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Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future.

                              -Frederick Douglass, What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?

            2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, in which a few years after the establishment of Jamestown, a trade route was formed amongst 3 continents. Europe would travel to the Americas with colonists and supplies, the Americas would provide goods and resources that would be imported back to Europe. And, Africa would provide workers—I mean, slaves—to be relocated either to Europe, or to the Americas. This was the beginning of the colonies, the execution of Native Americans, and the enslavement of Africans. All the while, a new culture was being established in the Americas, a land that was always inhabited. Now, in the year 2020—a year of the upcoming U.S. Presidential Election—the world is witnessing non-stop protests and riots that are the result of this glossed over history. 

            2020 started promising with the world anticipating and dreading upcoming events: the Summer Olympics, the Euro Cup, E3 2020, the U.S. Elections, etc. However, a pandemic the living world has never experienced before consumed everything. The entire human population was at a standstill and there was no choice but to have everyone hunker down and wait for “normalcy” to return, knowing that “normal” would take on a new meaning for everyone. At first, it was amusing to see European politicians taking charge of the quarantined guidelines (i.e. walking the streets and cursing at anyone who didn’t remain indoors), and after the first panic wave, U.S. citizens became “adjusted” as well. Unfortunately, COVID-19 reminded people about the little things they used to enjoy and have taken for granted. Suddenly, going to the movies and getting a haircut became missed luxuries. At the same time, millions of Americans lost their jobs, but still had bills and rent to pay. Not to mention, several towns in rural America—where the number of cases were low—were eager to return to work and were ready to reopen schools and businesses. When this was denied to them, the locals stormed the State’s Capitol Building(s) armed with guns and other weapons. When this was presented on the news, many people were surprised that the protestors were all Caucasian. Where were the local minorities, and why weren’t they participating in the protests? Meanwhile, it became clear to minorities that societal practices were still being carried out regardless of a global pandemic. In addition to the lack of medical testing for Blacks, Latinx, and people of lower income, there were several attacks on Asians due to the growing prejudice from the fear of COVID-19. I say Asians because some of the victims were NOT Chinese, but were Japanese, Korean, and other Asian descent. It looked like the United States was starting to return to normalcy, and racism was the start of it. 

            By May 2020, after 2 months of endless reruns and news coverage of COVID-19, the U.S. had returned to harassing and to killing unarmed Black Americans. First, was the lynching of Ahmaud Arbery who was shot and killed by two White civilians while jogging in Georgia. The two gunmen stated that they were protecting the neighborhood from robbers. Next, was the shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Police in Kentucky. The police officers were conducting a drug raid when they entered the wrong house and shot Taylor 8 times, killing her. Then, there was the incident involving Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper (no relation) in Central Park. Amy Cooper was ignoring park guidelines when she was confronted by Christian Cooper. Ms. Cooper decided to play “the victim” and called the cops claiming she was “being threatened by a Black man.” Luckily for the Black man, the entire incident was caught on camera thanks to a smartphone. Last, there is the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officers. After a case of mistaken identity, Floyd was said to be cooperating with the police when one of the officers knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while Floyd yelled over and over again that he couldn’t breathe while witnesses—both White and Black—begged the officer to get off of him while recording the incident. Within one month, 4 different, but common, incidents of American racism captured the attention of people who’ve been living a stagnant life and searching for something to watch either on T.V. or online. Suddenly, people started looking into these incidents and realized that there were too many names to shift through. 3 months of emotions boiled over into nationwide protesting. And suddenly, COVID-19 was no longer the “top story” on the news, and people took to the streets to voice their concerns and their outrage. 

