A New York City grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the case of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man who died July 17 in a police choke-hold.
The grand jury found “no reasonable cause” to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was attempting to arrest Garner for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.
Amid crowds gathering tonight to protest in Manhattan and growing discord on social media about the decision, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department is opening a federal civil rights inquiry.
Holder, while urging calm in the aftermath of yet another controversial grand jury action, promised that the federal inquiry would be “independent, thorough and fair.”
President Obama said the grand jury decision will spark strong reaction from the public, especially in the wake of a similar decision in Missouri last week not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown.
The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.
Saying the US criminal system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that. Below I set out numerous examples of these facts.
The question is – are these facts the mistakes of an otherwise good system, or are they evidence that the racist criminal justice system is working exactly as intended? Is the US criminal justice system operated to marginalize and control millions of African Americans?
Information on race is available for each step of the criminal justice system – from the use of drugs, police stops, arrests, getting out on bail, legal representation, jury selection, trial, sentencing, prison, parole and freedom. Look what these facts show.
One. The US has seen a surge in arrests and putting people in jail over the last four decades. Most of the reason is the war on drugs. Yet whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales, at roughly comparable rates – according to a report on race and drug enforcement published by Human Rights Watch in May 2008. While African Americans comprise 13% of the US population and 14% of monthly drug users they are 37% of the people arrested for drug offenses – according to 2009 Congressional testimony by Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project.
Two. The police stop blacks and Latinos at rates that are much higher than whites. In New York City, where people of color make up about half of the population, 80% of the NYPD stops were of blacks and Latinos. When whites were stopped, only 8% were frisked. When blacks and Latinos are stopped 85% were frisked according to information provided by the NYPD. The same is true most other places as well. In a California study, the ACLU found blacks are three times more likely to be stopped than whites.
Three. Since 1970, drug arrests have skyrocketed rising from 320,000 to close to 1.6 million according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice.
African Americans are arrested for drug offenses at rates 2 to 11 times higher than the rate for whites – according to a May 2009 report on disparity in drug arrests by Human Rights Watch.
Four. Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites. For example, the New York state division of criminal justice did a 1995 review of disparities in processing felony arrests and found that in some parts of New York blacks are 33% more likely to be detained awaiting felony trials than whites facing felony trials.
Five. Once arrested, 80% of the people in the criminal justice system get a public defender for their lawyer. Race plays a big role here as well. Stop in any urban courtroom and look a the color of the people who are waiting for public defenders. Despite often heroic efforts by public defenders the system gives them much more work and much less money than the prosecution. The American Bar Association, not a radical bunch, reviewed the US public defender system in 2004 and concluded “All too often, defendants plead guilty, even if they are innocent, without really understanding their legal rights or what is occurring…The fundamental right to a lawyer that America assumes applies to everyone accused of criminal conduct effectively does not exist in practice for countless people across the US.”
Six. African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service according to a June 2010 study released by the Equal Justice Initiative. For example in Houston County, Alabama, 8 out of 10 African Americans qualified for jury service have been struck by prosecutors from serving on death penalty cases.
Seven. Trials are rare. Only 3 to 5 percent of criminal cases go to trial – the rest are plea bargained. Most African Americans defendants never get a trial. Most plea bargains consist of promise of a longer sentence if a person exercises their constitutional right to trial. As a result, people caught up in the system, as the American Bar Association points out, plead guilty even when innocent. Why? As one young man told me recently, “Who wouldn’t rather do three years for a crime they didn’t commit than risk twenty-five years for a crime they didn’t do?”
Eight. The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project reports African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more like to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants.
Nine. The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that non-white people will be the ones getting it. A July 2009 report by the Sentencing Project found that two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white. In New York, it is 83%.
Ten. As a result, African Americans, who are 13% of the population and 14% of drug users, are not only 37% of the people arrested for drugs but 56% of the people in state prisons for drug offenses. Marc Mauer May 2009 Congressional Testimony for The Sentencing Project.
