#metoo Raise Your Hand If You’re Sur

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Ahh, social media, you’ve done it again… the Harvey Weinstein story has started a hashtag trend, and it’s good, great in fact. I am not surprised at all by the number of when posting #metoo and if you are then, wow, open your eyes.

I have not posted a status update that declared #metoo. And I want to be honest about why. The encounters with sexual harassment and assault haven’t been as traumatic as the post-encounters. And friends, that is a bold statement.

I have not posted #metoo because I wouldn’t be able to handle one more shred of “are you sure?”

Let me say, I keep my Facebook friends tight, I don’t think one of them would ever say to me, “Are you sure?” (however, they have in the past) but I will not have that discussion one more time. I won’t. (and yes, it is far more dangerous…

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#NoKaepNoNFL, Week 5: I’ve Created a Monster.

Sorry this week’s is a little late. I was getting married and stuff. 

My son loves football! This, of course, was a part of the plan. He was born on a Friday. We stayed in the hospital through the weekend and the first thing we ever watched together was playoff football. We watched Peyton Manning and the Colts take down the Jets and Drew Brees and the Saints beat out Brett Favre and the Vikings in overtime. He was only a couple of days old, but I know that on some level he was absorbing the experience. Of course, as he’s aged he has received copious amounts of Steelers gear from family members. One of my favorite pictures of him is when he was only 8 months old. His little butterball frame was stuffed into a little Steelers shirt. The cute still overwhelms me.

When his mother and I separated, football became one of the things that kept us bonded. On one of his kindergarten assignments he had to fill out a sheet about his family, a potential minefield considering the many configurations that family can take these days. One of questions was bout his daddy’s favorite things to which he either responded “football” or “The Steelers”. He wasn’t wrong, but it has always stuck out to me that that is what he remembered (or was reminded of) as a thing that I love. It’s always been a connection point for him. When the Steelers lost to the Broncos in the AFC playoffs in 2015, he was inconsolable. His mom put him on the phone with me, I reminded him that it was just a game and that we would do better next year (technically, I was right). It was hard to cheer him up when I was also a bit of a mess at the time, but sharing the grief of a playoff loss with my son felt like the kind of thing that makes family bonds real.

Earlier this year, he discovered Madden. We have a Wii and the version of the game that I have has the 2011 teams, but he doesn’t care. Just as it had for me, Madden met him at the intersection of his love for football and his love for video games. We played a few times at our house then I let him take it home to play at his mom’s house. In those interim periods, he got really good. I’ve never let him win. He either legitimately beats me or he doesn’t, and now, it’s about a 50/50 proposition. I love that he’s learning to love the what I love about the game; the strategy, the chess match. We’ve started talking about what various positions do, when it’s better to run or pass, when you should blitz or drop into coverage. This is why people have kids, right?

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This fall he’s started playing flag football. He likes to play running back. He wishes that he got thrown to more often. He hasn’t gotten to play quarterback yet, but he’s not too upset about it. The QB on his team is “really good”. After his first game he called me and told me he had a few really good plays on defense but that the team lost. I told him that I was proud of him and asked him if he had fun. His answer was a resounding “yes!”. I told him that that’s what matters. Right now, he totally buys into that. When he and his sister went to Virginia Beach with his mother and grandparents, they bought me a little black football that says “Virginia Beach” across it in green letters. This past weekend, we played catch for a good half hour or so. He’s got a good arm. Maybe he should be the quarterback on his team? I mean, they haven’t won any games… maybe its time to shake things up? Anyway, on a weekend where I got married and spent most of the weekend with many of my favorite people, playing catch with him was still in the running for highlights of my weekend. I love his enthusiasm! He’s so like me! He overthinks things and I have to encourage him to get out of his head and trust his body to make catches.

I haven’t told him about my boycott yet. He’ll call and ask if I saw the Steelers game and I say “No, buddy, I didn’t. Tell me what happened!” HIs description of the games is hilarious. For instance, the Steelers played the Bears a couple of weeks ago. In his recap, he kept referring to them as the Cubs. A natural mistake and really, Chicago, you could have made that one easier! I loved his description of an interception that the Steelers got against the Ravens. “So this one play required a lot of really good teamwork,” he started as he went on to explain how one of the Steelers defensive linemen batted the ball in the air while another defender dove to make an interception. I love that that is what he got from watching that play!