            Yes, some of the protests turned violent with riots and looting occurring. Yet, Internet videos presented the reality within these protests: many of those who lost their jobs joined the protests alongside racists and Antifa, trying to turn the peaceful protests into something else. Now, why would racists and Antifa participate in these protests? It’s because they know they can cause as much destruction and anarchy as they want and blame it on Black Lives Matter. And, for a while, it was working. However, witnesses, security cameras and police work demonstrated some truths: many of the vandals were Caucasian. That’s not to say that some of the looters were NOT Black (the looting I witnessed at my job was done by minorities), but it goes to show how racism continues to dominate everything in the U.S. 

            Now, if I asked you to name 5 Black comedians, would you be able to do it? How about 5 victims of racism and/or police brutality from the last 20 years? I bet you can name more comedians than victims, and hence we reached one of the many issues regarding these protests. You’ve heard the names and many excuses have been made for those who killed them, but you all claim you understand now why we’re angry. Sorry, but a lot of minorities don’t believe you because these incidents repeat over and over again. Then, older people claim that these protests remind them of the ones during the 1960s and the 1970s. Did they forget about the protests that occurred during the 1990s and the early 2000s? Let’s take a look at America’s racial protest history. 

            Emmett Till’s murder on August 28, 1955 was the spark of the Civil Rights Movement—Marcus Garvey and Ida B. Wells were some of the prominent figures from the movement during the 1920s. Yet, it seems modern American society wants to acknowledge only Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. due to his “non-violent policy,” which was influenced by both Mahatma Gandhi and Henry David Thoreau. People forget that the non-violent protests were Dr. King’s way of presenting the brutality of White culture towards Coloreds; and, he made sure it was all caught on television. It seems that the efforts of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Stokely Carmichael were for naught, especially when the first two activists were assassinated before Dr. King. That’s right those three Civil Rights leaders were assassinated including the “peaceful” one. It was Dr. King’s death which saw the rise of the Black Panther Party led by both Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The Black Panther Party scared Americans throughout the 1970s because they bought guns (and used them) in order to protect themselves. Ironically, this would lead to a change in the open carry law in California. 

Now, how many of those names were you familiar with? And no, Dr. King doesn’t count. While Dr. King does deserve the praise and the recognition, the issue lies in the fact that he receives all of the glory. Dr. King has so many printed biographies that some can be labelled as a poor resource in comparison to the other ones. And, his quotes are used and taken out of context so often that they’re starting to lose their meaning. Meanwhile, The Autobiography of Malcolm X continues to be removed from the curriculum in schools across the U.S. And, what about James Baldwin and Richard Wright? They’re books were instrumental during the Civil Rights Movement, but they have been moved to Black History readings and potential mentions on A.P. and I.B. examinations. It’s almost like Black Americans have to do the research themselves. Speaking of which, now that the majority of the current population now knows what “The Black Wallstreet Massacre” is thanks to WATCHMEN, then maybe now is a good time to watch the movie, Rosewood.

The same can be said about other “minorities” and their history in relation to American society. We should know who Che Guevara, Rigoberta Menchú, and the Mirabel Sisters are and their significance to the Latinx culture and history. We need to understand why the Cambodian genocide and the Rape of Nanking were just as horrific as The Holocaust and the Bombing of Guernica. And, we must learn why Africa continues to be a “hot spot” for large corporations even now. And, we cannot forget about Malala Yousafzai!

The last 30 years has had cases of police brutality caught on video in one format or another. The Rodney King video was, until recently, the most infamous recording of police brutality. Four police officers beat Rodney King—who was pulled over for a DUI—with batons, while someone just happened to be out with their camcorder and recorded the entire incident. The majority of Americans believed that the tape was enough proof of the tales surrounding police violence, until the verdict of “not guilty” was announced, and the Los Angeles Riots occurred in response and in reaction to that verdict. When Eric Garner was killed, the person who recorded the incident was arrested, but not the officer who was responsible for his death. Philando Castile’s death was streamed on Facebook Live by his girlfriend, and the officer was found not guilty. I’m not saying all police officers are racist. When I was 14 years-old, a White cop started following me in his patrol car. It happened more than once, and he even followed me to my (parents’) house—I dangled my keys in front of me show he could see that I lived there. The other Black students at my school and one teacher, who was White, took my fear of that police officer seriously. That teacher had me recount my tale to another police officer who was visiting my school. I told him where I lived and gave him the car number. His anger caught me off guard. The police officer, who was also White, knew who that other officer was, and he told me he would take care of it. He did, and I never saw that police officer in town (where I lived) again. In hindsight, that officer could have had any malicious intent. My point is that it took the efforts of another officer to put an end to my police harassment. Unfortunately, it seems that the good cops are in the same positions as Black Americans: helpless. 