Eleven. The US Bureau of Justice Statistics concludes that the chance of a black male born in 2001 of going to jail is 32% or 1 in three. Latino males have a 17% chance and white males have a 6% chance. Thus black boys are five times and Latino boys nearly three times as likely as white boys to go to jail.
Twelve. So, while African American juvenile youth is but 16% of the population, they are 28% of juvenile arrests, 37% of the youth in juvenile jails and 58% of the youth sent to adult prisons. 2009 Criminal Justice Primer, The Sentencing Project.
Thirteen. Remember that the US leads the world in putting our own people into jail and prison. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the US has five percent of the world’s population but a quarter of the world’s prisoners, over 2.3 million people behind bars, dwarfing other nations. The US rate of incarceration is five to eight times higher than other highly developed countries and black males are the largest percentage of inmates according to ABC News.
Fourteen. Even when released from prison, race continues to dominate. A study by Professor Devah Pager of the University of Wisconsin found that 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received call backs from employers while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received call backs. Race is so prominent in that study that whites with criminal records actually received better treatment than blacks without criminal records!
So, what conclusions do these facts lead to? The criminal justice system, from start to finish, is seriously racist.
Professor Michelle Alexander concludes that it is no coincidence that the criminal justice system ramped up its processing of African Americans just as the Jim Crow laws enforced since the age of slavery ended. Her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sees these facts as evidence of the new way the US has decided to control African Americans – a racialized system of social control. The stigma of criminality functions in much the same way as Jim Crow – creating legal boundaries between them and us, allowing legal discrimination against them, removing the right to vote from millions, and essentially warehousing a disposable population of unwanted people. She calls it a new caste system.
Poor whites and people of other ethnicity are also subjected to this system of social control. Because if poor whites or others get out of line, they will be given the worst possible treatment, they will be treated just like poor blacks.
Other critics like Professor Dylan Rodriguez see the criminal justice system as a key part of what he calls the domestic war on the marginalized. Because of globalization, he argues in his book Forced Passages, there is an excess of people in the US and elsewhere. “These people”, whether they are in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib or US jails and prisons, are not productive, are not needed, are not wanted and are not really entitled to the same human rights as the productive ones. They must be controlled and dominated for the safety of the productive. They must be intimidated into accepting their inferiority or they must be removed from the society of the productive.
This domestic war relies on the same technology that the US uses internationally. More and more we see the militarization of this country’s police. Likewise, the goals of the US justice system are the same as the US war on terror – domination and control by capture, immobilization, punishment and liquidation.
What to do?
Martin Luther King Jr., said we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.
A radical approach to the US criminal justice system means we must go to the root of the problem. Not reform. Not better beds in better prisons. We are not called to only trim the leaves or prune the branches, but rip up this unjust system by its roots.
We are all entitled to safety. That is a human right everyone has a right to expect. But do we really think that continuing with a deeply racist system leading the world in incarcerating our children is making us safer?
It is time for every person interested in justice and safety to join in and dismantle this racist system. Should the US decriminalize drugs like marijuana? Should prisons be abolished? Should we expand the use of restorative justice? Can we create fair educational, medical and employment systems? All these questions and many more have to be seriously explored. Join a group like INCITE, Critical Resistance, the Center for Community Alternatives, Thousand Kites, or the California Prison Moratorium and work on it. As Professor Alexander says “Nothing short of a major social movement can dismantle this new caste system.”
May and I are really concerned for our family and our community. I know my faith will see us through this American experience and we will have answers from on high on how to empower our grand children and God’s gifts of human beings in our life. We strive to know His will for our life to help others. Pray without ceasing for us and our world.
