it happens sooner rather than later. There’s ‘”absolutely no reason”’ a woman can’t handle an NBA head-coaching role.

He added, the league is “very focused” on making it happen. He mentioned three leading possibilities in the pipeline that might break the proverbial glass ceiling, according to ESPN:

  • Becky Hammon, Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs
  • Nancy Lieberman, Assistant Coach, Sacramento Kings
  • Natalie Nakase, Assistant Video Coordinator, Los Angeles Clippers

In an interview to promote both the league and Leanin.org’s new campaign to raise gender-equity awareness, Commissioner Silver indicated that the league also hopes to hire additional female game officials as the referee roster increases by 25 percent over the next three seasons. Lauren Holtkamp is the only woman currently officiating games. Violet Palmer and Dee Kanter have previously officiated league contests.

In a completely different camp than Silver is radio host Mike Francesa. During a recent broadcast, Francesa said a woman has no shot at being a head coach, and if one were to be hired, it would be a publicity stunt. The Commissioner, in responding to Francesa’s suggestion noted that in coaching, there are no physical requirements, unlike with players. He went on to say:

“When it comes to coaching, there is absolutely no physical requirement. When it is not a function of how high you can jump or how strong you are, there is no physical litmus test to being a head coach in the league. There is absolutely no reason why a woman will not ascend to be a head coach in this league. We are very focused in on it.”

Years ago a similar debate centered on whether people who never played in the NBA could coach in the league. Obviously, that concern has long since been vanquished. People with a public forum, such as Francesa can surely escalate the topic as a key point of discussion. One person, in addition to Commissioner Stern, who doesn’t consider Francesa’s point to be pertinent, is Spur’s Coach Gregg Popovich (Hammon’s boss). In fact, the word “Pop” used to describe Francesa’s comment is nonsense. Incidentally, Hammon recently turned down an offer to coach the University of Florida’s Women’s Basketball Team, in order to focus on becoming the first woman coach in the NBA. Popovich added that he views the matter of the first female head coach in the NBA as a societal issue, and that he doesn’t see Hammon as the first female anything. As he went on to put it:

“In America, we are great at sticking our heads in the sand and being behind the rest of the world in a whole lot of areas. We think we are this big democratic, fair place. But you look at our world now, whether it’s gender-wise or racially or religiously, there’s all kinds of stuff that is not the way it’s supposed to be.”

“I think a female coaching a team these days has a lot to do with the people on the teams maturing as individuals, as members of a society understanding that it’s not about any of those things. It’s about talent. It’s about respect. People like Becky over time will gain respect and people will understand that this is possible. It can happen. It’s like women getting the vote. Think about how long that took before change was made.”

“I think since 2000 changes have been pretty damn lacking in a lot of ways. I think people are fed up with it, injustice, and people not respecting other people’s space and who they are. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Ultimately, we do not know when a woman will join the ranks of NBA coaches. After all, how many woman coach men’s D-1 college basketball teams? The answer to that question is zero. In fact, there has only been one, and she only coached one game, as a result of a quirky set of circumstances. Teresa Phillips, Athletic Director at Tennessee State University, appointed herself coach for a game during which the incumbent had to sit out due to players fighting during a game. I admire Commissioner Silver’s instincts and intentions. I believe he will, if he stays around long enough, make it happen. But let’s be clear, he’s swimming against the tide. I’m pulling for him though. When the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: Silver’s Golden Idea!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2700391-adam-silver-wants-a-woman-as-nba-head-coach-sooner-than-later?utm_source=cnn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=editorial

https://thesphinxofcharlotte.com/2015/07/22/the-spurs-and-becky-hammon-another-chapter-added/

https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=5516202214514810687#editor/target=post;postID=9175551925371279615;onPublishedMenu=template;onClosedMenu=template;postNum=140;src=postname