One would like to believe that with the amount of attention this issue is getting we might see some progress. Then again, let me be straightforward and tell you that all of the media coverage is due to the fact that Americans have been dealing with a lack of purpose for months. That is not to say that there is a lack of compassion, just a knowledge that unless new laws, policies, and practices are put into place, nothing is going to change. And, I don’t mean the police. All American denizens need to admit and to accept that systematic racism is constant in our country. We allow White Americans to carry themselves however they want, but minorities have to have “The Talk” with their children when they’re as young as 6 years-old. Minorities are taught how to be “themselves” while conforming to White America’s standards, while White children are able to exploit their minority teachers and peers with racist taunts, names, and hand gestures. White children are labeled “sensitive” and minority children are labeled “difficult.” And, before you comment, it’s not all White children who are taught how to get away with these things—it was a bystander who recorded the chant of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma—but it is common knowledge. To make matters worse, society isn’t doing enough to implement change. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas made it onto the American Library Association’s “Most Challenged Books” for the reason that the book is “anti-cop.” With recent events, will more parents and teachers read both that book and Dear Martin by Nic Stone? Will (book) publishers make more of an effort to publish more books by diverse authors about issues that affect them and those groups. While we all want “happy endings” both in stories and in reality, everyone should know better to believe it’ll fall into our laps. Work and awareness helps everyone deal with everything the world throws at us. 

So, let the media “care” about systematic oppression and let the sports moguls pretend to “acknowledge” racism in sports. But, unless actual change involving laws and societal practices come into play, I will remain skeptical. And, I believe it’s safe to say that many minorities feel the same way. In addition to violence against Black Americans, there have been prejudice and bigotry against the Latinx, the Asian, the Jewish, and the Muslim communities; not to mention, the few incidents involving Native Americans—remember “The Trail of Tears.” Recognition is appreciated, but we need acknowledgement and action before we know that things will begin to change. We’re just waiting to see whether or not the police officers involved in George Floyd’s death will receive a guilty verdict. We can only hope for so much, but we don’t allow our expectations to cloud the possibilities. Those who choose to remain ignorant are not allowed to be “shocked” when things don’t go as expected. 

It’s been 155 years since the emancipation of slaves, and oppression has evolved in order to maintain control over minorities. From slavery to Jim Crow to prison to systematic racism keeps us in fear, not in control. And, when the obvious gets ignored over and over again, the emotions shift from fear to anger. Anger can only be bottled up for so long before it becomes rage. And, a lot of people are ready to release their rage. While we don’t want that to happen, it looks as if the rage will burst sooner rather than later. I will continue to hope for the best with low expectations. 

Let us remember the following “known” victims of past lynchings (courtesy of BabyNames.com): 

My Thoughts on the Upcoming NBA (2014-15) Season

            The 2014-15 National Basketball Association season will be a very interesting one. Between several scandals and several trades, even former players and sports analyses might not be able to predict who could win the NBA Championship as easily as they had in previous years. Some of the trades I have witnessed along with other fans make me wonder if some of the coaches and the owners are desperate for a title, and whether or not some of the players are in touch with reality.

