Courage: Not Just a Game

Two stories today about shameful history and courageous men.

Charlie Sifford, the first black player allowed on a PGA tour, has passed at age 92. Breaking par, as a caddy at age 13, he was not allowed to play in the PGA until it dropped its white’s only rule in 1961.

“In 1952, he was allowed to play in the Phoenix Open in an all-black foursome that included the former heavyweight champion Joe Louis. When the golfers arrived at the first hole, they found that someone had put excrement into it.”


Tiger Woods has called Sifford “one of the bravest men ever to play this sport.”



Val James, alive and writing his autobiography, Black Ice, helped break the color barrier in another very white sport – professional hockey.  He was the first American born black player in the NHL and endured abuse from Americans and Canadians for years.

Warren Skorodenski, a former Springfield, Mass., Indians goalie who spent parts of five seasons in the N.H.L., recalled Springfield fans yelling racial slurs at James and throwing so many bananas on the ice that linesmen collected them during stoppages of play. A few fans, he said, dressed in Ku Klux Klan-style hoods.

“It was disgusting,” said Skorodenski, who is not mentioned in the book. “To be in his shoes, I just couldn’t imagine.”

In Salem, Va., in 1981, a CBS News crew filming a report on James recorded fans chanting a racial epithet at him. A producer interviewed a proud teenager who brought a watermelon to the game for James. Gallagher shared a copy of the report with The New York Times.

“There is the only way I can explain it for people who don’t understand that feeling,” James said. “Let’s start with women. What’s the worst thing you can call a woman? Imagine having one of those words thrown at you every three seconds for 60 minutes. Now multiply that 40 road games a year.”

NY Times

Burma Burns

The Buddhist led attacks on Myanmar Muslims has expanded beyond the initial targets of Royhinga, coastal people with imputed and real connections to Bangladesh.  Last week, mobs went after Chinese Muslims in the 2nd largest city, Mandalay.

Two men died.  Died ugly.

 The body of the Muslim man was identifiable by his wife only by a distinctive blemish on one of his toes.

More deaths were prevented by the intervention of a Buddhist monk, urging the club-wielding young men to go home.

A Buddhist monk, Galonni Sayadaw, approached the roving bands of young Buddhist men and urged them to return to their homes. The monk also publicly exhorted the chief of police, who as in previous bouts of religious unrest did not immediately intervene, to disperse the crowds.

In an interesting insight, a few are claiming, this is not simply spontaneous violence, or even something directed by the hate mongering  monk, Wirathu and his 969 movement.

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

Tin Tin Kyaw (centre) cries near the body of her husband Soe Min, a 51-year-old man who was killed in the riot, at a mosque in Mandalay. Photo: Reuters

David Scott Mathieson, an analyst with Human Rights Watch in Myanmar, wrote after the Mandalay riots that it appeared that the “violence was not just an organic eruption of communal resentment” and noted that it may have been linked to a planned visit to Mandalay on Sunday by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader. Burmese analysts have speculated that the violence might be associated with efforts to slow her ascension in politics and ultimately derail her attempts to become president.

NY Times: Fuller

Who/Where are the Race Haters?

Interesting data pulled from hate sites on the web

The percentage of Stormfront’s target audience that joins is actually higher in areas with more minorities [than in those, such as Idaho, where there are few]. This is particularly true when you look at Stormfront’s members who are 18 and younger and therefore do not themselves choose where they live.

Among this age group, California, a state with one of the largest minority populations, has a membership rate 25 percent higher than the national average.

And Jews, but a few percentage points, are more hated than Blacks.  See graphic

The Sovereign Citizen Circus Explodes in the FOX Den

Welfare thief, cattleman Cliven Bundy of Nevada, has thrilled the circus masters at FOX news and elsewhere for the past weeks.  It all blew up last Saturday when his “I don’t recognize the government of the United States” self dragged out its ugly twin of racial animus. “I’ve often wondered are they were better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?”

The right-wing suits who had brought him into their studios and onto talk radio and into the news pages, skedaddled as fast as their mouths could move.  Of course, those close to home?

…militiamen who showed up with weapons at Bundy’s ranch in Nevada say they continue to support him; indeed, they see the news stories as just another conspiracy. “It’s part of misinformation to maintain the divide,” one militiaman told the Las Vegas Sun []

Adam Nagourney originally  broke the story

Gail Collins gives a good, quick, amusing summary:

So, what have we learned from the Crazy Rancher Guy saga?

