Monday, May 23, 2016

Ex-NBA Player Denied Seat On Train. Racism or Size-ism?!?

Despite electing a black POTUS in 2008, most people with half a brain would tell you we're hardly "postracial". I'm not sure this country ever will be. If it seems like race relations have only gotten worse in America since 2008, you're not alone. Race seems perhaps at the forefront of the collective American consciousness more than any at any point in my (admittedly short) lifetime. My theories are many, but I think the biggest reason is that the media's figured out how to commoditize race for it's benefit. From the Obama election, to the Beer Summit, to the Tea Parties, the slow boil began and culminated with the Trayvon Martin trial. That was the point when media outlets drew clear lines of bias that they're able to monetize each subsequent race-related story through.

Liberal media outlets side with minority victims (perhaps to a fault), while Conservative outlets without fail (with. out. fail.) are already going to side with the white guy (double bonus if he's got a gun!). These are the rules. People on one side are gonna be slandered as having white guilt, those on the other are called racists. And when everyone's a racist, nobody's a racist and everyone's a winner and the ratings (or page views, take your pick) pile right on up. None of these diametrically opposed viewpoints actually addresses why people are inclined to still be racist in 2016, or discuss how the harmful vestiges of slavery, Jim Crow and Lowry's Seasoning Salt (#StayWoke) actually contribute to the helpless situations people in certain communities have to deal with daily manifest themselves, but whatever. Post that racial hot take and watch the numbers pile up.

I couldn't help but think about how much this "run a race story, any race story" phenomenon has become so commonplace in American media when I saw this story in today's Post.
Etan Thomas, a former NBA player who is also a poet, author and activist, was involved in what he said was an ugly racial incident while he was looking for a seat on a crowded train recently.

A white woman on the train took issue with having Thomas, a 6-foot-10 center who spent most of his career with the Washington Wizards and played college ball at Syracuse, sit next to her, though Thomas said she had no problem with a white man who made the same request moments later. Thomas told the story on Facebook:

“I ask this lady if I could sit next to her (very politely and I soften my voice as to not frighten her) and she says someone is sitting here,” he wrote. “So I go to the next seat. Now, less than 2 mins later a man (who happens to be white) asks if he can sit there and she says why sure let me move my stuff.”

Thomas, 38, decided to confront the woman.

“I ask ummmmm did you just not want ME to sit next to you? Were you scared? Not comfortable with a Black Man sitting next to you? And she says lol smh don’t pull the race card stuff with me I dated a Black guy in college.”

At that point, the man sitting next to the woman offered to get up, but Thomas had other ideas. He was taking a photo of her alongside the extremely uncomfortable-looking white man.

“I said no need I’mma just take this pic and make a Facebook post about it. So then she says did you just take a pic of me? Well I’m going to tell the conductor that you’re over here illegally taking pics of ppl without their consent.
I had the pleasure of meeting Thomas a couple of times when he played for the Wizards. He's a thoughtful, incredibly well spoken guy whose intellect separates him from the stereotypical dumb jock NBA player.[1] On the other hand, as someone who's had the pleasure of meeting Thomas a couple of times I can tell you that the man is absolutely gigantic. I mean, seriously, he literally looks like a giant. The dude's feet are the size of cinder blocks. He looks like a cartoon sized version of a real person.

If he was asking to sit in the open seat on my Acela to Penn Station I'd comply because I'd love to hear him tell some off the record stories about the Wizards, and also because he's big enough to kick my ass if I said no. But mostly the former. That said, would he be one uncomfortable assed trip with a 6-10 265 pound man sitting next to me? Prolly? Is it entirely possible that the unnamed white woman in this story is a Heat fan and/or just didn't want to endure the discomfort of sitting next to a man-giant for the next 4 hours? Possibly. We'll never know because she hasn't spoken about this incident (yet).[2]

I don't discount that the woman might have been racist and simply not wanted to sit next to a black man because [insert random inexcusable excuse here]. I've has plenty such incidents of microaggressions where I've been denied a seat at a bar (!), or a preferred table at lunch, or a seat on a train by someone who didn't look like me, only to see someone else who also didn't look like me get that privilege moments later. Hell, I had a woman clutch her purse when she sat next to me on a plane and that was just a few months ago. This is the daily racism that some people just don't get. When this sorta shit happens over the course of 30-40 some years on a semi-regular basis it makes you paranoid, bitter, and yeah, it almost conditions you to expect sh*t to pop off and might even cloud your consciousness to the point that you see things that aren't even there. Having people explicitly tell you that there's no way in the world you coulda possibly seen what you might have possibly seen just makes it even worse.

That's what racism looks like in 2016. And yeah, you're right to call people on their sh*t as Thomas did. You could argue whether or not putting this woman's face online was the right move (I wouldn't have done it personally) but you still need to call people out. Challenge them.

That's the only way things get better.

Question: Was Etan Thomas imagining racism here, or does this sorta thing happen everyday?

[1] I'll just conveniently ignore the fact that Thomas, a very educated man who's written books and poetry is writing on a 4th grade level here. What's that all about, homie?

[2] The ole' "I banged a black guy in college, I can't possibly be racist!" line is the new "Some of my best friends are black". Very classy, ma'am.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

When Did R&B Music Become So Foul-Mouthed?!?

[Editor's Note: Yeah, the blog's back. In a limited capacity, but back nonetheless.]