We’ve watched a couple of college games when he’s been in town since the season started. Neither of us has the attachment to the college teams that we have to the NFL, but his enthusiasm for the game isn’t diminished. As our friends gathered at our house the day before the wedding, the Michigan/Michigan State game ended up on the television. One of my friends came up to me later and told me, “Thomas is really fun to watch football with!” It’s true. He gets worked up, he jumps around, he yells at the screen! He’s a true fan!

Before the season ends, I will tell him about the boycott. I want him to know that even though I love football, it’s really important to stand up for things that we believe in and sometimes that means sacrificing things we enjoy for things that really matter. I won’t make him stop watching. I enjoy his recaps too much for that! I will explain who Colin Kaepernick is and why he’s important. It’s not nearly on the same level, but I imagine it is the same kind of conversation that parents had during the Civil Rights era. I also imagine that one day we’ll have to have a conversation about his future with the sport. I wouldn’t be comfortable with him playing tackle football at least until he’s in middle school, if then. I started around then. I have to be honest, when I think about playing as a kid, my regrets are that I didn’t play longer, not that I played at all.  If he really loves the game, that will be a decision that he, his mother and I help him make with as much information as we have. At the rate things are going, playing anything but flag football may not be an option for him.

It’s amazing to me, with all the things for which I have enthusiasm, my love of football is what has stuck with Thomas. He kinda likes Star Wars.  He’s maybe a bit more into Marvel. He’s okay with Jesus. But football is what he loves and I know he loves it because I love it. The day before the wedding, I took he and his stepbrother to our local garden store and told him that it was favorite store in the world. “Really?! Why?” “Because daddy loves gardening!”. He knows that, of course, but it felt like maybe he was a bit more engaged because I said it was my “favorite”. Maybe. I might be imagining things. Maybe one day he’ll find some of my enthusiasm for growing things…

Speaking of growing things, I wanted to highlight a woman and a book that literally changed my life. The woman’s name is Natasha Bowens. For a while she ran a blog called Brown. Girl. Farming.  From the work she did on the blog, she wrote a book called The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming and moved her work over to a site of the same name. I say her work changed my life because she was the first person I saw explore the concrete connection between racial injustice and food justice. Most people of color in this country have a deep agricultural connection that involves inequality and exploitation. Whether that is the slave labor of African Americans, the stolen land of Native Americans, or the indentured servitude of Hispanic Americans, there have been deep ties to using brown bodies to build the agricultural infrastructure of this country with little or no compensation. Bowens ties reconnecting to the land to liberation for black and brown people through a captivating photo documentary. I can’t recommend the book highly enough. It’s one I hope to read to Thomas someday and tell him about his namesake, my grandfather’s love of the land and gardening.

https://www.patreon.com/derricklweston

 

 

 

 

#NoKaepNoNFL, Week 4: A History of Violence

One of the biggest knocks against American football by non-fans is that it promotes violence. While I don’t totally agree with that assessment, there is no getting around the fact that football is violent. There is hitting, blocking, tackling, all in the service of furthering a goal or stopping the other team from achieving theirs. For me and most of the people I know who have played the game, football is about channeling the aggression that already exists, not furthering aggression. I’d always been taught that hitting someone on the controlled environment of a football field lessened the chances of me hitting people in a less controlled environment like a classroom, my house, or a street corner. I guess I still believe that to some extent. America has a shameful hypocrisy around violence. When the ratings for TV shows and films are generated, warnings are far more likely to be due to sexuality than violence. I wonder how many murders I had seen on TV or in movies before I had seen my first sex scene. I’m guessing that number would terrify me. You can build any number of “child-friendly” franchises around the idea of war and violence. Almost everything I watched as a kid had guns in it. Almost all of my toys came with guns, the only exceptions being my toys that were guns. But it is different when it is on TV, right? And its different when you’re part of team, be that for a sport or the military. Football was seen as one of the suitable ways of channeling all the aggression I had absorbed for as long as I can remember.