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_National_Basketball_Association_head_coaches

http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/adam-silver-believes-woman-will-be-nba-head-coach-sooner-than-later/vp-BByY9VL

http://www.usatoday.com/videos/sports/2017/03/28/adam-silver-believes-woman-nba-head-coach-‘sooner-than-later’/99724986/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/ct-adam-silver-first-female-nba-coach-20170328-story.html

http://www.si.com/nba/video/2017/03/28/adam-silver-woman-nba-head-coach-sooner-later

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTIUOJsEv6M

http://www.espnsa.com/adam-silver-will-female-nba-head-coach-sooner-rather-later/

http://www.tennessean.com/story/sports/college/2014/04/05/teresa-philips-tsu-ncaa-basketball-legendary-lady/7348299/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Silver

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Francesa

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregg_Popovich

The 30th White House Press Secretary: When Spinning Spun Out of Control

It’s time to Break It Down!

For much of our history as a nation, the first 140 years to be precise, there was no formal position known as White House Press Secretary (WHPS). However, over the past 88 years, 12 Administrations, and 15 Presidents, we have had 30 people, and counting, serve in that capacity, plus at least two people who served as Acting, or De Facto in the job. Twenty-three of those, twenty-five if you count the interims, served during my lifetime. One, James Hagerty, who held the position during the entire Eisenhower administration, stands out for having had the longest tenure on record (8 years, or two entire Presidential terms).

The WHPS is a senior White House official whose principal job is to serve in the role of spokesperson for the executive branch of the United States government administration, particularly for the President, senior executives, and for policies articulated by the administration. Key responsibilities of the office include collecting information on matters taking place within the administration, and articulating the administration’s reactions to events and developments worldwide. The WHPS regularly interacts with the media, typically including daily briefings with the White House press corps.

The individual occupying the position serves by the appointment and at the pleasure of the President. This position does not require the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. Despite this distinction, the position is considered a very prominent post.

Chart Listing White House Press Secretaries

# Officeholder Term start Term end President
1 George E. Akerson March 4, 1929 March 16, 1931 Herbert Hoover
2 Theodore Joslin March 16, 1931 March 4, 1933
3 Stephen Early March 4, 1933 March 29, 1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt
4 Jonathan W. Daniels March 29, 1945 May 15, 1945
Harry S. Truman
5 Charlie Ross May 15, 1945 December 5, 1950
Stephen Early

Acting

December 5, 1950 December 18, 1950
6 Joseph Short December 5, 1950 September 18, 1952
7 Roger Tubby September 18, 1952 January 20, 1953
8 James Hagerty January 20, 1953 January 20, 1961 Dwight D. Eisenhower
9 Pierre Salinger January 20, 1961 March 19, 1964 John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
10 George Reedy March 19, 1964 July 8, 1965 Lyndon B. Johnson
11 Bill Moyers July 8, 1965 February 1, 1967
12 George Christian February 1, 1967 January 20, 1969
13 Ron Ziegler January 20, 1969 August 9, 1974 Richard Nixon
14 Jerald terHorst August 9, 1974 September 9, 1974 Gerald Ford
15 Ron Nessen September 9, 1974 January 20, 1977
16 Jody Powell January 20, 1977 January 20, 1981 Jimmy Carter
17 James Brady1 January 20, 1981 March 30, 1981/

January 20, 1989

Ronald Reagan
Larry Speakes1

Acting

March 30, 1981 February 1, 1987
18 Marlin Fitzwater1

Acting: 1987–1989

February 1, 1987 January 20, 1993
George H. W. Bush
George Stephanopoulos2

De facto

January 20, 1993 June 7, 1993 Bill Clinton
19 Dee Dee Myers2, 3 January 20, 1993 December 22, 1994
20 Mike McCurry December 22, 1994 August 4, 1998
21 Joe Lockhart August 4, 1998 September 29, 2000
22 Jake Siewert September 30, 2000 January 20, 2001
23 Ari Fleischer January 20, 2001 July 15, 2003 George W. Bush
24 Scott McClellan July 15, 2003 May 10, 2006
25 Tony Snow May 10, 2006 September 14, 2007
26 Dana Perino September 14, 2007 January 20, 2009
27 Robert Gibbs January 20, 2009 February 11, 2011 Barack Obama
28 Jay Carney February 11, 2011 June 20, 2014
29 Josh Earnest June 20, 2014 January 20, 2017
30 Sean Spicer January 20, 2017 Present Donald Trump