You have undoubtedly heard about Cliven Bundy of Nevada, who refuses to pay federal grazing fees for, um, grazing his cattle on federal land. When government agents, acting on a court order, tried to remove Bundy’s cows, they were met by armed resisters. The agents wisely withdrew rather than risk bloodshed, and the resisters declared victory.

This was Bundy’s happy time. He was a star on Fox News, where his new friend Sean Hannity asked him probing questions like:

“How far are you willing to go?”

“How far are you willing to take this?”

Charles Blow howls his outrage:

How could slaves have been “happier,” when more than 12 million were put in shackles, loaded like logs into the bowels of ships and sailed toward shores unknown, away from their world and into their hell?

How could they have been “happier” to be greased up and sold off, mother from child, with no one registering their anguish?

And, for those who think Mr Bundy is being taken out of context, that his views on race are being misrepresented or are something apart from his anti-government animus, Dana Milbank gives the short version of why we should not be surprised.

The anti-government strain of thought that Bundy advanced has been intertwined with racist and anti-Semitic views over several decades. Not all people who resist the authority of the federal government are motivated by race, of course, and not all racists are anti-government. But there is a long symbiosis between the two.

Among those who rallied to Bundy’s defense in Bunkerville, Nev. — the supporters Heller labeled patriots — was Wiley Drake, an Internet preacher affiliated with the “Oath Keepers” movement. According to reports from the scene, Drake told a crowd of Bundy supporters that they shouldn’t bow to the “half-breed” President Obama.

In general terms, Bundy’s notion of state supremacy — “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing” — is a variant of states’-rights claims that go back to the Civil War and were revived in the segregationists’ opposition to civil rights laws. Because the federal government has been the protector of minority rights, states’ rights have long been used to justify discrimination.

Specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks anti-government and hate groups, says that Bundy’s sentiments align closely with those of the “Posse Comitatus” movement, founded by William Potter Gale in the 1970s.

For a mini-seminar in what this is give a listen to this Rachel Maddow piece about the Posse Comitatus and Sovereign Citizen movements.  As the folks over at the Daily Banter say,

What she does here is extraordinary, and that’s precisely what’s so infuriating because she shouldn’t have been the only one digging beneath the surface of Cliven Bundy’s anti-government rhetoric to uncover the darkness at the center of his ideology.

Sick Behavior in the NFL

Oh,man!  When the Richie Incognito — Jonathan Martin episode hit the news in October 2013 it was a little hard to know how bad bad was.  Name calling, racial slurs, derogatory comments, sure. But what?  Now we know. And we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Incognito and two team mates are sick jackals.  If not protected by the team and league one or more surely would have been shot for the vile abuse heaped on others — and not just Martin.

Here is a Washington Post article on it

Here is the report.  Jump to page 13 for a small sample of what happened. “Offensive language” doesn’t begin to cover it. This is extremist thuggery, under the cover of boys will be boys.

The Miami Herald only uses the word ‘implicated’ to describe what the report says about the vile actors.  No brave statement like Dallas newscaster Dale Hansen on ABC made the other day regarding Michael Sams and the NFL.

One more nail in the coffin of my — and how many others?– interest in this manly sport, seeming less manly every new discovery.

The lack of coverage in the majors is noticeable. USA Today at least is willing to read and to comment

The harassment wasn’t simply a byproduct of Incognito’s mind. It came from within the walls of the organization. That’s the most damning finding. It wasn’t just one rogue player – the team, in fact, stood strongly behind Incognito. This was a culture of hostile treatment embedded within the walls of the Dolphins facility.

USA Today

Melville and Obama and American Racism

“Benito Cereno” [by Herman Melville]  is based on a true historical incident, which I [Greg Grandin]  started researching around the time Mr. Obama announced his first bid for the presidency. Since then, I’ve been struck by the persistence of fears, which began even before his election, that Mr. Obama isn’t what he seems: that instead of being a faithful public servant he is carrying out a leftist plot hatched decades ago to destroy America; or if not that, then he is a secret Muslim intent on supplanting the Constitution with Islamic law; or a Kenyan-born anti-colonialist out to avenge his native Africa.