As a guy now firmly entrenched in his (early) 40's with a wife, 3 kids, a day job and a mortage, I find myself frequently revisiting my youth via the magic of Spotify. While I'm perfectly content listening to what passes for "hip hop" nowadays, I've got the illest 80's and 90's R&B playlists. Sorry, I just can't listen to today's R&B, and I'm not even sure if the genre, on which a rapper is featured more than the singer, even properly qualifies as R&B anymore.

Diet Drake ripoffs like Bryson Tiller and Tory Lanez are what pass for R&B today. Sure, there's still plenty of old man R&B being made that plays on the "grown and sexy" stations in most urban markets, but who wants to hear Keith Washington and Will Downing? Not even me, and I own albums those guys made. So yeah, I just stick with the older stuff, because the newer stuff sucks.

Case in point is many R&B artist's (new?) tendency to talk sh*t and curse. Not that this is anything new. As you purists will surely tell me, R&B singers like Millie Jackson and Clarence Carter have trafficked in low brow, crude content since the 60's. The difference is, those songs, and those artists were always seen as a novelty of sorts. A comical sideshow, not the norm.

Now, you can't listen to a song without being serenaded by curse words and called a "nigga". I just pulled up a random playlist on Spotify and played the first 10 or so songs. Rihanna ("Needed Me"), Tiller ("Exchange"), Tinashe ("Ride Of Your Life"), Chris Brown ("Back To Sleep"), Lanez ("Say It"), and Eric Bellinger ("Valet") all had the same recurring themes of sex, cheating, revenge and retaliation with enough curse words to make Samuel Jackson blush. If a generation of black kids are being raised on this sorta sh*t, what chance do we have to flourish as a people?


By comparison, a random song from my 90's playlist, Monifah's "I Miss You", sounds like a relic of another era. Which is sorta is. And I like that. A lot.

You youngsters can keep that ratchet sh*t. I'll stick with my oldies.

Question: Do I have any valid points about how awful today's R&B music is, or do I just sound like the suburban soccer dad I've morphed into?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Do supporters of Online Poker and Internet Gambling Want Trump in the White House?

Does anyone want Donald Trump to be the next US President? It would appear so, oddly enough. There’s no doubt that he he’s been super successful as a business man with an estimated fortune in excess of $5 Billion – and anywhere up to $9 Billion, depending on your source.

Even with his business success, could the American people really vote in someone with his personality traits? I would love to say this could never happen however he has support – and more than anyone could have guessed he would be able to drum up. Whilst he has the intelligence of former presidents, any positive characteristics he shares are so exaggerated, they often come across offensive, lacking in respect and non-credible. Whether he will make it all the way, remains to be seen. The bookies certainly have their views. They have Clinton as their favorite at close to 70%, with Trump trailing with 20%.

So where does online gaming sit on the political spectrum and more importantly, is Donald Trump a supporter of legalizing online poker and online gaming?

Back in 2011 Trump made it clear to Forbes that he was a supporter of the internet game and that ‘it was about time for the United States to collect the revenue that online gambling could provide’. He has stated more recently that he look to turn things round. He estimated that some $40 Million would be lost over a 10 year period and was keen to keep that money inside US borders. Not a surprising stance from a man in his shoes. But as he clearly is an advocate of online gambling, is this gaining him support? Almost certainly it is, however many of the forums suggest that as much as they want the like likes of online poker back in the US, it's not enough to give Trump their vote.

When we consider gambling institutions such as those who run poker rooms online, they obviously want the US traffic back. Those that were around in 2011 when the online poker community was shaken up (known as Black Friday), took a real hit in terms of traffic, with the knock on loss of the US market. Whilst this might not be enough to openly state support for Trump, it would be a massive boost for their businesses. For the average man and woman, the temptation of legalizing online gaming could certainly swing a vote - combined with the fact that Trump is seen as a breath of fresh air by many due to his unorthodox 'say it as you see it' approach.

For many outside of the US who see the US as having a big part to play in both the global economy and the global peace effort, they have a different view. We all know that at time, politicians seem to give us the same old party line nonsense. From that perspective I can understand why a man who just tells it as he sees it could be seen as a breath of fresh air - but not one running for the White House.

Trump might be able to make gains in the US economy - after all he is an astute business man. But how could faith be put in a man who is in favour for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States? If you heard someone in power saying ‘it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass’ or ‘It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!’, you would be concerned - and rightly so.

These are not the views you would want coming out the mouth of the world’s most powerful man. A man that would play a massive part in world stabilisation and global warming efforts, to name a few. It wasn't all plain sailing for Trump. When asked about his numerous bankruptcies and how that affected him, he replied "I came out great, but I guess I'm supposed to come out great. That's what I'm supposed to do for the country," he said. "We owe $19 trillion. Boy, am I good at solving debt problems. Nobody can solve it like me."

One way to tackle the debt problem is to step back as a key player in maintaining global stabilisation and fighting the war on terror, all of which costs the US a lot of money. Would he legalize online gambling? Quicker than you could ask the question, if he had his way. His obsession with money may be good for the economy however people in power need to be able to see past the dollar sign at times. Many of the things the US does might not be good for their underlying balance sheet but it is good globally. Could a man obsessed with money be able to take a lead with this responsibility? Possibly a big ask for your average billionaire.