Ta-Nehisi Coates on Bill Cosby’s ‘Enablers’

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a great piece up today on Bill Cosby and those in the black community who have defended him amidst rape allegations from over 50 women (I’ve written about Bill Cosby in the past here and here). Coates does a marvelous job of drawing the parallels between the language and power that’s habitually employed to harm, silence and dismiss victims of systemic racial violence and that being used by Cosby’s supporters in response to his victims and critics.

It’s also a great piece because it lifts up the idea that ‘victim’ and ‘oppressor’ are not constant titles, but rather shift from issue to issue. And that to demand justice for yourself without demanding it for others — is really nothing more than a demand to join the privileged class.

It is always particularly painful to see those who have been victimized by a habitual looking away to then turn around and do it themselves. But what it illustrates is that the line between victim and victimizer is largely circumstantial.  There was always some number of black men who invoked Trayvon Martin’s name simply because he was a black male, simply because it could have been them. “It could be me” is a fine starting place for confronting the evils of the world, but a really poor conclusion. If no broader theory of sympathy and humanism emerges beyond one’s mean particularism, then all we really are left with are tribalism and power.

You can read the whole piece here.


Deford: No Respect For The Women On The Sidelines

In honor of this years Men’s NCAA basketball tournament, I’d like to offer up an NPR piece from sportswriter Frank Deford. With the dearth of female color commentators on the scene, it seems just as relevant today as it did when it first aired a few years back. You can listen to it here. Transcript below.

Football season has hardly started and fans are already grousing about sideline reporters. To be sure, sideliners now exist in most all sports, and a handful of them –– notably Craig Sager of Turner, who was apparently in town the day the clown died, and thus got all his clothes –– are downright famous. While Sager is best known for basketball, it is football sideline reporters who are most identified with the sport.

That is because, just as football offensive linemen are supposed to be fat, football sideline reporters are supposed to be women –– attractive women. Who can ever forget a drunken Joe Namath mumbling to one of the poor sideliners that he wanted to kiss her? But, evidently, it is the television version of the laws of the Medes and the Persians that football sideline reporters must be female. There’s even a website: Presumably, TV believes that a touch of pulchritude at the mic improves ratings –– affirmative attraction action.

And so the sideliners are delegated to freeze down on the tundra while the male play-by-play announcer and his hefty old gridiron warrior expert babble on comfortably up in the heated booth. The sideline reporter is sort of like the scroll at the bottom of the screen, which, especially on ESPN, rolls on endlessly, even when it doesn’t have anything of consequence to say. Likewise, the sideliner. If you’ve got the technology for a scroll or a live body on the field, use it.

The most asinine task sideliners are required to carry out is to ask coaches, before the second half, what plans they have for the rest of the game. The coach who’s ahead says he wants to keep up the intensity and avoid turnovers. The coach who’s behind says he wants to get more physical and avoid turnovers. Back to the booth. And all the guys watching with their buddies laugh at the ditzy babes who ask such obvious stupid questions.

But the irony is that most sideline reporters –– whatever sport, whichever gender –– really have done their homework and really do know their stuff. Most of them are terribly overqualified for the assignment of being a human scroll. But, of course, whereas it has not been uncommon for years for newspapers to have women on the football beat, television wouldn’t dare allow a female up into the booth to actually call the game.

The funny thing is –– as I was reminded when I heard Mary Carillo doing tennis commentary during the U.S. Open –– is that when you hear a female voice in tandem with a male voice, the contrast sets off both advantageously –– as TV stations always pair male and female anchors on the local news.

But in sports television, sideline reporters can only go side to side, never up. Their place is down on the field, with the cheerleaders.

Greater Gender Parity in Elected Office

I’ve been doing some more research on gender equity and representation. Out of curiosity I had wanted to compare the United State’s level of gender parity to the rest of the world, but in the process came across a very interesting article in the Guardian (emphasis mine):

In 2010, Senegal’s gender parity law came into force, which requires political parties to ensure that at least half their candidates in local and national elections are women. The law is viewed by many as a necessary step to force change in a country with complex gender dynamics, influenced by traditional customs and beliefs, Islam and French colonialism. More than half of Senegal’s 12.5 million population is female and although women have long organised at a local level, forming co-operatives and associations to improve access to public services, this has not translated easily into power at parliamentary level.

I had never heard of a law like this, but I really think it’s something to watch. The legislation doesn’t require the election of women to a national or local position but does make it a responsibility of the party to find and field women in half of their political campaigns. That’s the opportunity that many capable and dynamic women need and desire. They don’t want you to open the door for them, they just wish you’d stop blocking the way.

And now it appears that laws like these are trying to spread to other African countries. If you have a few minutes (about ten) I recommend you watch the documentary “30%”  — detailing the struggle of female activists in Sierra Leone fighting for 30 percent representation in parliament. You can watch the full documentary on Youtube here. I’ve posted the trailer below.

2014: Women in State Legislatures

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the “Year of the Woman” pushed new female faces onto the national political stage. Yet despite the (very) modest gains women have made in DC, many state capitals across the country are as male dominated as ever.

In a report which came out late last month, the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislators detailed the vast disparities of female representation in states across the country.

In not a single state did women constitute half of all representation (a reasonable goal) and in only two states, Colorado and Vermont did women make up over 40 percent of elected officials. Although it’s important to note, zero women in the Vermont legislature serve in any of the leadership positions for their parties.


Who Uses the Internet?

Sometimes when I’m online, I forget just how exclusive the internet really is.  Below is a table I pulled from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

As you move up in age, internet use falls. As you move up in education, internet use increases. One out of three people making less than $30,000 do not use the internet. Disproportionately fewer Blacks and Hispanics use the internet relative to whites.

This stuff matters. For many of us who are online daily, it’s a natural event to interact with other people through social networking sites, comments sections, dating sites, etc. Often times we take for granted who we’re talking with, and assume that our interactions translate into something akin to the real world. In truth, what we’re seeing is a wealthier, whiter, younger, more educated sub-population  We should keep that in mind.

internet usage