            LeBron James is going back to Cleveland…whatever. First of all, the 24-hour coverage on that announcement was annoying, because it cut off the feedback on other world and sports news. The conflict in the Middle East and on the Russia/Ukraine border had started again, and coverage on the World Cup Final was suddenly ignored in the United States. Ironically, this announcement and coverage on all of the ESPN and NBA channels reflected on how seriously the rest of the world takes the World Cup and the sport of football in general. Don’t the citizens in Cleveland have anything better to do than cheer and/or jeer over one player? Yes, he is one of the best players in the league and of all time, but now those fans are eager to purchase another LeBron James jersey because they all burnt their last ones.

            This brings up my next point about “King James.” I don’t know what is going on inside his head, but someone needs to tell him that he cannot please everyone. Look at what the Miami fans did to the murals! Seriously, he is returning to Cleveland for only two seasons, and—on top of that—he decides to reclaim the #23 jersey that he used to wear while playing there. These teams do NOT freeze in place when players go elsewhere; and yet, he goes back and forth like it is not big a deal. I have nothing against the city of Cleveland, or LeBron James but—think about it—if the Miami Heat had won this year’s Championship Title, then would he have decided “to return home”?! Think about it. I don’t know what will happen next season, but Cleveland fans better keep in mind that the Cavaliers is NOT a one man team! Yell at the entire team for losing a game and not just LeBron James!

            Time to state the obvious: The Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty has ended. Unless the next generation of superstars make it onto that team’s roster, there won’t be any more Championships for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant—for all of his accomplishments as a NBA player—is a whiny little brat who cannot grasp the concept that one, he is getting old; and two, he cannot assume that hiring a coach of his choosing (and one that will listen to his instructions) will guarantee a winning season. The Lakers are no longer the “go to team” it once was, Dwight Howard left after one season. And, let’s face it, Jeremy Lin is not going to help the Lakers win a championship title. He did not help the Knicks nor the Rockets. Sorry Kobe, but at least you have your 5 Championship Rings.

            The Knicks have been one erratic team. First of all, does Carmelo Anthony realize that he was the “backup plan” for New York, and he was signed there after negotiations for LeBron James fell through?! Sorry, but he is NOT the player the Knicks need in order to win a championship title. Next, if he keeps hogging the ball and refusing to acknowledge the rest of the team, then the team cannot win the games. Last, all games count! Carmelo Anthony cannot play at his best when the Knicks play against Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, and Indiana. Is he really acting that bratty believing that he’ll be praised for only beating the “better teams”?! If he keeps this up and if the rest of the team does not do anything about it, then the Brooklyn Nets will win a championship before the Knicks.

            The only team—as of right now—that I might feel any pity for is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and the rest of the 2011-12 roster surpassed the expectations placed on them by making it to the NBA Finals. However, they say: “winning while early in the career is not good in the long run.” The team has been able to advance to the Conference Finals this season, but they will not go beyond that round unless the players check their egos and learn to work together as a team once again, they will never win a Championship Title. I believe they still have a chance to win at least one.

            The only thing I will say about the Los Angeles Clippers is that a new owner should not affect the way the players play during the season. However, in the long run the decisions this owner makes will either benefit the team or harm the team. Let us hope that Steve Ballmer (if he does “purchase” the Clippers) has more common sense than Donald Sterling.  

            Those are my current thoughts on the NBA and what may or may not happen next season. On the one hand, these are not related to anything that could happen next season. I won’t be making any predictions of my own until the start of the season. On the other hand, I could be wrong about everything I have stated and the opposite could occur during the upcoming season. The only thing that will most likely happen next year is that the San Antonio Spurs will repeat their previous year. Only time will tell.

American Soccer versus Global Football

          As of right now, this World Cup has had everything: hyped fans, teams that shocked everyone for good and bad reasons, players who performed bizarre acts, and bribed referees. This World Cup has once again proved that top countries fall and ‘low-performance’ countries can go far (Spain and Costa Rica); I am aware that many fans already know this, but I am talking to the “fans” who have been surprised by what they have seen so far. This event has also demonstrated why the United States still has a lot learn if they wish to advance beyond the knockout round.