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While being skeptical can be a healthy way to avoid getting taken advantage of, being pessimistic – that is, always assuming the worst – can have major negative consequences on your life. Seeing only the negative aspects of any situation can cause you to miss opportunities, neglect problems that need to be solved, and fail to take action that would otherwise improve your relationships and quality of life. In fact, studies show that pessimists are more likely to develop chronic illnesses later on in life than optimists. Optimists look for the light at the end of the tunnel. If you’ve always had a pessimistic worldview, it can be difficult to shift your focus, but it is possible to start seeing the glass as half full, not half empty. In fact you may come to realize that glasses are generally full – it’s just that gravity attracts the more dense liquid material towards the bottom.
This world is always devising ways to sift people, whether by talent or caste status, belief system, color, race, ethnicity or origins the world and complex people in the world will try to make you quit. My wife and I are faced with a insurmountable obstacle, we are no longer the “It” of society, but the “Felon” and as such we are not expected to live nor continue to exist among the regulars in this world. If you are in this plight of life I want to encourage you to continue to believe in Jesus and what He has said, because we’re moving forward by His grace and so can you. Refuse to be redeemed by California or any state prison systems for 40,000 dollars and another extended stay in confinement. A plastic or glass bottle is given better chances than a human life. I solicit anyone that is challenged by life whether by past mistakes or any addictions or broken family and disappointed dreams to press onward with a plan and stand with the Word in your mouth and heart.
Many of us quit, half way through with what we have started and we have enough reasons why we do it. Years ago I owed a Engineering firm in California. Inflation and economics gave me a reason to compromise on how I did business and it cost me 5 years of my life and my company and 300 people their jobs . I had to quit. The reason seems genuine. Had I admitted to my dual addictions and faced them I would not have suffered those loses. I still face the consequences of quitting today due to the stigma’s placed on me by a unforgiving society. I failed as a minister of a large body of believers due to my compromising spirit of conduct. My dual addiction to money and cocaine and pride took me to an all time low. I lost material goods and very close family and friends. Recently I recalled the incident and this blog is a result of such introspection. What does the Bible talk about in terms of giving up? Does the Bible recommend us to quit or does it urge us not to give up.
Galatians 6:9 “…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
What does it mean? The scripture tells us that if we do not give up on we will surely see the reward of it. For example the farmer sows his seed and takes the little grown stuff and plants it in the properly ploughed field. He does not see the grains immediately, he waits for the rain and the shine at the proper times and then a harvest, during harvest it is not what he sowed but several measures more than what he had sown. If this is true for a farmer I am sure the same principle applies for us too. The only thing is to wait patiently until we see results.
Before getting into the principles of how not to quit, let us examine a few reasons why we quit.
The reasons can be so many; I have tried listing a few of them…
1. Fear of failure.
2. Skepticism I am not the one.
3. I am not trained enough.
4. Someone can do it better than me.
5. I don’t want to be the first, let someone do it and then I will follow.
6. I have a bitter past experience.
7. This is not my cup of tea.
8. I don’t want to be embarrassed.
9. I am too sensitive to handle failures.
10. My support system is poor.
11. I don’t prefer to risk when all is fine.
12. Why get into a mess?
Some of the reasons are overlapping but still this is how we feel and reason out to quit and remain a bit satisfied though we know we can do it more than we have tried.
I want to drive home just two aspects for not giving up but before that I want to quote a few people and their views on never giving up…
Marilyn von Savant – being defeated is often temporary, giving up makes it permanent.
Thomas Edison – many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
King Solomon – for an upright man, after falling seven times, will get up again. (Proverbs 24:16)
The first aspect to consider if we decide not to give up is:
I. Making the most of every opportunity. (Ephesians 5: 15,16)
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
The wise person makes the most of the opportunity but the foolish ones miss out on every opportunity and grumble about their failures. Grab every chance that you get, never mind whether you fail or win – the result is secondary what is primary is the attempt. There is nothing wrong in giving it a try, it might click and we can become experts so I urge you not to miss a chance. Peter toiled all night at the sea but was willing to give it a try when Jesus told him to do so. He made the second time more than what if would have done the first time. He knew he had God on his side. That was blessed assurance. If we have such confidence we too can try and we will surely make it by not letting a chance go by. Therefore make the most of every opportunity and be wise. The second aspect is…
II. Marching Forward. (Philippians 3:13)
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.
