Monday, March 23, 2015

Martese Johnson, Respectability Politics, And Why Being A Young Black Male Is So Damn Treacherous.

So another week, another brother catching a beatdown from police. I didn't touch this story when it broke last week, mostly because I was busy with life, but also because I'm just plain tired of these stories. They're all the same: someone gets beatdown by cops, the usual suspects step forward to claim that maybe the guy had it coming, while others immediately jump to the conclusion that the cops were racist. The rush to judgement from both sides is predictable, yet still ultimately counterproductive.

I don't know Martese Johnson, but I'm only about 90% certain I looked just like him, high top fade and all, when I was a youngster in college. We share the same fraternity. We were both at college on academic scholarships. I'm pretty sure he had the whole "work twice as hard to get half as far" mantra drilled into his head by his parents as I did. I'm certain he was taught to be respectful of those in positions of authority, especially when said authority figures have guns. And like me (and, well, every college student ever) he drank before he was of legal age, because again, that's just what kids do.

What happened between the time when Johnson was asked to leave the Irish pub after being denied entrance and when he ended up face down on the concrete bleeding like Tully Blanchard remains to be seen. What's somewhat notable about this case is that despite there being dozens of people standing around when this happened, there video evidence made public to date only shows the end result, not the events that occurred before Johnson caught a beatdown. Since society loves to jump to conclusions, many (including the arresting officers) have asserted that Johnson had to be belligerent and drunk, thus leading to his arrest. Well, the owner of the bar is finally speaking (perhaps to mute some rumblings by former employees that they actively discriminated against black male patrons) and his story seems to contradict that of the officers.
Martese Johnson, the University of Virginia student whose bloody arrest outside a pub last week triggered protests, was "polite and cordial" when he was denied entry and did not appear drunk, the management of the bar said. Images of Johnson being held down by officers, his face streaked with blood, were shared widely online. The hashtag #JusticeForMartese gained popularity online, while some people held "Black Lives Matter" signs on a march through Charlottesville.

Trinity Irish Pub said that Johnson, 20, was denied entry after he gave the wrong answer when a bouncer examined his ID and asked him the ZIP code. The bar's statement quoted its managing owner, Kevin Badke, as saying that Johnson was "a disappointed patron."

Mr. Badke immediately responded that he could not accept it. Mr. Johnson, probably realizing the reason for the error, stated that he had moved. At this point, Mr. Badke and Mr. Johnson had a brief conversation because Mr. Badke is from the south side of Chicago, where Mr. Johnson indicated he was from. In Mr. Badke's opinion, Mr. Johnson did not appear to be intoxicated in the least. Despite the conversation, which was cordial and respectful, Mr. Badke reiterated that he could not permit him to enter. He handed Mr. Johnson his ID back and Mr. Johnson began walking in a north westerly direction up University Avenue. A few moments later, Mr. Badke heard a commotion, turned, and saw Mr. Johnson on the ground about 30 feet further up on University Avenue with ABC agents detaining him.

"There have been reported comments that management of Trinity were belligerent towards Mr. Johnson or that Mr. Johnson was belligerent towards management," the statement said. "Those allegations are patently untrue, as the brief conversation that occurred was polite and cordial."
So yeah, it seems like Mr. Johnson didn't present a fake ID[1] and wasn't being some drunk hothead after all, not that even that would have justified how he was treated.

We'll see how this case unveils, but one thing I'm certain of is that Johnson's gonna sue the state of Virginia and will probably get a very nice settlement when all's said and done. Not that that makes this any easier, of course.

Question: What do you think actually happened here?

[1] I do have the question the judgement of a 20 year old trying to enter a 21 and over bar with an out of state non-student ID that was 4 years old. I mean, come on bruh, you're 20 now but look 16. In that ID photo you must have looked 12. Bad look, homie.

So How Screwed Up Is Your NCAA Bracket?

Like 90% of Real Americans, I spent a good portion of last week parked in front of my TV watching free labor generate billions of dollars for corporate overlords. Sure, the NCAA made some cosmetic changes to silence critics last year, but the fact remains that the kids hardly make any money for all that fancy dribbling and dunking. Whatever. It is what it is. I suppose these same kids could just go play in the NBA D-League for a year instead of subjecting themselves to the tyranny of comely co-eds, universal on-campus adoration and as much free Jordan Brand® gear as they want. So yeah, I guess you gotta hear both sides.