 No other American president has had to face, before even taking office, an opposition convinced of not just his political but his existential illegitimacy.
… Amasa Delano [In Benito Cereno] represents a new kind of racism, based not on theological or philosophical doctrine but rather on the emotional need to measure one’s absolute freedom in inverse relation to another’s absolute slavishness. This was a racism that was born in chattel slavery but didn’t die with chattel slavery, instead evolving into today’s cult of individual supremacy, which, try as it might, can’t seem to shake off its white supremacist roots.

THIS helps explain those Confederate flags that appear at conservative rallies, as well as why Tea Party-backed politicians like Sarah Palin and Rand Paul insist on equating federal policies they don’t like with chattel bondage. Believing in the “right to health care,” Mr. Paul once said, is “basically saying you believe in slavery.”

Read all Melville, Obama and the Tea Party

Racist Fans Lose Game

Had no idea.  Simply had no idea this was common place in European, and especially Italian soccer.

The lightening rod for all the bigoted bile in the swamps of Italian fandom has been African-Italian star Mario Balotelli. Born in Sicily to Ghanaian parents, the electric Balotelli has had to endure racist chants, songs calling for his death and, from the time he was a teenage sensation for Inter Milan, people throwing bananas at him in bars. In 2012, he said, “I will not accept racism at all. It’s unacceptable. If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them.”

On Friday, a public act of resistance against racist chanting, led by a Ghanian-German midfielder, has become a catalyst to mobilize opinion, and action against the ugliness.

Imagine for a moment banana peels raining down on the head of Miami Heat basketball star LeBron James when he takes the court. Picture Vikings running back Adrian Peterson having to hear fans sing songs calling for his death because of the color of his skin. It’s difficult to visualize in US sports* but such scenes have become a normal feature of European soccer. Yet perhaps, in one moment of fury, the page may finally be turning on this ugly state of affairs. In a bracing display of courage, star midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, of the legendary Italian club, A.C. Milan, displayed all the frustration that’s been building among professional soccer players of color in Europe over the last two decades as they’ve endured all manner of toxic, racist garbage when they take the pitch.

In the middle of a “friendly match” against the club Pro Patria, a mini-mob in the bleachers repeatedly tossed bigoted bombs at the non-white players on AC Milan’s roster, and Boateng decided he’d had enough. He picked up the ball right in the middle of play and punted it directly into their section of the stands. Boateng then began to walk off the field in protest. Here is where, in a matter of seconds, the turn of events shifted from shock to wonder. As Boateng stormed to the nearest exit, the Pro Patria fans, instead of jeering, cheered him for his actions. Then the referees called off the rest of the game and his opponents on Pro Patria walked off with Boateng, shoulder to shoulder, in solidarity. The announcers could only utter a word in Italian easy to translate: “Incredible.”

Dave Zirin in The Nation  more in The NY Times and ABC News

The Appalling Past (has of course not yet passed…)

The NY Times obituary of a man I had never heard of, Pedro A. Sanjuan, stopped me completely this morning, reminding me how recent the past is, and how, from today, appalling:

His first battleground was the Maryland portion of Route 40, a federal highway. The ambassadors of Chad and Sierra Leone were among eight diplomats who had been refused service along there. The Chad ambassador was on his way to present his credentials to President Kennedy. The 7-year-old son of a diplomat was refused a glass of water.

Mr. Sanjuan visited more than 90 restaurants and drive-ins along the highway, and persuaded about half to serve blacks. He testified before the Maryland legislature on behalf of civil rights legislation. He met with representatives of the Congress of Racial Equality, the civil rights group known as CORE, which staged protests to pressure the restaurants. He spoke to civic groups.

“We pour millions into foreign aid,” he said. “How senseless it is to ruin this tremendous effort by refusing to serve a cup of coffee to a customer whose skin is dark.”

… One African delegate to the United Nations, Mr. Sanjuan was told, had been barred from an airport restaurant while passing through Atlanta and consigned to a stool in a hangar, where he ate a sandwich wrapped in wax paper. The delegate later became his country’s prime minister.

…The situation festered until the Maryland legislature passed a law in 1963 opening public accommodations. The landmark federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 cemented the progress. Historians say publicity about the diplomats had accelerated these steps.

It goes without saying that even the good work he, and the Kennedy brothers did, was tinted with infamy:  their alarm was for the diplomats and their families, not the Americans who were treated even worse, daily.

Targeted Arsons in New York City

New York police are investigating as bias crimes four Molotov cocktail attacks on Sunday night including one against a mosque with people inside and another against a Hindu place of worship.