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I awoke, as most of you did, to the news about Las Vegas. 50 plus murdered, hundreds injured by a man with a cache of weapons who decided to use them on the innocent attendees of a music festival. We universally agree that this was violence gone awry. The disagreements come in those rare moments that we start to think about solutions. For some, the idea that this man should not have had access to the kind of weaponry that he had seems obvious. For others, that is a conversation nonstarter. The conversations about mental illness would be welcomed if they were followed by a commitment to make navigating the mental health care system more efficient and affordable. I say, as someone who has mental health issues and a pretty high level of privilege, the mental health care system in this country is neither efficient or affordable. Some will say you can’t do anything about these kinds of things because sin will always exist in the human heart. Those people seem unwilling to explore how much damage a sinful heart can do when it has limited access to assault weapons. Personally, I am firmly entrenched in my camp: guns are bad and nobody’s life would be worse off if we universally lost access to them. I get angry that people don’t see it this way. I am frustrated that people’s rights to self defense and gaming are worth more than the collective right to feel safe. I am sickened by our seemingly high tolerance for violence and death.

And yet I have to question my own tolerance for violence. This past Sunday was the first meeting of the Steelers and the Ravens. It was the first game that this boycott really hit home. I can’t remember the last time I purposefully missed a Steelers/Ravens game. So much of my bonding with Shannon has been over this game. Historically, these games have had great importance for the standing in the division and in the conference. They’re usually tight, low scoring affairs. The commentators go on and on about how physical a Steelers/Ravens game is. Some call it a “two chinstrap game”, which is highly impractical, but never mind. The point is, these games are usually violent.

Before I rail at the darkness of the world, and oh how I long to rail against that darkness, I have to turn the light on the darkness within me. Where do I tolerate violence in my own life? Where do I seek to dominate or to oppress? Where do I seek to humiliate or embarrass? Where do I seek revenge? I tolerate a fair amount of violence in my own heart and if there is to be change in this world, it must begin there.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still want to see every gun melted down and turned into tomato cages. At the very least, I want to see military grade weaponry taken out of the hands of civilians. And I’d love to see us being less fearful of our sisters and brothers so that we see less need to defend ourselves from them.

I bristle against the criticism that football is a violent game. I suppose it is because I bristle against the notion that I am a violent person, or at the very least, I am a person who enjoys violence. And yet hear I am, right now, at this moment unable to separate the violence I enjoy on Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and yes, football from the violence that has shattered people’s lives this morning. Can a nation that tolerates so much violence in its past times be anything other than a nation that tolerates violence in its communities?

One of the places where we seem to have the highest tolerance is in sexual violence and one of the places where sexual violence goes least noticed is in our agricultural system. I mentioned in my last post that I have been boycotting Wendy’s for a few years now. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is the organization that began organizing the Wendy’s boycott and they have begun a new initiative to combat sexual assault among food workers. The farms where Wendy’s has been purchasing its crops from in Mexico have numerous reports of rampant sexual abuses. A group of female farmworkers are creating the “Harvest Without Violence Mobile Museum” that they will use to shed light on the violence that exists on farms that are outside of fair food program with which Wendy’s refuses to participate.  Along with their boycott, they will be protesting at Wendy’s headquarters in Columbus, OH and in New York. I take a cure from these brave women: the only way that injustices will be dealt with is if we shine a bright, glaring light on them. May we have the courage to do so in all of the places that we see people being unnecessarily harmed.

 

https://www.patreon.com/derricklweston

“You’re SO Sensitive!!!”