It goes without question, the WHPS is, and has always been, a challenging job. In contemporary parlance, the party in question must be comfortable and adept at spinning. Surely, he or she must do so on a daily basis. Spinning is an art. Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton’s first WHPS (he had four), said of the practice:

“Spinning is not lying, but rather marshaling the facts in service of an argument.”

She is not the only practitioner to address the subject. Larry Speakes, who held the position under Ronald Reagan, framed it thusly:

“Spinning aims to minimize the damage by surrounding bad facts with context and good facts.”

That’s all well and good, but at some point, one almost has to resort to using the tactic to describe it effectively. The Late Tony Snow, who performed the function under President George W. Bush, said at one point:

“If it got to the point where I thought it would cost me my credibility, I would have no choice but to walk away.”

That was a decade or more ago; might as well be calculated in light-years. That was pre-Obama. Don’t underestimate the importance of that timeline marker. Virtually everything that highlights the bright line of demarcation between the ideological poles was heightened and super-sensitized after the 2008 Election. The opposition slowly, surely, and systematically turned off all filters over the course of the Obama Administration. Fast forward to today, and we see that fake news is a thing; one that is normalized, no less, and the concept of alternative facts has been invented. Both concepts seem to have permeated the day-to-day communications strategy of the current administration.

That leads us to the here and now. There has been a dizzying song and dance about the propensity, and arguably the wisdom of either taking the leader of this administration and of the free world, literally, but not seriously, or seriously, but not literally. I personally don’t think that nonsense even qualifies as spin. Rather, it is both seriously and literally bullshizzle! But that’s just me. (Or is it?)

Yesterday marked Day 60 of the current President’s first term. In those two months it’s perfectly fair to say, no matter what the WHPSs salary is, he underpaid. He has unquestionably had to clean up more crap than a circus attendant. Laying Mr. Snow’s perspective to the side, I’ve seen no indication the incumbent has given any thought to walking away. Chances are, he’ll be asked to leave before he decides to do so.

Two months have been more than enough time for questions of credibility to arise. In fact, a number of sources have suggested that Mr. Spicer has pushed the envelope hard enough and often enough that reasonable people are within bounds to question whether this WHPS has fractured, ruptured, or flat out obliterated even the thinnest strain of credibility. No doubt some would suggest, and I concur, that he has not one scintilla (of credibility) remaining.

Here is an abbreviated list of (10) assertions Sean Spicer, in his role as Press Secretary, has made that numerous fact checking organizations found to be patently false allegations, including:

  • The 2016 Presidential Inauguration crowd size was the biggest ever
  • 14% of the 2008 Presidential Election voters were non citizens
  • Paul Manafort played a very limited role in the campaign for a very limited time
  • Philip Bilden is 100% committed to becoming Naval Secretary (after CBS reported he would withdraw, which subsequent to Spicer’s comment, he did)
  • Obama used the British to tape Trump (After American Intelligence agencies said there was no evidence American Intelligence Agencies had done so), sparking an international incident. After that claim was also debunked, Spicer said it was silly to equate quoting a news story to support for that story.
  • 45 won more Electoral votes than any Republican since Reagan
  • CNN retracted statements questioning Kellyanne Conway’s Credibility
  • There was no concern expressed about President Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court
  • The ban (which supposedly is not a ban) was always about specific countries, rather than about Muslims (though throughout the campaign, we were promised a Muslim Ban)
  • The Jobs Reports were fake, but they are real now