All that said, this past weekend showed everything that's great and awful about college basketball. The game, when it's at its best can be fast paced and full of momentum changing plays. Any team can, on the right day when the shots are falling, beat any team. On the other hand, the quality of play isn't universally high. For every UNC/Arkansas nailbiter, there's a bunch of poorly paced Maryland/West Virginia games where neither team can score in a brothel and turn the ball over more often than I used to blog here.[1] In the end, it's all a mixed bag and truth be told, if not for the element of betting I really wonder if it would be as much of an American cultural phenomenon as it is.

So yeah, I'm cheering for my Tarheels, and my hometown Wolfpack who both advanced to the 2nd weekend but probably have no real chance of surviving to the Final Four. Kentucky has plenty of flaws, but certainly has got a puncher's change of ending the season undefeated and hoisting a trophy. I hate Duke with a passion but I could certainly see them on the business end of that L once all's said and done. If you're a betting man you might wanna run with that.

Question: How screwed up is your bracket? Who you got winning it all?

[1] Huzzah!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Oklahoma Fraternity Suspended For Being Racist Idiots.

Given how many racist frat party photos surface every Halloween, should we really be all that surprised by this? I'm not really sure...
The University of Oklahoma is immediately severing "all ties and affiliations" between the school and its local Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, the university president said today, in the wake of a video that purportedly shows members of the chapter singing a racist chant.

The video, which surfaced over the weekend, was posted to Twitter by Unheard, which describes itself as "an alliance of black students organized for change within campus administration and atmosphere." The video shows young men on a bus chanting, "There will never be a n----r at SAE."

The tweet, directed at OU president David Boren, said, "Racism is alive at The University of Oklahoma." Boren said in a written statement today that all ties and affiliations between the school and chapter are "hereby severed."
Here's the video in question.

Note: If you look at the photo above (apparently the same frat, different chapter, a few years ago) you'll notice there are indeed, quite a few niggers in SAE. But whatever.

I'm glad the school moved quickly and swiftly to root out these morons. Good for you, OU.

Question: Does this even surprise you?

President Obama's Selma Speech.

I watched this live, with my wife and all 3 of our kids. I'm not particularly prone to hyperbole, but this speech felt like history in the making. It was, in a word, excellent.

Speeches like this both inspire and frustrate me. Inspire, because this guy's such an excellent orator when he's really dialed in. Frustrating, because for all of his beautiful rhetoric, he's such a mediocre leader who seems like he essentially checked out of this job about 4 years ago. I could go on and on, but why bother?

Let's just enjoy this speech for what it is. Riveting. Beautiful. And most likely, timeless.

Question: Did you watch this speech live? How did it make you feel?


Despite being the race favorite there were questions about Carpe Diem heading in to Saturday’s Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. Carpe Diem had impressed as a two year old, winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Futurity before finishing second to Texas Red in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The issue wasn’t his performance as a two year old but the fact that he hadn’t raced since. Trainer Todd Pletcher wanted to ‘bring him along slowly’ and two months out from the Kentucky Derby there was some opinion that he was starting his three year old season too late to be a factor.

Those thoughts surfaced again near the start of the Tampa Bay Derby when Carpe Diem emphatically refused to enter the gate. He eventually made it in and from that point he ‘flipped the switch’ and transformed from a balky horse making his three year old debut to a monster that already ranks among the horses to beat at the Kentucky Derby. Carpe Diem maintained perfect position throughout the race before closing strong, eventually taking the win by five lengths and looking like he could have run the rest of the afternoon. If you missed out this time to bet on Carpe Diem, then make sure you don't miss out on Kentucky Derby. This site has a list of Kentucky Derby betting rules and types of bets you can place on horses.

Carpe Diem is owned by WinStar Farms and the stable’s President, Elliott Walden, said that railbirds had been telling him that his horse was the ‘best training in Florida’. He continued to explain that it’s one thing to hear that from third party observers but quite another to see the horse prove it on the track. Walden also brushed off any concern about Carpe Diem’s balky pre-race behavior saying that ‘he’s a little headstrong’.

Trainer Todd Pletcher won the Tampa Bay Derby for the third time in his career. He won previously with Limehouse (2004) and Verrazano (2013). Pletcher watched Carpe Diem give him victory number three via simulcast from Gulfstream Park.

The Tampa Bay Derby has become a good launching pad for a Kentucky Derby bid in recent years. The Pletcher trained Super Saver didn’t win the Tampa Bay Derby but peaked on the first Saturday in May to win the ‘Run for the Roses’. Street Sense also parlayed a Tampa Bay Derby run into a Kentucky Derby victory in 2007.