If you have to march forward, you have to forget about what happened in the past, if we brood over the past more either success or failure it can ruin us. If we brag about the past success it will makes us complacent and would never make new attempts at the same time if we brood over our failures it will diminish the morale and the potential we possess. Therefore it is important to be moving and not stagnating.
Paul understood this and that is why he is going ahead with the goal and not worried over the past. If Paul had to think of his past as wretched man he will have be ashamed for the rest of his life not doing anything. He overcame the shame and guilt of destroying so many good Christians and began to be a blessing. He never gave up but carried on.
Dear friends, how about you? Better wise up, make the most of every opportunity. Never leave room for compromise, March forward don’t retreat. I think of Henry ford, his first car was not able to even go faster than the horse chariot, he never gave up and today these cars do well. The Wright brothers first flying machine fell and broke after it took off to a few feet but they never gave up and today we see planes that fly at a phenomenal speed at great altitudes. We have Jesus on our side we will surely be conquerors, not just conquerors but more than conquerors. God bless you.
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A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
God reveals Himself to people in many ways! God reveals Himself through His own words in the Bible. God reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit. God reveals Himself through Creation. God reveals Himself through the work of angels. And God also reveals Himself through people!
In the days of the Old Testament, God chose a group of people to reveal Himself; God chose Abraham and his descendants; God chose the Israelites to reveal Himself in the past! And if you study eschatology, you will note in the future that again through Israel, God will powerfully reveal Himself once and for all to the world! Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!
God works in “mysterious ways”, but His message is clear; God is Creator who desires everyone to be holy and be with Him forever and ever!
Before we talk about how this should impact our lives today, let us learn more from the story of Joseph in Egypt.
Open your Bibles to Genesis Chapter 41. I want you to read our text this morning………
Does God work in mysterious ways? Mysterious means beyond ordinary understanding. What happened in this story with Pharaoh and Joseph that were beyond ordinary understanding?
First of all, the Pharaoh not only had one but 2 interesting dreams which bothered him. The dreams bothered him so much that he called all the wisemen to interpret the dreams; but no one could interpret the dreams!
Was God involved in bringing those dreams to Pharaoh?
Absolutely! Pharaoh’s dreams provided a way for Joseph (God’s man) to get out of prison and become Pharaoh’s right hand man. All of this had to happen because God had plans for the Israelites. God desired to reveal Himself to the world and to bring holiness to the Chosen People. God works in mysterious ways; He gave dreams for the purpose of His Chosen People!
And for more than 2 years, how can the cupbearer completely forget about Joseph, the man who gave him the great news of getting out of prison?
I noted last week that God likely kept the cupbearer silent about Joseph to teach Joseph a lesson about totally depending on God not man. Look again at v9…………
The cupbearer’s conscience all of sudden woke up after 2 years! Do you think God had anything to do with that? God used the cupbearer to bring Joseph, God’s man, to Pharaoh. God works in mysterious ways! God even used a bartender! Now, this doesn’t mean, I encourage you to hang out at bars!
Let’s stick to the Bible!
How well did Joseph know his God?
Look again at v15-16……….
Joseph knew that it is God who deserves all the power and glory! Joseph knew that God can work in mysterious ways!
And look again at v32…………..
God was certainly at work and He gave Pharaoh 2 dreams to make sure He got the king’s attention! God works in mysterious ways and God may repeat Himself to emphasize His point; God may repeat Himself to emphasize His point; God may repeat Himself to emphasize His point! Does Scriptures seem to repeat itself for you? God maybe trying to get our attention!
Are we listening?
Now look again at v33-36…………..
Joseph without any hesitation spoke wisely! Joseph spoke without thinking about himself. Joseph spoke without hesitation about a third person. How can Joseph speak without any hesitations or reservations? The wisdom spoken by Joseph was directly from God!