Since most of the items above are downright laughable, I will not spend any extra time relating the details or timelines that refute the lunacy. I intentionally omitted the item that kicked off the most recent kerfuffle, though I included a related incident. Saturday before last, Mr. Spicer’s boss rendered a tweet accusing President Obama of wiretapping him (at Trump Tower). While the FBI and the other Intelligence Agencies have dismissed this as something that simply didn’t happen, Mr. Spicer repeatedly indicated that his bossed “believed” it happened. Considering his boss also believed (until mid-September 2016) President Obama was not American, and that he saw thousands of Muslims cheering in Jersey City in the wake of 9/11, there is obviously no accounting for what he “believes.” Having said that, I must pivot back to my opening premise, The 30th White House Press Secretary: When Spinning Spun Out of Control!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_Press_Secretary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Spicer

http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/21/media/sean-spicer-credibility/index.html

http://wwlp.com/2017/03/20/sean-spicers-credibility-in-question-after-defending-trump/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/24/sean-spicer-just-keeps-killing-his-credibility/?utm_term=.21b42b18fc43

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/01/23/spicer-inauguration-crowds-credibility-editorials-debates/96956320/

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/other/sean-spicers-credibility-called-into-question/vp-BBytWvw

http://www.wjr.com/news/how-sean-spicer-lost-his-credibility/

http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/05/media/melissa-mccarthy-sean-spicer-snl/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/03/10/white-house-briefing-sean-spicer-jobs-report-nr.cnn

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/46811_Debunking_Sean_Spicers_Lie_That_14_of_2008_Voters_Were_Non-Citizens

https://mediamatters.org/research/2017/01/24/renowned-liar-sean-spicer-lied-about-lying-press/215111

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/11/22/donald-trumps-outrageous-claim-that-thousands-of-new-jersey-muslims-celebrated-the-911-attacks/?utm_term=.ec562b5dd77e

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/09/politics/donald-trump-birther/index.html

Baldwin’s Reminiscences: Chicken Soup for the Afrocentric Soul

It’s time to Break It Down!

It has been said there’s a first time for everything; also that there is a time and a place for everything under the sun. In those lights, and in full disclosure, I have not previously used this space to review a movie. In the broadest sense, I am doing that today.

I finally went to see the film, I Am Not Your Negro, this weekend. I presume most folks who frequent this space are culturally literate, woke, conscious, or otherwise attuned to contemporary culture, however you may characterize that sense of being. With that knowledge uppermost in mind, I’ll begin by providing a simple 30,000 feet bird’s eye summary and then go deeper. The movie is a 2016 American documentary film. It was directed by Raoul Peck, and is based on James Baldwin‘s unfinished manuscript Remember This House.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson provides narration. The key objective of the film is to explore the history of racism in America through the lens of Mr. Baldwin’s reminiscences of three iconic black civil rights leaders: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. All three men were assassinated between June 1963 and April 1968, each before his 40th birthday. They were Baldwin’s contemporaries. He was born the year before Medgar and Malcolm, and five years before the Rev. Dr. King.

The picture was widely acclaimed, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature last month at the 89th Academy Awards. Prior to that it premiered in September 2016 at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. There, it won the People’s Choice Award in the category of Documentary Films. A short while later, Magnolia Pictures and Amazon Studios acquired the film’s distribution rights. It was preliminarily released in December 2016 in order to qualify for this year’s Oscars. Subsequently, the filmed had its primary opening in February 2017.

In addition to garnering an Academy Award Nomination and winning a People’s Choice Award, its Rotten Tomatoes approval rating is 98%, based on 107 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The summary review on the website reads:

I Am Not Your Negro offers an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin’s crucial observations on American race relations — and a sobering reminder of how far we’ve yet to go.”

On Metacritic, the film has a score of 96 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating “universal acclaim.”

