I Can’t Breathe

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Scrolling through my TeamStream feed this morning catching up on the weekends sport, I came across the headline ‘Giants, Yankees Step Up for Fallen NYPD Officer’. The article went on to say that the NY Yankees will be paying for the education of  murdered NYPD officer Rafael Ramos’ sons, and that the New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, wore ‘a black strip on his left arm + a peace sign under the NY on his shirt in honor of slain NYPD officers’. While these gestures will in no way make up for the loss of life, they do show that sports teams are truly supportive to victims of heinous acts like murder, brutality and domestic violence. Or are they?

After the murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, many basketball and football players joined in the public outrage and showed their support of the fallen men. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett and others wore the last words of Eric Garner emblazoned across their chests ‘I Can’t Breathe’.

LeBron James

What happened? The NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that although he respected the players’ stance, he would prefer the players to ‘abide by our on court attire rules’. He might as well have said ‘Yeah do it, it’s good that you have those views. But post it on your Instagram or Twitter. Don’t do it on the NBAs time. We have a brand to protect. Now drink your Gatorade and make sure the cameras see’. Images Tommie Smith and John Carlos come to mind.

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5 members of the St.Louis Rams including wideouts Tayvon Austin, Kenny Britt and Jared Cook, came out of the tunnel before kick-off, and made the ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ gesture in reference to the killing of Michael Brown. What did Missouri Police labelled the gesture as ‘tasteless, offensive and inflammatory’, also calling for the players to be disciplined. Disciplined?? These are grown men! No sorry… they used to call us ‘boys’. Almost forgot…

ADDITION Raiders Rams Football

And now 2 officers are murdered in New York, and sports teams are first on the scene to offer support.

So it’s not about looking after those affected by murder is it?

The police officers were killed in cold blood. They just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Paying for the education of the Rafael Ramos’ children is a wonderful gesture (Wenjian Liu had no children) and we all wish we saw more acts of benevolence like that in this world. Eric Garner was killed with the use of an illegal choke hold. He was the father of 6 children and 3 grandchildren. The Yankees, the Mets, the Jets, the Giants, the Nets, the Knicks, the Rangers and the Islanders are all professional sports teams in New York. No money. No apology. Don’t show any support for him at our games. We have a business to run.

It seems as though there is this undying loyalty shown towards law enforcement, where they can do no wrong in the eyes of America. They are enforce the law, and are above it at the same time. And it’s not even about race! It’s not like these 2 officers were white. But they are part of the police force. Law enforcement. There’s a reason why the word force is used rather than police team or law upholders. It means that the values they hold true, will be upheld by force. So go ahead and protest against what we do. Just know that your sports teams are on our side. Your favorite tv shows are on our side. Politicians are on our side. Speak out against us and we will force you to comply, even if it means death. We’ve got you in a choke hold.

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#icantbreathe

Should we still have Black History Month? Part 1

black-history-month

With many thanks to Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, since 1987, the UK has been celebrating BHM in the month of October. Schools up and down the country usually put up displays and encourage students to do a piece of writing, usually focusing on Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, or others of that ilk. Should BHM continue to be as it is, or should it be, as many would like it to be, integrated into average history lessons and curricula?

Currently in most schools, history lessons focus on a certain selections of history. We in England learn about the Tudors, the Victorians, the two World Wars, how the Allies triumphed, and how the Holocaust was one of the worst events in history. We even learn bits about the French Revolution and the Middle Ages including the Black Death and the Magna Carta. Sure there have been Black people living in Britain for hundreds of years, they played a part in the two World Wars and struggled for equality, but is that any reason to introduce more Black History? Isn’t one month enough?

At the end of the day, England is a White Protestant country. Don’t let Stratford Westfield or Peckham fool you, of the 80 million people living in Britain, Black people only make up 3.5% (1.8million people). To put that number into perspective, you can fit almost all of the UK’s Black people into the built up areas of West Yorkshire. How then on that basis can such a small minority justify changing how history is taught to everyone in the UK? Majority rules right?

Black History Month was often a time growing up where more questions were directed to you, and if you didn’t know an answer, you were likely to be laughed at during break, ‘I thought you were black’. It was unwanted attention and pressure to pay extra attention and raise your hand a little bit more. It wasn’t a time of pride, it was a time of wondering why people were looking at you more than usual. The content of the lessons were a welcome break from hearing about Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Sir Walter Raleigh. Growing older, and reflecting on the things we were told during BHM, questions begin to form.