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As I get closer to my second wedding, I have begin to think a great deal about the first. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much of the ceremony. It felt like a blur… and my feet were killing me. I do, however, remember part of the homily that was given that afternoon. There were two, actually. We got married at my former in-laws church who had a policy that required couples to use one of their pastors in our service. We also wanted someone who knew us to say something, so we invited our supervisor to give the second one. This was a man we had been working, whom we both respected tremendously, and who knew us both very well. During his homily, he did said some things about the both of us. He did some unpacking of the etymology of my first wife’s name. I remember a round of “Amens” when he made a comment about her being a precious gift to me. Funny what the mind holds on to. Then he turned to me. And then he turned to me and said “Derrick, you are sensitive. A lot of people will tell you that that sensitivity is a weakness, but I want to tell you that it is a strength”. To give a little more context, this man was my supervisor when I was doing outreach to middle school kids on the North Side of Pittsburgh. I had worked in a team, including my former wife, that would plan activities, outings, and events for kids all while helping them with homework and attempting to teach them a little bit about God. I was often the one who in the middle of planning would stop the process and ask the question that I had been sitting on for ten minutes about how what we were doing would affect the kids. Some times that would lead to “objection noted… moving on” but often times it would lead us to totally change our plan of action. I guess it was in the numerous conversations and planning meetings where that part of me came to the surface where the sensitivity he spoke of shone through.

I think I’ve always felt things deeply. There was a time though where that “feeling” was disguised as “thinking” and I’m pretty sure that was the way I wanted it to be. I wanted people to think of me as analytical and intellectual. I was fine with being perceived as a little cold as long as people thought I was smart. The truth is that intellect was just a mask to cover deep sadness and insecurity. I never wanted people to see my sadness. I remember escaping away from my family after my grandfather’s funeral to go off and cry by myself. They, of course, found me and I felt weak. Sadness was weakness and I would much rather bury those feelings than have anyone perceive me as weak. Even when the pain of existing got too much for me in high school, it felt much more logical to end my own life than to express the sadness I was feeling to another person.

A shift happened in my life at some point and there is only one person to blame: Thomas Weston. When my son was born, there was no intellectual construct to hold what was inside of me. Rational thought had no place in this new paradigm. There was nothing logic about him, his existence, our relationship, or the utter joy I felt at being his father. I began to allow myself to feel more depths of my feelings. I felt deep wells of love that I didn’t know existed inside of me. Love, pride, joy, happiness… it was all unleashed. Unfortunately, it also gave me the ability to feel the depths of pain that I had kept buried as well. Inadequacy, failure, anxiety about my ability to be what this tiny person needed me to be. Pandora’s box was open. It may seem like I am being overly dramatic, but I can give concrete indicator here. From 2003-2010 I consistently tested on the Myers Briggs as an INTP. Since 2011 I have consistently tested as an INFP. I’m telling you, that kid wrecked me in the best possible way!

Over the last few years, my sensitivity has felt like a huge weakness. It often leads me down the road to depression. It has caused me to interpret things as insults that weren’t meant to be so. It has made me emotionally needy, far needier than I want to be and that neediness has made me toxic at times. My insecurities hang out closer to the surface than they once did. I, at times, will joke about being dead inside simply hoping that it could be so. I find myself pulled between strong emotions. I get easily discouraged. I haven’t always felt safe to feel what I do, so I retreat into places where it may be safer to feel or I retreat into numbness. My sensitivity makes me feel world events on an uncomfortable level. I sometimes find myself feeling totally overwhelmed by the news in a way that feels juvenile.

Of course, feeling things deeply is not all curse. I am sympathetic and compassionate. I am present for my kids, my friends, and my partner. I anticipate when things might be hard for others and try to mitigate that pain. I have a great capacity for love. I think my sensitivity has helped me to raise sensitive children and I love to watch them feel their big feelings and know that it is safe to do so. Feeling comfortable with my feelings has freed others to feel their feelings at times when they’ve needed to express them and I am grateful to provide that for people.

Sensitivity, the way that I experience it, can be a strength and it has taken some time for me to reframe that. In a world run by toxic masculinity, I think it is important that men talk about the depths of our feelings. I think we have to find healthy spaces to feel and healthy spaces to express the depth of our feeling. I think we need to be more comfortable with tears. That it is still a place where I struggle. I don’t cry nearly as much as I think would be healthy for me. We need to teach our sons that it is okay to feel. Our daughters tend to be more emotionally intelligent than we are, so we need to learn from them, but we also need to teach them that they should not let themselves be on the receiving end of men’s unprocessed emotions.