The breadth of critical acclaim the film has attracted is voluminous, with numerous nominations, some of which are still pending. However, it has actually won the following:

  • Black Film Critics Circle – Special Mention
  • 52nd Chicago International Film Festival – Audience Choice/Best Documentary
  • Hampton International Film Festival – Audience Award/Best Documentary
  • International Documentary Association – Creative Recognition Award/Best Writing – Raoul Peck
  • International Documentary Association – Creative Recognition Award/Best Writing – James Baldwin
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards – Best Documentary Film
  • Philadelphia Film Festival – Audience Award/Best Feature
  • Philadelphia Film Festival – Jury Prize for Best Documentary Feature
  • San Francisco Film Critics Circle – Best Documentary Film
  • St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association – Best Documentary Film
  • 41st Toronto International Film Festival – People’s Choice Award
  • IndieWire Critics Poll – Best Documentary/3rd Place, Best Editing/9th Place
  • National Society of Film Critics Awards – Best Non-Fiction Film/Runner-up
  • Village Voice Film Poll – Best Documentary/3rd Place (Tied w/No Home Movie)

The listing of nominations is equally long and includes:

  • Academy Awards – Best Documentary
  • Alliance of Women Film Journalists – Best Documentary, Best Editing
  • Austin Film Critics Association Awards – Best Documentary
  • Black Reel Awards – Best Documentary
  • Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association – Best Documentary Film
  • Florida Film Critics Award – Best Documentary Film
  • Gotham Awards – Audience Award, Best Documentary
  • Hampton International Film Festival – Brizzolara Family Foundation Award For a Film of Conflict and Resolution – Best Film
  • Independent Spirit Award – Best Documentary Feature
  • International Documentary Association – IDA Award for Best Feature, Video Source Award
  • NAACP Image Award – Outstanding Documentary – Film
  • North Carolina Film Critics Association – Best Documentary Film
  • Online Film Critics Society – Best Documentary Film
  • Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association Awards – Best Documentary

There are also several nominations still pending, including:

  • Central Ohio Film Critics Association – Best Documentary
  • Cinema Eye Honors Awards, US – Cinema Eye Honors Choice Prize, Outstanding Achievement in Non-Fiction Feature Filmmaking, Outstanding Achievement in Direction, Outstanding Achievement in Editing, Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Score

In February 2017, Vintage International, a Division of Random House published the book, “I Am Not Your Negro,” as a companion document to the movie. This is arguably one of those rare instances in which the movie preceded the book, sort of. Needless to say, the framework for the book came into being long before the movie debuted. That’s a fair point, and one I am not contesting.

I noted earlier that I “finally” got to see the film. I became aware of it from a trailer back in December when it was initially released. I knew right away I wanted to see it.

The story begins with Baldwin’s reflections on that moment, while living in France as an expatriate, that he came to realize he felt the pull of an irresistible magnetic force to return home and engage more directly with what was this country’s quintessential civil rights movement. He was irrevocably moved by the image of a young black girl, Dorothy Counts, in Charlotte, North Carolina, being confronted by a white mob as she integrated the city’s Harding High School.

Upon returning to the United States, Baldwin wrote a number of essays about the movement for various periodicals, including, Harper’s, Partisan Review, Mademoiselle, The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Progressive

During his travels, he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X, among many other notables engaged in the struggle for human equality and economic empowerment. He would come to know, work with, and write extensively about all three of the principals and the work they did in an effort to move America to redeem itself of the vestiges of its original sin. Over the course of his travels across America, observing and writing, he would have occasions to review and chronicle the lives, the work, and the deaths of Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin. Moreover, he began work on what would have been a seminal work on the depth and scope of the Movement, entitled, Remember This House. That unfinished work became I Am Not Your Negro, and addresses among other things, the different and similar views and approaches of this triumvirate of members of the Movement’s pantheon of martyrs.

