Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Double Standards for Black Female Athletes

Brace yourself I feel a rant coming on!

Marion Jones was one of nearly 700 who requested a pardon or commutation of their sentence from Shrub. She was denied. One of the more notable pardons was granted to John Forte (Fugees) who was charged with intent to distribute narcotics because he went to the airport to retrieve a suitcase that contained $1.4M worth of cocaine.  We all make mistakes, but come on.

Marion was sent to prison for lying to Federal prosecutors about her use of performance-enhancing drugs. She was retroactively stripped of all her Olympic medals as well as her relay teammates, removed from the entire history of the IOC and had to return her prize money. Martha Stewart was sent to prison on a similar charge over a $50K stock trade. There's also the fact that taking questionable drugs cause long term damage to the body of an athlete. Now we can argue the merits of guilt and need for punishment for breaking the law but I feel uncomfortable with these results. Especially in comparison to the way crimes are viewed when committed by certain men. I know race, class, privilege and as usual - connections can make all the difference in how 'justice' is meted. Paging Scooter Libby....

Genarlow Wilson has been touted as a victim of harsh sentencing. Somehow if you and a group of your friends decide to have sex one after the other with a passed out girl (drunk/physically impaired = no consent = rape) in a hotel room and then move on to getting fellatio from a 15 year old and taping it for kicks, you the oppressed Black male is being railroaded by the 'system.' 

Moving on, one other thing that really irritates me is how the mental prowess and strategizing techniques of the elite athlete is completely ignored for physicality when the athlete is Black. Like with Serena and Venus Williams. If I hear one more correspondent talk about "their power" or how they "overpowered" their competition I will scream! Sheer strength is not enough to become the number-one ranked tennis player and remain for multiple years. 

Which is why I think the use of performance-enhancing drugs is far more prevalent than what the powers that be would have the general public believe. Is it with tacit approval but a 'don't ask don't tell' policy, where if you get caught you're on your own? After all, the US of A wants world dominance in every area including athletics. Who gets to decide what's legal and what's not? Alcohol used to be banned - and it never will be again no matter how many impaired people get behind the wheel of a vehicle and injure or kill others. So why was Marion Jones so publicly humiliated and jailed when she got caught? Was it the severity of the crime or was there more to it? She could've been potentially charged with other crimes - which she may have been acquitted of by a jury of her peers. Was it race or gender or both that motivated the prosecution?


Khadija said...

Good Morning, Faith!

I agree to disagree with you here.

I just don't care about the fate of petty criminals like Marion Jones. My concern at this point is what our constant complaints about "double standards," and our constant rallying around criminals does to our collective interests.

It makes the African-American collective look like a support network for criminals. And that we have no real sense of right or wrong. This is not a good or helpful collective "look."

For example, I firmly believe that this "we love criminals" look (in addition to racism) bit decent Black people in the behind during Katrina. I suspect that it was more than racism that motivated the Gretna sheriffs to block New Orleans residents from crossing the bridge into Gretna.

When the main (if not the only) thing other people hear from us and our leaders for decades is pep rallies in support of criminals, who in their right mind would want us around during a crisis? Much less who in their right mind would temporarily take us into their home?

Our kneejerk "rally around the accused criminals" response made sense in earlier eras. This made sense in the context of the Scottsboro boys and Rosa Parks. I don't believe that this response is helpful in the current era.

Now the animal-like characterization of Black athletes is a slightly different issue. One that I feel has a lot to do with their silence, apathy, and cowardice. They are so preoccupied with endorsements that they never speak out. About anything. Including their OWN degradation. If they won't defend their own humanity & dignity, why should I care about them?

Ordinarily something like this (White media demeaning Blacks) would be a worthy issue, but how White racists treat the greedy, cowardly, modern Negro athlete is no longer on my radar. These people don't deserve my concern or my support.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Khadija, I see where you're coming from with this. Which is why I mentioned the John Forte pardon and Genarlow Wilson because they both claimed to be victims while commiting crimes. And Martha Stewart went to prison under similar circumstances as Marion Jones - who does admit her guilt and says she deserved to be punished. I think a lesson can be learned from that about not making excuses.

I can see where you're coming from about the Katrina survivors' treatment being a matter of necessary police work - but the appearance of it belied that legit concern. I will admit you definitely have more of an 'us' vs. 'them' mindset and I'm not quite there yet. But you also work with a certain population on a consistent basis whereas I live in a city with a 4% Black population, don't live in a Black neighborhood and only had one Black co-worker at my last position who was solidly middle class.

I've instinctively avoided being around certain type of people and have always felt I was breaking that unspoken contract of support of Blacks for doing so and felt bad about it. Yet I couldn't escape some of the apathy and low expectation mindset that exists amongst my family (or the larger Black community) though I physically live far away and have for years.

I always felt like Lot's wife who'd look back. It's definitely been my own hindrance. That's what I'm personally working on changing right now so if I conflate some of these issues....well I know I'm not the only one. The only Black people in corporate media who tend to separate themselves and try to be distinct tend to be Black male Republicans and they do it with such vitriol and with other agendas in mind it looks suspect.

It's hard to work with other older Black women in particular because of that rescuing mindset as well. There is a price to pay when exchanging physical and mental separation for cultural separation when there's such an imbalance in the transaction. Racism and barriers are there. Wealthier Blacks who may have it all 'together' don't want to be around people who 'aren't their kind' so where does that leave those who are stuck in the middle?

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Also I am still concerned about Black women and girls. Why do we have to bear the brunt of the danger as well as the criticism? Isn't that just the flip side of the same coin?

Khadija said...

Hello there, Faith!

{excited waving}

Actually, I do get where you're coming from.* [see ** comments below] Compassion is a good thing. It's the reason why I went into public service. I just feel that our current choices of how we express our compassion, and who we spend it on, are harming the AA collective. Yep, my long-term work exposure to criminals & the Black underclass has definitely shaped my views about a lot of things.

Here's my deal with the double standards issue:

Our people have been [rightly] complaining for decades about racism & inequity in various institutions. This means that we are on notice about the existence of racism and inequity in these various instituttions.

I am NOT saying that we should accept these inequities. Again, a desire to fight inequity, and a desire to serve the cause of justice, is why I chose public service.

I AM saying that, given that we know about the inequities, Black criminals have therefore assumed the risk of heavier penalties being imposed on them if they get caught.

Given that we've been [rightly] complaining about racism & inequities for decades, we really can't play shocked when we put themselves in a position to have the full weight of it fall on our heads. We don't get to "play the nut role" when what we've been complaining about comes to pass due to our own actions.

How could Marion Jones have possibly believed that she would get the White male athlete pass/treatment if she got caught?

[**Keep in mind that the Black elite would exclude ME if I ever acquired any interest in being around them! I'm NOT one of them. LOL!

I think it's a matter of like-minded people giving each other mutual support. People who would screen me out are not of like minds with me. I'm not of like minds with people that I would want to screen out.]

Peace, blessings and solidarity.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Ok I can admit to probably wanting to overlook Marion Jones' violation because she's a woman. As well as Martha Stewart. But then again, I feel no such compassion for Condi Rice. And the saga continues....

Khadija said...

I do understand the feeling ... {chuckling}

Even though I can't stand OJ, and I think he had something to do with the murders, I was quite satisfied to see Johnnie Cochran beat the corrupt & dishonest LA District Attorney's Office & police department.

I took great pleasure in solemnly repeating some of their own pet phrases to the racist White prosecutors I knew: "We have to respect the process. The jurors have spoken." {chuckling}

And the beat goes on.

Peace, blessings and solidarity.