And so, even to the king of Egypt, it was clear that God was mysteriously but powerfully at work! Look at what Pharaoh said in v38, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” And because of God’s presence in Joseph, what did Pharaoh do according to verses 39-41? Because God was at work, Joseph, who was a slave, was put in complete charge of the most powerful nation in the world at the time, second only to Pharaoh!
Two more points about God being at work mysteriously but powerfully: God allowed and blessed Joseph to marry not only a non-Israelite, but a daughter of a priest!
Why do we freak out about “mixed marriages” when it may be God ordained?
And we note of course at the end of Genesis 41, God accomplished everything that was predicted!
Does God still work in mysterious and powerful ways today? Let me ask this question: How did you learn about Jesus Christ??
Do you know that many Muslims are recently becoming Christians because of dreams and visions? According to Wendell Evans of the Billy Graham Center’s Institute for Muslim Studies, “more and more stories are coming out of closed countries, of God supernaturally evangelizing Muslims through dreams and visions. Of the estimated thousands of new believers in Iran in the last few years, over half of them became believers after Jesus personally came to them in a dream or vision.” Here’s one example.
Madame Bilquis Sheikh was a high-born Muslim, former wife of a Minister of the Interior, in Pakistan. God gave her dreams and visions about John the Baptist, about himself as God the Father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit. He led her to read the Bible. Her family came to know of her new beliefs and confronted her. She was so convinced of her new found truth, however, that they plotted to kill her. They even tried to burn her house. Her family boycotted her, and the servants, who were Muslims, left her, calling her a traitor and an infidel. She received many threats from her family and outsiders. An Army General of Pakistan visited, asking her ‘Why did you do it?’ She replied she has been called to witness Jesus Christ and she will obey Him, no matter what comes her way. She finally escaped to the United States and wrote a book about her experiences.
God works in mysterious and powerful ways!
Let me remind you of what God did through Joseph.
God gave dreams to Pharaoh. God kept the cupbearer silent for 2 years, then God convicted his conscience.
God empowered Joseph with dream interpretation and wisdom. God brought Joseph to reign instead of being a slave. God controlled everything to accomplish what was predicted! God did all of this for Israel!
Yes, God works in mysterious and powerful ways, but God always has a purpose! God works in mysterious ways but He is not random! If you’re going to pick a god, pick a good one!! The God of the Bible is perfect and always has a purpose! God desired Israel to be blessed, to be holy, and to be with Him! This was God’s plan for His mysterious ways with Pharaoh and Joseph!
And God still works in mysterious and powerful ways in people’s lives today for the same reasons!
What does this all mean to us?
1. Let us expect God to work powerfully in our lives everyday! Do not be surprised with what God can do in your lives! Do we actually acknowledge God’s work in our daily lives or do we chuck it as coincidences, luck, or with our own efforts?
A missionary friend taught May and I this and I encourage all of us to do at the beginning of each day; Rub your hands briskly (do it right now); feel the warmth of God, and ask God, “Lord, what do you have in store for me today?”
2. God has a purpose for His works in our lives! We are to agree and commit to God’s purposes. God desires His people to be blessed, to be holy, and to be with Him always! How committed are we to these?
Be blessed and bless others!
Walk with God daily!
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America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
Not so long ago, black athletes were segregated from participating with white athletes due to the Jim Crow Laws established after the Plessy V. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court case.
Black athletes, as were their non-athletic brothers and sisters, were seen as racially inferior and not worthy of socially mixing with whites.
However, these purely promoted brave athletes slowly but positive social change against the racism and later racial prejudice in this country by their heroic example both in and out of the athletic arena.
Jackie Robinson didn’t choose baseball. Baseball chose him — and in more ways than the mere fact that Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey plucked Robinson from obscurity in the mid-’40s, making him the first African American major league baseball player.
Robinson tried his hand at several sports before eventually stumbling upon an opportunity to play pro baseball.