There is a heavy focus on the 1960‘s Civil Rights movement in America and slavery, in comparison to mention about the Empire Windrush in 1948. I remember going to history class one day, and the teacher told us to stack tables on top of each other, and line them in a semi-circle around the classroom. We were then instructed to lie, one under and one on top of the tables to simulate how slaves were transported to Brazil, America and the Caribbean. As much as it was ‘interesting’ and somewhat informative, growing older, we start to realise that these few events only show a particular selection of Black History. For example, Brazil is hardly ever mentioned as the country which received the most slaves from West Africa. Black British history? John Blanke, Mike Fuller or John Edmonstone? Never.

First of all, the way BHM is at the moment, it lumps together African, African-American and Afro-Caribbean history into one. There is no real distinction between the many differences between these different groups, it’s a broad and fragmented history or people with dark skin. It doesn’t take into account that the experiences in Black America, were and still are very different from the Caribbean, Brazilian, British and African. But of course in one month there is no time to get into things into detail. Really? No time?

We spend 2 years studying for GCSE History exams, but it seems as though it’s more important to remember how many wives Henry VIII murdered, than how many people perished on those slave ships in the Middle Passage. Knowing other trivia like the disgusting ‘Queen Elizabeth I had 1 bath a year’ is absolutely pointless and currently trumps other relevant facts and events such as the evidence that the palace in the Kenyan city of Gedi had indoor toilets and piped water controlled by taps. Even if these facts aren’t deemed relevant, wouldn’t time being best served by learning about why Britain has become so multicultural, and the reasons behind many people wanting to Keep Britain White?

End of Part 1…

Part 2 here

Jesse Owens

jesse-owensJesse Owens (12 Sept 1913 – 31 March 1980)

For most track athletes competing in the Olympics, all they have to worry about is winning. Running, throwing or jumping better than they ever have in their lives to insure their places in the history books. Jesse Owens entered the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, not only with that on his mind, but with a myriad of racial and political implications at stake.
In the summer of 1935, Jesse Owens had broken 5 world records at a single meet, and with the Olympics the following year, many rightly regarded him as the favorite in multiple events. So you have the weight of expectation on your shoulders. Many athletes have to deal with that.
The complications arise when considering the fact that Owens, even as a star athlete in America, he was forced to ride in separate cars to athletics meets from his White teammates. America was happy for him to compete, but he was not treated as an equal even outside of day-to-day America. The dichotomy in American thought was striking, knowing the fact that the Amateur Athletic Union threatened to boycott the treatment of German Jews under Hitlers regime. The racist Nazi claims of Aryan superiority, angered Black people, and Owens seemingly needed to re-address the balance of thought after the German boxer Max Schmeling had beaten Joe Louis in early 1936.
In the space of less than an hour, Owens set 3 world records and tied another in the 100m, 200m, 400m relay and long jump. The long jump record stood for 25 years, and his haul of 4 track and field gold medals was only matched in 1980 by Carl Lewis.The brothers and Nazi supporters, Rudolph and Adolf Dassler, gave Owens the first sponsorship for an African-American athlete, which resulted in the boom of their sales, and the base for the formation of the now global brands, Puma and Adidas.

Hitler, disgusted and ashamed that Owens crushed the Aryan ideology, refused to shake Owens and the other Black athletes’ hands, which lead to further damning international press about Hitler. Even though Owens returned triumphantly to the America after the games, he still had to suffer the indignity of sitting at the back of the bus and entering through Black only doors. It didn’t seem to affect Owens much as he said:

I wasn’t invited up to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the president, either.

Although Owens has gone down as one of the most successful athletes of all time, the context in which he did all of these things shouldn’t be underestimated. 29 Blacks were lynched in the years 1935-6. Blacks served their country during war but were still treated as lower than second class citizens. Owens helped to squash at the time, but its interesting that White supremacist ideology is maintained and sustained today, by assertions that Black athletes these days are what they are because of what we [Whites] did to them [the breeding of slaves], and not in spite of what we [Whites] did to them. Owens’ feat was achieved before Jackie Robinson broke colour lines in baseball in 1947, and before the NFL started to become big business and opened its doors to Black players in 1946.

#atruepioneer