When I first started with my current therapist, she told me that I didn’t have the infrastructure for feelings. It was one of the funnier things I had ever heard, made funnier by how true it was. As I have been building that infrastructure over the last few years, I find new pains, fears, and anxieties. I also find new joys, new peace, and new wells of compassion. It is a a strength to feel so deeply, a strength and a privilege. In Ephesians 4, the author speaks against the hardness of heart of those who do evil (vs.17-19) and commands that we be tenderhearted (v.32). There’s a risk there. We risk being hurt, being taken advantage of, and looking weak and foolish. It is the risk of vulnerability. It is the risk of love. In God’s economy, we are at our strongest when we are weak.

So I carry that lesson from my first wedding into the life that lies ahead of me. My sensitivity is my strength. May it be so.

#NoKaepNoNFL, Week 3: No Such Thing as Unity

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Well… that was interesting.

While at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, a city without an NFL franchise, Supreme Leader Trump turned his attention to the league… instead of Puerto Rico, or Mexico, or Florida, or Texas… and said the following: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired,”.

Let’s ignore for just a second that the President of the United States called protestors “sons of bitches”, a term which should be totally beneath the office in a public address. This is the second time in as many weeks that the administration has tried to use their influence to get private sector employees fired. I get that firing people is a part of Donald’s TV persona and that he’s not concerned about much more than ratings, but this is well beyond the scope of the presidency. Trump then took to Twitter to suggest that low ratings would put an end to the protests. Think about that for a second; the American president essentially calling for a boycott of a multibillion dollar, purely American industry. A boycott of several of his supporters’ companies. This should have been unthinkable but very little is with this president!  It shouldn’t have shocked anyone that NFL owners, probably the only group in the country with as much ego as the president, would not take kindly to being told what to do. So the league owners, including some of the group that openly contributed to Trump’s campaign, came out in favor of the players’ rights to express themselves. Mind you, this had nothing to do with the players’ rights to express themselves. This was a pissing contest between billionaires.

So Saturday night and Sunday morning, there was talk that there would be league-wide protests. Of course, this meant the question on everyone’s mind was “would I end my boycott?”. (“Everyone” here meaning one or two of my friends). While I was very interested in what was going to happen Sunday morning, I had no intention of ending my boycott. None of this changed the blacklisting of Colin Kaepernick. If anything, it diluted Kaep’s protest. Instead of being strictly about police brutality and the injustices experienced in communities of color, it became about Trump, the national anthem, and the flag. Essentially, Trump hijacked and reframed the protest. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what many NFL players did yesterday. Many took a knee during the anthem. Even several singers of the national anthem took a knee during the singing. I thought that was especially moving. That said, the “why” of the protest got muddled by Trump’s interference and I’m not so sure that wasn’t exactly what he wanted.

I have to take a moment to address what my team did. The Steelers announced before the game that they would not be taking the field for the national anthem at all. My initial thought was “Wow! That is a powerful gesture!”. Then I read the comments of Mike Tomlin who essentially said that they were doing this to stay out of it. “We’re not going to play politics,” Coach Tomlin declared. That was disappointing. Then there was this piece by Damon Young, suggesting that Tomlin keeping the team off the field was a “black ass Judo” maneuver:

But, regardless of his words, the act itself still seemed like an unambiguous fuck you to Trump. The optic message was one of defiance, and that’ll be the prevailing takeaway from it. Tomlin is no fool, and I’m sure he knew how not participating in the anthem would look, which makes me wonder if his words were intentionally misleading; the same type of professional shape-shifting and racial judo black people perform each day to defy the system while keeping our jobs and our sanity intact. 

The Steelers’ actions had even more the look of protest when it was revealed that Allejandro Villanueva, offensive lineman and the only active military personnel in the league (army ranger) went without his team on to the sidelines, placed his hand on his heart and sang along with the anthem. With this gesture, the team that was apparently “100 unified” was both by the media and the fans divided into the patriotic (Villanueva) and the “ungrateful” (Tomlin and the rest).