Obviously I am no film critic. But after nearly a decade of occupying this space, I do consider myself an active social commentator. It is in that role, I enthusiastically recommend this film for your viewing. In fact, I would suggest adding it to your personal catalogue/library. Even if you view the world through a different lens than any of the prominent characters in the story, it is worthwhile to have direct access to a number of real time accounts and reflections by someone who was in the midst of, or on the periphery of, these incredibly important historic events. At the very least, to paraphrase part of the Rotten Tomatoes review, despite however far we have or haven’t come, it is “a sobering reminder of how far we’ve yet to go.”

That’s all I’ve got. Baldwin’s Reminiscences: Chicken Soup for the Afrocentric Soul!” I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remember_This_House

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Not_Your_Negro

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/i_am_not_your_negro

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/02/movies/review-i-am-not-your-negro-review-james-baldwin.html?_r=0

http://oscar.go.com/nominees/documentary-feature/i-am-not-your-negro

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/03/entertainment/i-am-not-your-negro-review/index.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03en4usVQBk

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-not-your-negro-review-20161205-story.html

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5804038/

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/i-am-not-your-negro-931087

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Baldwin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medgar_Evers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_X

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King_Jr.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_L._Jackson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Toronto_International_Film_Festival

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotten_Tomatoes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metacritic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Counts

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte,_North_Carolina

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Rahv

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomery,_Alabama

Avoiding the Inconvenient Truth About Race: An Invitation to Lie!

It’s time to Break It Down!

As I was perusing recent news items, thinking about what to focus on as today’s topic, I encountered a number of stories that reminded me of the tangled web we weave as we attempt to navigate issues of race and class, especially race, in America. I trust you will indulge me as I examine three cases.

There are circles in which slavery is characterized as America’s original sin. Interestingly, in other arenas, it appears that people have been persuaded to believe the institution never existed. Or, if it did, that it was a mere side issue that barely warrants mentioning, and certainly did not affect the growth and development of this country in any substantive way. Suffice it to say, anyone who embraces or touts the views premised in those other arenas, maintains only a casual relationship with the truth, at best, or has been fundamentally misled, or as Dr. Carter G. Woodson might have framed it, is miseducated, or is utterly in the deepest possible denial state.

With that preamble, let’s get into the examination of the cases at hand. If you need more expanded background on the role of slavery in fueling the early American economic engine, this post may be too advanced for you. American History is replete with examples. Do some homework and get back to me.

So in Case Number 1, the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, an avid school choice proponent, in a speech a couple of weeks ago, described Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) as “pioneers of school choice.” School Choice? How about No Choice? No Other Option? Or, No, You Cannot Attend School Here?

Whether a function of designed dissembling, or of unintentional tactless maladroitness, her statement was widely deemed unacceptable. There was sure, swift, and pointed pushback against Ms. DeVos’ loosely worded characterization. After meeting with leaders of HBCU’s, she subsequently praised the institutions for identifying “a system that wasn’t working and taking it upon themselves to provide the solution,” from the outset of their founding. As she endeavored to cleanup her misstatement, she asserted that:

“The institutions started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education.”

“HBCU’s are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.”

Wait just a cotton-picking minute (pun intended). What she did not say was anything relating to the historical context underlying the creation of HBCU’s, such as:

They were a response to Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation in the South.

Such laws barred black students from attending white colleges and universities.

Ergo, HBCU’s were institutions of necessity (for black higher education), not of choice.

There is more to this conversation, to be sure, but I think this is enough to establish the predicate that even as we push, inexorably, toward the end of the second decade of the 21st Century, many people, including leaders of the highest order, frame narratives built on lies, or charitably, misinformation, rather than leading with difficult truths.

In case Number 2, we have known for decades that Sally Hemings played a pivotal, or at least bigger than advertised, role in the life and legacy of Thomas Jefferson, venerable Founding Father, Second Vice President, Third President, First Secretary of State, U.S. Minister to France, Virginia Delegate to Congress, Second Governor of Virginia, Virginia Delegate to the Second Continental Congress, President of the American Philosophical Society, founded the University of Virginia, author of the book, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), considered the most important American book published before 1800, instrumental in making the Louisiana Purchase (during his Presidency), and principle author of the Declaration of Independence (you know, the all men are created equal document).

