The Image: October 13 marked another Columbus Day in the US and some countries in the Caribbean. For many, especially in the Caribbean, Columbus remains an imaginary shadow such as the Santa Maria ship the Encyclopedia Britannica claimed ran aground and, has been missing since October 1492. Many still hope for a lighthouse that leads to a pot of economic gold and spice that was Columbus voyage. In his discovery in places such as Hispaniola in 1492 that is now divided between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Later, Jamaica in 1494 that already had Arawak Indian links to Guyana or Tainos people. Even that part of history remains a shadow as reported by the Gleaner.Fewer than 250 miles from these shores, the black American experience continues to struggle to upgrade some old images. Dr Henry Gates’ documentary “Many Rivers to Cross” highlighted the African American experience from the transatlantic slave trade up to Obama’s presidency in 2008. Such as in the Caribbean, it was a dark, shameful, and barbaric treatment of blacks where many died.
Centuries later, it seems an engine-less boat is still docked in deep waters in search of a navigation system to re-archive black identity on their terms. However, that too has been a difficult task, as many hills and valleys are left to be crossed.Despite the contributions and achievements, both economically and socially, from technology, clothing and social issues like same-sex marriage, tolerance, and even political victories, one has to constantly debunk the monolithic shadow as if, 400 years later, everyone is still chained on the same ship. Even the underwater unknown shadow seems more important than the ones above struggling for formation, as reported when UNESCO urged Haiti to protect its underwater heritage where the Santa Maria allegedly sank.
Although many have begun successfully to emerge from the deep-sea chains, September 8, 2014, led many to believe perhaps a ship is still docked, and ready to be filled, after Ray Rice, a National Football League (NFL) player, violently attacking his fiancée on video came out. His behavior not only reminded us that the domestic violence shadow still lies off the ocean edges, it created a feeling that several outstanding warrants needed to be executed in some communities even without probable cause. In spite of this serious issue, what seems to become the norm is that television ratings, and new careers of pundits flourish as society becomes more divided while victims got lost in the channels, like the 1995 O.J. Simpson case.
These last few months we saw money, victims, race, and culture collide where structural covariates by the media, which suggested that only certain groups of people commit violence against women. Even Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta seem to have more credibility, as it seems a single criminal act is a reason to cast a wide net and group an entire community in what I call “canoe media.” This mentality creates a concurrent log that places one poor behavior as everyone’s charge.Instantaneously and sometimes prematurely, floodgates are opened that swiftly forecast cloudy downstream when a mug shot of a professional black athlete emerges. Although violations occur separately, it seems all must take a plea deal on the same docket.
Today, maintaining one’s relevance is more critical, especially for black fathers, who now must create the history they deserve. With limited opportunities and the burden of structural conditions, many cannot wait for Iyanla Vanzant to fix their lives in a 30-minute counseling session. The social isolation that is evolving, of which some is self-inflected cannot be ignored because one is different. Simply looking to leading NFL players’ statistics to pick role models and a reason to join every fantasy game with the latest gadgets to raise our youths has to be re-balanced. Responsibility nurtures curiosity and that will decide if such a simple word like “color” becomes an abstract like many of the diverse age 6-10 year-old boys who take over my front steps a few weekends on their skate boards.
Having more technical shrewdness is great, but too many are still educationally, and financially deficient and adding life’s complexities makes fatherhood a daunting task. As we lift our heads from the smart phone screens for a pause, many communities are still spinning on an unexplainable axis along criminal, racial, cultural, and other socio-economic issues that need an alertness beyond simple imagination.
When our society confronts its own spinning shadow, and not opening an archive to protect what is beneath the surface, the “selective history” that often emerges creates polarization, intolerance, and hate between different races. Strategically, or subconsciously negative vignettes work. When certain media consistently morph groups despite a variability, especially for young black men, who are pinned between their own confusions, and begin to develop an ideology that only black men are abusers. Furthermore, only when rich and famous people are abused, arrested, or killed then society stops and takes notice, and that is troubling.
Our Responsibility: Acknowledging criminal behavior can be very uncomfortable. Moreover, to change these tides and the river from overflowing, the community has to change course. Blacks and crime is not a new piece of software that requires certain level of knowledge to interpret a hypothesis and correlation. During the first weekend in October 2014, in Washington, DC, over nine reported gun-related violent incidents occurred. It ranged from warrant executions, to the shooting of a child. Beneath these criminal acts, it reinforces a theory that emphasizes “It only affect them.” These occurrences are difficult to paddle through for the victims and the communities that are affected. However, how many have gone back upstream to help others?