          Football, or soccer as it is called in the U.S.A. and in some parts of Canada, is a global sport which requires all players to have skills in ball handling, knowledge of the game, endurance and speed, and all-around talent. The interesting issue about football in the U.S.A. is that the Men’s team is the struggling team as opposed to the U.S.A. Women’s team. Since its start in 1991, the U.S. Women’s team have won two World Championships (1991 and 1999) and have come in second or in third place in the other previous tournaments. Please explain to me why people do not take female athletes seriously! At least their soccer team has won championships which is more than I can say for the Men’s team.

I have played the sport enough to see both the obvious and the discreet amongst the Men’s team. First of all, until several years ago, the ‘goal kick’ was taken by the defenders instead of the goalkeeper. Next, the Men’s team (and also teams at colleges and universities) believe that having players from nationally ranked teams will provide a winning team. Where do these coaches and sponsors get such theories? Just because one player was on a championship team does not mean that the one player did it on his own! Haven’t we learn anything from the events surrounding LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony? Also, just because an individual displays talent at a young age does not mean the same talent will be there in adulthood. Look at Neymar! He couldn’t even score in the quarterfinal before he got injured! Yes, there have been plenty of footballers who have been able to develop such talent as they got older (i.e. Messi, Pelé, Rooney, Ronaldo—all 16 years-old when they got signed to play professional football). However, the United States of America have yet to distinguish such talent in this sport. In addition, any player who immigrated from another country in order to play for the U.S.A. should be looked at more closely…Julian Green. Choose players with the talent and you might get closer to winning a championship title! Observe and learn from the Women’s team! Last, I hope everyone worldwide learned from Qatar. Bribing works. Look how many referees have been bribed! This issue was spoofed on a recent episode of The Simpsons. I’m not saying it is the right thing to do, but no true football fan should be surprised that it happens. Just saying…F.I.F.A. (the Fedération Internationale de Football Association) had better give the next host slot to the U.S.A.

Another key aspect of the sport of football and the event of the World Cup are the fans. Also known as hooligans, these fans make fans of hockey, basketball, baseball, and American football look like drunken idiots. So far, in the World Cup (2014), we have seen betting on whether or not Luis Suarez would bite someone during the tournament (which he did), porn stars offering long orgy sessions after their country wins a match, and fans abandoning ship (literally) as a form of celebration. Fans riot when they win and they riot more they lose, but the referees remain unscathed. There is one essential thing to understand about all football fans: there is a ‘code’ in which all fans follow. Hence, this is why most of the fighting takes place at the stadiums, the clubs, and the bars. Plus, people in these communities know which colors and/or jerseys can or cannot be worn during certain days. This is similar to rivalries found amongst the fans of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia! You do NOT wear the markings of the opposing team in their region unless you are trying to start a fight, or you are a fan cheering for the ‘Away’ team at the ‘Home’ team’s stadium. Several fans have also died from this form of devotion. A Chinese man died after five days of sleep deprivation because he wanted to watch the World Cup live (China is 11-12 hours ahead of Brazil). All of these fans display true and bizarre enthusiasm.

If the United States of America want to see their chances of winning in Men’s Soccer improve, then the denizens of the country have to get excited about it more than once every four years. Similar to how fans of Star Wars and video games always talk about them regardless of there being new movies or new games, there is always something to talk about. It is the same with football with news on players, leagues, and tournaments. Look at American football! There is an entire channel for the National Football League and the season is only five months long! The European and the Latino seasons are much longer!

For now, let us all enjoy the remainder of this enormous sporting event, and learn from all of the bizarre activities displayed on international television and the Internet. Keep the politicians out of the sport, form a team that consist of good, strong, and fast players, have a decent theme song, and be discreet about which countries and/or players the referees get to screw over, and make sure all of the citizens in the host country are willing to participate in the activities. Go Germany! Go Women’s U.S.A.!