In contemporary vernacular, Jefferson was a bad mother…Shut your mouth…But I’m talking about Jefferson! And, as Isaac Hayes said of John Shaft, Thomas Jefferson was a complicated man. Almost on cue, the next line of the song is, “But no one understands him but his woman.” That’s where Sally Hemings enters the epic Jeffersonian tale.

Mr. Jefferson, in addition to all of the stellar assignations noted above, was a slave owner. Ms. Hemings was his property. But, it went further than that. For more than a century, it was denied, but we now know that Jefferson and Hemings were sexually involved, to put it in a light more generous than he deserves. The unvarnished truth of the matter is Jefferson willfully availed himself of her body from as soon as her early teen years, and he was the father of at least one of her children (DNA verified, in case anyone wants to argue that point). In other words, he raped her. At will. Repeatedly. For years! That is not hyperbole, it’s not fake news, and it’s not an alternative fact. It’s just, in a word, truth. I think that’s enough about the TJ cover-up.

Case Number 3 involves another current Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary. Secretary Carson was a candidate for President, and before that he was a distinguished neurosurgeon. Whether one believes he is an apt fit for his current job, he has certainly earned a certain amount of respect and intellectual gravitas. And yet, when in public forums, he has been known to sound as though he is ensconced somewhere between awkwardly uncomfortable or inelegant and down right ridiculous. Earlier this week, he trended toward the latter.

In his first meeting with staff at HUD, Carson shared several anecdotes having to do with his career as a neurosurgeon and then praised immigrants who worked long hours to build a better life for their families. Then, almost before one could blink, he…”passed the Rubicon.” He asserted that slaves brought to the United States against their will were immigrants. To be more precise, he said:

“There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-grandsons, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.”

As you might imagine, at least I hope you would, his comments, those above in particular, drew quick condemnation from African Americans in general, and from civil rights groups in particular, the latter casting his remarks as offensive.

Just so we’re clear, enslaved Africans did not voluntarily come to the United States. Moreover, they were denied freedom for hundreds of years. Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect said of Carson’s remarks:

“This is as offensive as it gets.”

That may or may not be an accurate assessment, but Mr. Goldstein was not alone, nor were his comments the most forceful directed at Carson. The Twitterverse was fully engaged, including a hyper-poignant vitriolic bomb from Samuel L. Jackson. While I will not repeat Sam’s rant, you can click on the final link below to see it, in the event you have yet to run across it. Also count the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) among those who criticized Dr. Carson.

On the flip side, a HUD spokesman referred to the reaction to the Secretary’s comments as:

“The most cynical interpretation of the secretary’s remarks to an army of welcoming HUD employees. No one honestly believes he equates voluntary immigration with involuntary servitude.”

It’s also worth noting Dr. Carson was well received by hundreds of HUD employees in the room. He got a standing ovation at the end of his comments. As an aside, the spokesman and the employees do work for Secretary Carson. But that’s beside the point. I am not deflecting to HUD staff. This was about Dr. Carson, Thomas Jefferson, and Betsy DeVos. Keep a keen eye on them or on their examples, and on anyone else who plays fast and loose with the facts as they pertain to race and class, especially to race. Why? Because I consider…Avoiding the Inconvenient Truth About Race: An Invitation to Lie!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/opinions/monticello-carson-devos-truth-bailey-opinion/index.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/03/06/ben-carson-calls-slaves-immigrants/98816752/

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-carson-idUSKBN16E011

https://www.yahoo.com/news/carson-calls-slaves-immigrants-speech-drawing-criticism-001616371.html

http://www.standard.net/National/2017/02/28/DeVos-called-HBCUs-pioneers-of-school-choice-It-didn-t-go-over-well

http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/devos-calls-hbcus-pioneers-of-school-choice-888129603528

http://www.standard.net/Government/2017/03/01/AP-FACT-CHECK-Black-colleges-hardly-school-choice-pioneers

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94828368

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/education-secretary-devos-makes-the-wrong-case-school-choice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/immigrant

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Carson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betsy_DeVos

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/samuel-l-jackson-on-ben-carsons-slavery-comment-mothafa-please_us_58bdd2f5e4b09ab537d5e4b0

 

Her Momma Named Her Robyn; I’mma Call Her Robyn, Humanitarian of the Year!