Shortly after Ray’s video posted, I attended a little league football game. As I watched, three co-captains aged 6-7 walked on to the field, including my son. As they greeted their opponent for the coin toss, I asked, “Who is responsible for his behavior on and off the field?” Brit Hume, a Fox Television host I seldom agree with, said it best. “The NFL is not responsible for the players’ behavior.” After many final whistles have blown, from little leagues to professional, I doubt those referees will remember all the players’ names. Whose responsibility it is to make sure self-inflected wounds, and strategically placed dark shadows are rejected?
Victims and advocates for many years have been missing from the economical vessels. However, today with technology, cameras are bringing victims and perpetrators of domestic violence from behind closed doors off deck. Broadcasting what appears to be a one-sided coverage, and the lack of diversity in reporting these crimes, one would believe the meaning of domestic violence should be re-written to insert [Black men].
One of the legal definitions of domestic violence is: acts committed by [black men] in the context of an adult intimate relationship. It is a continuance of [black men] aggressive and controlling behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, that one intimate partner does to another [in black men and poor communities]. This is not minimization. Anyone who victimized women must be held accountable. However, many Ray Rices are in our schools, mosques, synagogues and churches in disguise. I have mentioned this earlier in an opinion piece: In order even the score each time a women is abused, should pundits pull up another race, such as Scott Peterson, who also killed his seven and a half months pregnant wife with her only child when O.J.’s name is mentioned, to bring back emotions and divide to balance the media’s portrayal of a certain group?
What should be done to US female soccer star, Hope Solo, who remains on the active roster, and sponsors are still on board despite her domestic violence charge, while they fled Adrian Peterson? Is this a double standard, or just memory verse in some community? Selective media can be just as dangerous as the high tides on the sea. Within the past six months, about three members of our law enforcement community have been accused of rape. In Purvis, Mississippi, reported by AP in July 2014, Officer Burnett was accused of forcible rape and two counts of attempted capital murder. In Charlottesville, VA, a family still seeking answers for their missing child who found later dead. This story of students missing is not a local issue, but many hearts have been broken in several regions.
In addition, a recent report by Amy Cohen, Deborah Azrael, and Matthew Miller for Mother Jones magazine discussed the rate of Mass school shooting and that has from a Harvard study since 2011. This contradicts the media reporting that mass shooting aren’t increasing.
Although blacks sold slaves during the transatlantic slave period, should all blacks still be in slavery? Alternatively, from Aruba to Trinidad, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, many gained independence from colonial rule, but despite the beautiful beaches, dependence roars like the oceans, while sixth and seventh generations of former slave owners are still reaping gold and spice. This is not a call 400 years later for locals to run to the hills and throw rocks as they once did for freedom. Moreover, reactivating colonial images of abuse only develops hate today.
Missing Chair: Many sports franchise globally like the NFL have a multi-billion dollar chair. They control where one sits and that comes with tremendous responsibility. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner has become America’s new target. However, despite the poor handling of the Ray Rice incident, it seems he has also magnified the negative portrayal and more missing chairs when he initially appointed three Caucasian women to develop a domestic violence program to help the NFL change its reputation.
For victims, an assault is simply that. It is not them vs. us. This is not a push of the racial replay button, but we hope he does not believe qualified black women are still unconscious. Who is best to develop a policy and a treatment modality for black victims? Over 90 percent of these crimes, especially murders, are black on black crimes, but that should not cut one from the chair. Floyd Mayweather recently pulled for a Washington, DC, council ceremonial resolution as his archive files for 2010 domestic violence emerged. For society and possibly to safeguard the community at large, reintegration is also important. October is victim awareness month, and not all violations should immediately be just desserts, isolation or incapacitation.
Filling these empty chairs will send a strong message, especially in poor and developing communities, and one cannot be healed if he or she is not present and takes full responsibility. Where is Adrian Peterson’s chair for using a switch on his 4-year-old? Ben Roethlisberger’s alleged three charges. Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, former Miami Dolphins players, to address harassment, and bullying. Michael Sam, an openly gay player, to address homophobia, and add Barney Franks, a former openly gay congressman perhaps to create a tolerance policy. We can now add Michael Phelps for recent driving under the influence of alcohol because this can also lead to violence.
Violence affects white, black, rich, poor, gay, straight, Muslims, Jews, Christians or non-believers, and not always simply a cultural and socialization process. All violence should become a community health problem with a sense of urgency as dismantling ISIS, poverty, and Ebola and not a reason to give one segment of the community the feeling as if a ship has been docked somewhere on the coastline waiting to make another delivery elsewhere, and only now, it is much harder to reload. Finally, I commend Russell Grant, quarterback from the Seattle Seahawks, who has taken on the responsibility and added a domestic violence chair. However, I hope his chair stands when the music stops. Regardless, we are talking and one less punch will be thrown.