While I tend to side with Young’s assessment… I think the Rooneys (strongly democratic) and Tomlin (open Hilary supporter) are media savvy enough to know how their actions would be interpreted… I would have loved to have seen a more clear, unambiguous message from my favorite franchise. “Injustice is real, protest is patriotic, you can’t celebrate the achievements of black lives on the field while ignoring the circumstances of black lives in their neighborhoods”. That’s probably asking for too much, but it would have been nice and it is what the moment called for. Instead, the team and much of the league went for the more ambiguous sign of “unity”. Unity to what end? Are they united in their dislike of being belittled by the president? Are they united in their desire to win a football game (which the Steelers did not… winning would have saved Tomlin and crew a lot of criticism, methinks), were they united in their willingness to stand behind each other’s right to free speech, despite differences of opinion? “Unity” isn’t necessarily “solidarity”. The big issue I have with what happened yesterday is that it muddled the message. Kaepernick took a knee to protest the killing of black bodies in American streets. Trump’s interference and the myriad of responses to those comments made it about everything from patriotism to the role of politics in sports. What happened yesterday is important to the extent that it brings us back to the original movement that Kaep started. Gestures of “team unity” do a disservice to that movement.

Part of the sermon my colleague Nancy preached in worship yesterday was about a conference she attended on Christian unity. I take it from her sermon that she and many others felt like some of the conversations were a waste of time. I tend to agree. I don’t think Christian unity is a worthwhile goal at this particular moment. The fact that someone else claims to be pro-Jesus, does not make us allies if they are unwilling to do the work of justice. I would much rather spend time with like-minded Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and Humanists than Christians who proclaim Christ while turning their backs on the poor and excluding those they deem to be sinners. I feel the same way about the idea of being “united” as a country. If our unity means my silence, than no thank you! Unity is a lovely sounding goal, but my first allegiance is to the marginalized and oppressed because that is whose side I believe God to be on. If our unity serves empire than I have betrayed those who are hurting and our unity is simply another tool to victimize.

The NFL is a media giant which is why what happened yesterday garnered so much attention. In thinking of who to highlight this week, I thought about the impact of the media and I came across this fantastic article about a group of black women who are making big moves in the industry. Some names I recognized, Angela Rye is amazing!, but some I never heard and didn’t realize how much influence they wielded. It’s easy to imagine that these women are a driving force in why conversations of representation are happening much more frequently than they once were. And reading through the comments on the article, I would be remiss if I didn’t also highlight Jamie Broadnax, the founder of Black Girl Nerds. BGN is a fantastic podcast highlighting the work of people of color in film, television, and comics. Jamie is also the co-founder of Universal Fan Con, a diversity focused convention that will have its debut in Baltimore in April of 2018. I think it is a fair bet that I will be there!

 

https://www.patreon.com/derricklweston

This Week in White Mediocrity: Sean Spicer

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What happened with Sean Spicer Sunday evening was almost comical. Not comical in the way that the producers of the Emmy’s intended, more comical in that “oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!” kinda way. It’s almost hilarious to believe that the man who was the mouthpiece of this current administration coming out of the gate would 7 and a half months later be given a platform to “poke fun at himself”. It’s almost hilarious to me that Sean Spicer’s “humiliation” was receiving applause and laughs from a willing audience that was totally in on the joke at what is supposed to be one of Hollywood’s most prestigious events. Please, could I get some of that humiliation? It is bordering on sidesplitting to think the man who was allowed in to our homes to tell us how historic the inauguration crowd was and how intelligent the president is, and how dangerous Muslims and healthcare are was only months later allowed into our homes to show us “look, I’m a good guy! I can laugh at myself! All is forgiven, right?”

Yeah, no.

Look, I’ll admit, when I initially saw the gag, I chuckled a bit. The surprise factor more than anything was admirable. But it didn’t take a whole lot of sitting with it for me to get really uncomfortable. I wish I could have read Melissa McCarthy’s mind at the moment. I mean, I don’t know what this face means, but I have an idea:

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I’m pretty sure this is the face you make when a mediocre white man has just capitalized off of your hilarious bit and you’re trying real hard not to lose your shit. Maybe I’m wrong…

What upsets me about this situation is how easily it seems that the establishment is willing to welcome an unremarkable white man back into the fold. A friend of mine yesterday compared Spicer to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. Is that a bit extreme? Maybe. Time will tell. I don’t think Spicer is nearly as competent as Goebbels was.

