Race and Rice

First of all, I’d like to thank those of you who showed support for this blog.  I had a good, long talk with myself before writing it.  And I appreciate your kind words and low expectations.

I think the hard part of writing something like that isn’t airing the dirty laundry.  That’s easy.  It’s knowing some of you won’t like it.  Accepting others judgement about you is the tough part.

And that’s where I’m beginning, by doing what I do best.  As so eloquently stated by Donald Sutherland in “JFK”:  stirring the shitstorm.  And what better way to do it then with race and Rice.

Three big stories emerged recently:  The Ferguson, Missouri shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer.  Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson selling his majority ownership of the team after a past e-mail surfaced about why he thought “blacks” and “hip-hop music” kept “affluent whites” from coming to games.  And the NFL basically kicking Ray Rice out of the league for punching his then fiancee/now wife in the face.  To me, all three follow the same theme as my first post:  acceptance.

As a society, our emotional reaction to these acts tends to overwhelm us.  We’re angered, sickened, upset.  We want retribution, punishment, jail time.  We want to form a posse, or angry mob, or start a witch hunt.  Like the commercials for Old El Paso salsa used to say, “Get a rope!”

Here’s the problem:  You need to believe it.  Watch it.  Take it all in.  Because It happens.  Always will.  That’s part of acceptance.  Don’t accept the act.  Accept the act OCCURS. I constantly try to get my wife to watch animal abuse videos.  She hates it.  But I always say to her, “You can’t fix it if you don’t know what people do and why they do it.”  You cannot fight racism without first accepting it will always exist.  Domestic violence will always exist.  Gays, obese people, immigrants, women, Jews, atheists–let me say it again.  Some people will always hate you. ALWAYS.  Accept it.

That’s why I am not surprised, shocked, or angered by what happened.  I AM surprised, shocked, and angered by the reaction.  In Ferguson,  people raced to judgement on both sides.  Protests, riots, destroying businesses who had nothing to do with it.  Our emotions wanted to ruin the life of a police officer without getting his side of the story.  Instead of letting the legal process play out, our anger demanded an immediate sacrifice to feel better.  People on both sides of the argument entrenched.  It’s the same thing with Levenson.  After the Donald Sterling incident, the NBA began looking into his racially charged e-mail.  And Levenson was forced to fall on his sword or be sent away to Sterling Island.

Rice is by far the worst example of it.  If I let my emotions get the better of me, I would say good riddance.  We’ve all seen the video.  It’s appalling.  Ask my wife and she’ll tell you I do not understand how people commit animal abuse, child abuse, rape and domestic violence.  But if you think about it logically, you would first think about this:  Dallas Cowboy Josh Brent will eventually play in the NFL, possibly this year, after killing his friend and teammate in a DUI crash in December of 2012.  Michael Vick suits up despite spending time in prison after abusing and killing pit bulls in a dog-fighting ring.  Earlier this year, a jury found Carolina Panther defensive end Greg Hardy guilty of assaulting a girlfriend and threatening to kill her.  Yep, he’s still playing pending his appeal.  I don’t think Rice’s crime is any worse than these three.  His real crime: it was all caught on video.

When the first clip came out, it was shocking.  A man dragging his then-fiancee’s unconscious body out of an elevator like a Mafia hit man disposing of someone he just whacked.  We learned what happened and our emotions changed from shock to anger.  The NFL’s two game suspension led to outrage at what many perceived as a light sentence.  But as time passed, our emotions faded.  We may not have liked the punishment, but we moved on.  Then came the second video.  We saw what actually happened, not just read about it.  We were in the elevator with them.  We saw the argument and the punch, watched her head slam into the elevator rail, and what seemed to be Rice’s nonchalant reaction by simply kicking her to see if she was still alive.  Roger Goodell said it changed things.  Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it changed things.  We as a society said it changed things.  Why?

Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock touched on this here after the Donald Sterling incident.  “In a society filled with impurities, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers committed the crime of speaking impure thoughts in the privacy of a duplex he apparently provided for his mistress. And now an angry, agenda-fueled mob provoked NBA commissioner Adam Silver into handing Sterling a basketball death sentence.”  Sound familiar?  I don’t care about the video.  I don’t need to see it to know what happened or to believe what a reasonable punishment should be.  But obviously, many of you do.  Are you burning Greg Hardy’s jersey?  Where’s the call for his head?  There is none because the media doesn’t have video to ram down our throats.  Sports Illustrated talks about it here.  Reading about it doesn’t make us feel anything.  Seeing it does.  Outrage replaces logic.  And what was a fruitful discussion turns into a drunken bar brawl.

Look around, because that’s all we do nowadays.  We fight about everything.  Men vs. women.  Black vs. white.  Democrats vs. Republicans.  We don’t talk, or debate, or discuss. When someone doesn’t agree with us, we fight.  We don’t try to understand their logic.  As Whitlock says, Sterling grew up in a white supremacy culture.  Do we care?  No.  We just want him gone.  But sending Sterling away doesn’t mean the culture goes with him.  Levenson followed.  Many more will come.  Replace Ferguson, Missouri with the name of another town or city, because another police shooting of an unarmed black man will happen.  Rice’s video is just visual proof of one domestic violence incident in a string of thousands.  Once you accept that, we can have a real conversation about it.  Until then, praise the new punishment of Rice.  Demand the heads of coach John Harbaugh and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  Watch NFL games.  Your emotion and anger will soon go away.  But the problem never will.












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