It’s time to Break It Down!

In penning today’s post, I opted to take a “Road Less Traveled” approach. When you read the post, you’ll understand. In the unlikely event you do not, hit me up and I’ll clarify.

For some, the best thing about this post is it’s really brief. You can thank me later. Without further ado, let’s do this!

Yesterday afternoon, the Harvard Foundation bestowed the prestigious Peter J. Gomes Award to Ms. Robyn Fenty. The award, popularly known as Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year Award, is given annually to recognize prominent public-spirited leaders in honor of the late Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes. The Award, introduced in 1984, comprises a long list of luminary recipients, including:

  • Physician-statistician Hans Rosling
  • Actor James Earl Jones
  • Nobel Peace Prize Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland
  • N. Secretaries General Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, & Javier Perez de Cuellar
  • Gender rights advocate Malala Yousafzai
  • Anti-child-labor spokesman Kailash Satyarthi
  • Tennis player and activist Arthur Ashe
  • Former Health and Human Services Director Louis W. Sullivan
  • Farmworker rights advocate Dolores Huerta

Without question, that is an august list. Ms. Fenty’s work has earned her place among her stoutly credentialed predecessors. According to S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s Director, Ms. Fenty, a native of Barbados, burnished her humanitarian bona fides by:

Charitably building a state-of-the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Founding in 2012, the nonprofit Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program, named for her grandparents, for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today.

The Harvard Foundation presented the Award to Robyn in a ceremony yesterday at 4:00 p.m. at Sanders Theater on the campus of Harvard University. Oh, by the way, did I mention this world-famous Bajan has a middle name by which most of you are likely to know her? For the legions who are not pop culture maven, Ms. Fenty is better known by most of us as Rihanna. In addition to her robust humanitarian vita, she is an international musical phenomenon, a singer, an actress, and a songwriter who has sold more than 200 million records. The woman most of us know best as a musical icon has just gone upscale; Harvard, no less. Her Momma Named Her Robyn; I’mma Call Her Robyn, Humanitarian of the Year!”

I’m done; holla back!

Read my blog anytime by clicking the link: http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com. Find a new post each Wednesday.

To subscribe, click on Follow in the bottom right hand corner of my Home Page at http://thesphinxofcharlotte.com; enter your e-mail address in the designated space, and click on “Sign me up.” Subsequent editions of “Break It Down” will be mailed to your in-box.

Consult the links below for more detailed information on a variety of aspects relating to this post:

http://www.gq.com/story/rihanna-harvard-humanitarian-award

http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/02/28/rihanna-named-humanitarian-of-year-orig-tc.cnn

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/02/rihanna-named-humanitarian-of-year/

http://fusion.net/story/389414/this-video-of-rihanna-becoming-harvards-humanitarian-of-the-year-is-your-joyful-thing-of-the-day/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_Foundation

http://www.pantagraph.com/news/national/rihanna-named-humanitarian-of-year/html_894eedca-13c0-5269-bf8e-175d4634954c.html

https://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2017/02/24/rihanna-honored-as-harvards-humanitarian-of-the-year-award-for-extensive-charity-work/

http://events.tbo.com/blogs/media/winner-and-loser-of-the-week-rihanna-named-harvard-universitys-2017/2314313

http://www.reformer.com/stories/people-rihanna-named-humanitarian-of-the-year,499347

https://www.yahoo.com/news/rihanna-receive-harvard-humanitarian-award-002700680.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_J._Gomes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rihanna