That, of course, brings me to another piece of this that was upsetting; Spicer, to many, seems to get a pass because he was a bumbling idiot, doing the administration’s bidding. It reminds me of the justice system’s propensity to refer to white men in their thirties as “kids” while black children are treated and tried as adults. Where is the accountability? In his short time, Spicer not only promoted the administration’s agenda, but contributed to the discrediting of the mainstream news media and marginalization of the legitimate press. He was a part of the apparatus that cast the primary means of holding the government accountable in questionable light. You’ll forgive me if I’m not willing to let this guy off the hook right now.

I’m going to speak of “white people” using some generalities now. You may want to skip this part if that makes you angry.

Part of white privilege is the ability to move back to “normal” rather quickly. Sean Spicer’s appearance on the Emmy’s was an attempt at normalization, bringing him back into the fold of the American mainstream. The result is that people who are offended by seeing him on their screens are told that they are “overreacting”, even though the sight of him should be, I would argue, somewhat traumatic. There is a sense that society will always “circle the wagons” (an indelicate phrase, pardon me any Native readers I may have) around a white man, no matter how mediocre or despicable his actions. At the present moment, this is highlighted by the fact that one of the better athletes at his position is being blacklisted for both being a person of color and standing up for the rights of people of color. Was a cheap laugh, even if it was at Spicer’s expense, worth more than the moment of inspiration that could have come from having Colin Kaepernick on that same stage?

Some of this goes to the nature of comedy in this political moment that I’m starting to think white comedians simply don’t understand. Right now, marginalized communities need comedy to shine a light on the injustices of the world, not make light of them. This, like Tina Fey’s sheetcaking moment feel like attempts to hide from the horrors that this nation is experiencing while ignoring the fact that many people do not have the luxury of burying their heads in the sand. It feels insensitive and makes people of color and other marginalized groups distrustful of those that would be considered allies.

I’m sure this seems like I’m investing a lot of energy in something that was relatively small. Why focus on the white mediocrity of a Sean Spicer when I could be focusing on the black excellence of a Donald Glover which was on display at the same show? Why write about this instead of the re-emerging threat against the ACA? Why care at all about a show I didn’t even watch? All of these are legitimate questions. I focus here because I see a danger. It’s not just a danger of celebrating white mediocrity… that, I fear, will always be with us… but a danger of normalizing the carriers of messages that should be marginalized. For the record, I don’t blame Spicer for this. I, for one, completely understand the desire to have one’s image repaired as quickly as possible. But as someone who is still living under the accountability necessitated by my actions, I am also sensitive to people being immune from consequences, particularly when their actions have had such a corrosive effect. No, I don’t think that Spicer should be brought up on war crimes or anything like that, but I do think his first public appearances since his resignation should have been with the journalist he himself maligned, and not late night talk shows and award ceremonies hobnobbing with the beautiful people. He should have to sit down with April Reigns or Dan Rather and give account for that he did for the administration. That’s what accountability looks like to me. Of course, if there is one thing that white mediocrity hates, it’s accountability…

#NoKaepNoNFL Week 2: I am not your priest

After two weeks of abstaining from watching the NFL, I have noticed something surprising: the NFL is EVERYWHERE! Commercials, billboards, radio… it is ubiquitous. I guess as a fan, it never really bothered me in the past. I don’t notice other sports having this much media saturation during their seasons. Football really is a part of the fabric of American life.