Robinson met a former player for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League as his military tour was coming to an end. (After he refused to sit at the back of an Army bus, Robinson was transferred to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he became an athletics coach. Shortly thereafter he was honorably discharged.) Robinson was convinced by the former pro athlete to try out and wrote to Monarchs’ co-owner Thomas Baird. A few months later, in early 1945,
Robinson accepted a contract, paying him $400 per month — a good amount of money for him at that time.
“He just happened to be playing for the Monarchs when the Dodgers just happened to be looking for a guy,” Dodgers team historian Mark Langill told Yahoo! Movies of Robinson’s good fortune. “It’s not like he dreamed of being in the majors. They found him instead of the other way around,” Langill added.
Langill contends Robinson chose that contract with the Monarchs because he was about to get married and simply needed the money. And when he got recruited to the Brooklyn Dodgers soon afterward, Negro league players grumbled: Robinson wasn’t considered as good as Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, who were deemed the best pure ball players of the time.
In the United States since World War II, the world of sport has undergone dramatic changes. The first decade after the war witnessed the resurgence of baseball as the national sport, particularly with the return of hero-athletes, the formation and development of the National Basketball Association, and the transformation of professional football into a powerhouse organization vying with baseball as the national sport. That competition continues to this day, with the profound irony that in some quarters the Black athlete is now seen as “saving” baseball1.* In the pre-World War II years, the Black athlete was restricted from competition in all the professional sports. Only in the Olympics, because of its international nature, were Black athletes allowed to compete unrestricted.
This situation reversed the mores of the later 19th and early 20th centuries, where in football, basketball, and horse racing, for example, black and white athletes competed against each other. But as Black athletes increasingly began to dominate their sports, as was clearly the case in bicycling and horse racing, white athletes and managers decided to ban interracial competition. The contemptuous posture and defiance of superb Black heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson only fanned the flames of fear and resentment among whites. After his defeat in 1915, white champion boxers refused to fight a Black man until 1936 when Joe Louis defeated Jimmy Braddock to become boxing’s world champion.
To mask the real fear of loss to Black competitors in sports and elsewhere, the white population fabricated a number of myths about Black people, claiming Blacks suffered from low intelligence, criminal tendencies, and inferior physicality. These sick myths that served white skin privilege began to explode when Eddie Tolan and Ralph Metcalfe, distinguished themselves in the 1932 Olympics, as did Jesse Owens (most famously), and Metcalfe, among other Black athletes were to in the 1936 Berlin games, where Nazis were, like many White Americans, claiming to be of a superior race.
It was bitterly ironic, perhaps even farcical, that these Negroes should disprove abroad the very theories that confined and oppressed them at home. Yet nothing at home changed upon their return — except that no longer could the myth of Black people’s laziness and lack of ambition be promoted unimpeachably, since the historical record was clear internationally.
Consequently, when Joe Louis defeated Primo Carnera in 1935, a reporter wrote, “Something sly and sinister and, perhaps, not quite human, came out of the African jungle, last night, to strike down and utterly demolish the huge hulk that had been Primo Carnera, the giant.”.2*
In addition, the New York Sun noted that the “American Negro was “a natural athlete.”.3*
It is perhaps symptomatic of the times that a syndicated newspaper columnist, Hugh S. Johnson wrote, in 1938 , “The average of white intelligence is above the average of Black intelligence, probably because the white race, is several thousand years farther away from jungle savagery. But, for the same reason, the average of white physical equipment, is lower. .4*
Similarly, in the Atlanta Journal, commenting on Jessie Owens’ exploits at the Berlin Olympics, O.B. Keeler wrote, “Our fastest runners are colored boys, and our longest jumpers and highest leapers. And now, our champion fighting men with the fists is Joseph Louis Barrow.”.5*
It is testimony to the pervasive view of the Black athlete as somehow subhuman, that both Northern and Southern U.S. newspapers and commentators shared the view that the “new” strong Black athlete was now so because of his jungle ancestry. That view is still largely held, but perhaps better concealed amidst intonations that Black athletes are simply, naturally “athletic,” as opposed to being intelligent, critically astute practitioners of an intense work ethic which makes possible their excellence in the aesthetics of athletic play and competition.