Several people this week have reached out specifically to me to ask about boycott rules. “Does it count if I’m in a bar and a game is on in the background?” “What if friends tell me the scores over social media?” “What do I do if I’m in an airport and there is NFL on the screens?” Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not your priest! I can’t absolve you of your boycott sins. Also, if I were, I would tell you not to be so legalistic. For me, it’s really about not giving time or money to the league. You can’t control what other public establishments or your social network decides to do. Shannon and I were at a bar on Friday and ESPN was on. I glanced up occasionally at the screen, but for the most part, I  was focused on good conversation, my watered down drink, and shrimp wrapped in bacon, drenched in barbecue sauce. (SO GOOD!) Because the NFL is everywhere, it is hard to avoid the product out right and still engage in public life. Still, the fact that I’m not intentionally going to bars where games are playing is a big shift. A bar with ESPN on in the background showing highlights is hardly on my radar.

Jemele-Hill

Speaking of ESPN, all the shouts out to Jemele Hill. I have watched Ms. Hill for a long time, since she was showing up the male sportscasters on ESPN’s Around the Horn. She is smart, funny, incredibly charismatic, and knows her stuff when it comes to every sport. It has been so excited to watch her and Michael Smith rise through the ESPN ranks. When they were given the 6pm SportsCenter spot I was thrilled even though I am rarely around a TV at 6pm. I don’t know if white people understand this, but there is a sense in the black community that when one of us rise, we all rise. Jemele and Michael might as well have been my cousins when I heard the news! Ms. Hill got in trouble this week for tweeting that our president is a white supremacist who surrounds himself with other white supremacists and that he was a terrible leader. I, for one, searched high and low and could not find the lie in her tweets. ESPN immediately apologized for her tweets and made it clear that they did not represent the station. She also apologized to the station and her colleagues, basically acknowledging that her tweets could have been misconstrued as being representative of the company. She did not, however, backpedal on her comments. I saw several people calling for her to be fired. Unfortunately, one of those people was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, spokesperson for the White House. For Ms. Sanders to call it a “fireable offense” was pretty damn close to violating the actual spirit of the First Amendment, as in the government can’t impede free speech. So far, it looks like Jemele’s job is safe, but I can’t get over the hypocrisy of people who say that she should “stick to sports and stay away from politics” and ignore the fact that the NFL has received millions of dollars since 2009 from the department of defense to essentially have a celebration of nationalism before every game. It’s also hard to ignore that the NFL is made up largely of black athletes making money for white billionaires. That, to me, is pretty political. At least nine of those billionaires contributed to Trump’s campaign in large sums. That feels pretty political too and probably a big reason why Mr. Kaepernick is not employed.

This week an email caught my attention. It was from “Revolutionary Love”. That was hard to ignore. The Revolutionary Love Project is “a volunteer-run project that offers calls to action, tools, inspiration, and support to fight for social justice through the ethic of love… We, people of faith and moral conscience, resist all policies, actions, and rhetoric that put people in harm’s way. We refuse to mirror the hate and vitriol that we oppose. We commit to fight for justice through the ethic of love — love for others, our opponents, and ourselves. We are rising up across the U.S. and around the world in protest, music, dance, and direct action to declare that #RevolutionaryLove is the call of our times”.

Ummm… hell yes!!!

Last week’s email was about a particular project, a documentary film made about the murder of Sikh man in Arizona which was the first recorded hate crime following 9/11. The film, Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermathhighlights the struggles that many have experienced since that fateful day in 2001 and is told exclusively through the stories of Sikh Americans who are often mistaken as Muslims. That anyone should experience hate because of their religion is absurd, but that people are being discriminated against for a religion that they don’t even practice is even more reprehensible. The film seems like a great resource for those who want to start a dialogue about how we can be better neighbors to those who may be in harm’s way in our communities. It seems like a film a lot of churches should be showing…

This post feels more disjointed than most and for that I apologize. Even as I still hold out hope that the NFL can become a more equitable enterprise, I am shocked by the layers upon layers of injustice that are perpetuated by the league and the larger sports-industrial complex. At the same time, I am inspired by the work of grassroots organizers and activists who are making the world safer and better in their own small, tangible ways. May those of us who have marveled at the athleticism and ability of the gladiators on Sunday find just as much to marvel at in the courage and passion of the workers on the margins.

 

 

Thank you to my new Patrons, Bruce Reyes-Chow and Sarah Gibbs. If you would like to support my writing, you can do so at http://www.patreon.com/derricklweston. Thank you!