Even as recently as September, 1995, Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four minute mile barrier, was reported to have said that Black sprinters “have certain natural anatomical advantages.”.6*
While the position of Black athletes at the college ranks is not as well studied and documented as that of professional athletes, the most cursory inspection shows that all colleges and universities, except for marginal, and perhaps, denominational schools have to some degree integrated since 1960. In all these areas, Black college athletes have excelled in tandem with their counterparts in professional sports. There are more Black quarterbacks in college football than ever before. Although there is a prejudice in the professional ranks against Black quarterbacks, many argue that the greater numbers of them in the National Football league draft will increase pressure to change the current, fearful attitude toward Black men in leadership roles. Significantly then, in this year’s championships of college basketball, the majority of the players there who reached the Sweet Sixteen and the Final Four, were overwhelmingly Black. The Most Outstanding Player in the final game between the University of Kentucky and Syracuse University, Tony Delk, is a Black player. In track and field, particularly in the coming Olympics, the overwhelming number of Black American athletes in proportion to white Olympians is radically disproportionate to the Black population in overall U.S. society.
Apart from numbers in the professional leagues, one index of the changing status of Black professional athletes is their income. In the 60s and 70s, the case could be argued that the Black athlete was financially and otherwise undervalued to a point that made arbitration and serious salary negotiations impossible. The dean of American sports writers, Sam Lacy, sports editor of the Baltimore Afro-American, noted in 1967 that “the African American player was much quicker to sign a contract than white players, and in comparison, was woefully under paid.”.14*. During the 1980s and 1990s, the situation changed dramatically. In 1991, for example, Sports Illustrated noted that Eric Dickerson of football’s Indianapolis Colts had just signed a $10.65 million dollar contract over a four year period, making him one of the highest paid players in football..15*In 1990, the twelve highest paid players in National Basketball Association were all Black. In baseball another story has unfolded in the 1980s and 90s.
In 1990, the number of Black professional baseball players continued to decline, reaching only 17% in 1992 while Black attendance also declined. But of the remaining Black players, a significant number commanded more than ordinary salaries. In 1991, Dwight Gooden signed a contract with the New York Mets for three years and $15.4 million to become baseball’s second-highest paid player. Since 1991, at least 4 Black players have exceeded Gooden’s salaries. For example, Cecil Fielder, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, and now Ken Griffey, Jr. all earn in excess of $7 million annually in multi-year contracts. The average of Griffey’s salary earnings, spread over his 4 year current contract, is $8.5 million per year, making him the single highest paid baseball player in history..16*
Salaries alone do not tell the entire story. Increasingly, an expanding group of African American athletes receive additional income far in excess of their salaries for endorsing products from breakfast cereals to automobiles. This was not always the case. In fact, the first Black athlete of the football Chicago Bears, Walter Payton, did not appear on the Wheaties box until 1986. Now, in 1996, Michael Jordan of basketball’s Chicago Bulls and sports’ highest paid athlete is expected to earn 90% of his $40 million through endorsements. While this situation does not characterize the majority of Black athletes, it does include a significant number, and is in happy contrast to the 1960s and before, when the picture of an African American on a breakfast cereal box was simply unthinkable.
Today the United States observes Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to honour the life and work of the great civil rights leader.
King is most famously remembered for his legendary “I have a dream” speech, and his leadership in the non-violent civil disobedience for civil rights for African Americans.
And rightly so. King was a transformative figure and a once-in-a-generation kind of leader. King deservingly holds the distinction of being the only individual American with a current U.S. holiday named after him.
But what’s often forgotten when most think of King — and certainly isn’t taught to my generation or portrayed in the mainstream media’s depiction of him — is that he was a champion not only of civil rights and racial equality, but also of labour rights and economic equality.
By the end of his life, King came to the belief that mere legal equality between black and white Americans was inadequate.
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