Sunday, June 2, 2019

Lee Cruse: When is a Mistake a Dealbreaker

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for former WLEX on-air personality, Lee Cruse. Social media has blown up with protests from angry viewers about his termination. I was astounded at the number of my friends who supported and forgave Cruse for what he said and his apology for saying it. Thinking maybe I missed something, I went back and watched the initial story as well as the apologies Cruse gave plus the interview with NAACP Vice President Adrian Wallace. After doing all of that, I had two takeaways. First, Cruse’s termination was justified and, last, there is a huge disconnect between white Americans and racist acts.

Cruse admitted to viewers he had a bad habit of not reading the scripts before going on air. For anyone that is familiar with radio/TV broadcasting, one of the basic rules of reading stories is to study the script as much as possible before “going live.” By not doing his homework, Cruse took the risk of getting himself into trouble every time he went on the air. That lack of effort was cocky and arrogant on his part. Under normal circumstances, Cruse might stumble over the script or say something that wasn’t all that funny. This time, he gave his support to a British broadcaster that got fired over making a racist joke that referred to the newest royal baby as a monkey. This might have just been inappropriate under normal circumstances, but given the fact this baby was biracial, the joke becomes racist in nature and the broadcaster loses his job.

To the Lee Cruse fans (and there are a lot of them), this was simply a mistake that was cured by making a sincere apology. In the eyes of WLEX management, this was a costly mistake that turned into a no-win situation. If they just slapped Cruse on the hand and suspended him for a definite period of time, minority groups would have protested and the story could have gone on the national news. The second option wasn’t much better, but firing him would have told the public that they didn’t support or encourage racism, even if it was a mistake. Cruse showed arrogance by not listening to Hayley when she told him to back down on the air. He rolled the dice every single day and he finally rolled snake eyes. As the saying goes, “pride cometh before the fall.”

I have friends that I would consider to be socially liberal and they are supporting Cruse. Maybe they don’t know the significance of what the British broadcaster did. Maybe they don’t know that Meghan Markle is biracial and referring to the royal baby as a monkey is one of the most vile things a human being can do. The scary part of this is some of my white “friends” are posting comments on social media that are insensitive at best. Things like:

  • “Some people need to get a sense of humor.”
  • “He apologized. You all just need to get over it.”
  • “I don’t even like the British so why should I care what was said.”

During Cruse’s apology, he understood the significance of how his mistake made black people feel. In fact, he went on to say that he deserved the criticism and anger displayed by the public. If he understood how wrong he was, why doesn’t his fans? Truth be told, I think they do, but we are living in an age where a lot of white folks think the sin of racism shouldn’t come with a lot of discussion. Instead, they want to believe racist acts only occur in a vacuum and we make it worse when we discuss it. In other words, racism will cure itself if we leave it alone and don’t acknowledge it. That couldn’t be further from the truth and this incident proves that.

I imagine many of those who supported Cruse during this controversy, didn’t fully understand the depth of what he was “defending and supporting.” All some of you saw was your favorite newscaster losing his job over putting his foot in his mouth. Defending a racist act is never okay, under any circumstances. What many of Cruse’s fans don’t realize is many of the African-American community see your support of Lee Cruse as support for condoning racist attitudes and behaviors. Would you all have been so supportive if Cruse showed support (albeit accidentally) for someone who called a biracial child a half-breed? Even if you did forgive him, would you want him to be the face of a local news organization? Regardless, we don’t have the right to decide when the offended is no longer offended. Just as we don’t get to tell Jewish people when to “let go” of the Holocaust, we don’t get to tell African-Americans when to “get over” being called “monkeys.” I sincerely hope Cruse recovers from this and uses his mistake as a way to educate his angry followers about the sin of pride and arrogance. Above the racial lessons, that is the greater lesson along with learning there are consequences to all of our actions.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Time for a Revolution

by George T. Thompson

Dear Americans,

"I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!" That quote was never more relevant as it is today. Depending on who you talk to, the level of discord has been off the charts for nearly ten years. We look to our political leaders to show us the way and they seem to fail us at every turn. The idea of our civil servants functioning as "servants acting civilly" is all but gone. Our democracy was designed in such a way that our political leaders would leave home temporarily and serve their constituents. After they did their duty, they came back home and picked up where they left off. Fast forward to today and you see career politicians who have turned our representative form of government into a retirement plan.

On November 6, there will be 33 seats in the Senate and 435 seats in the House up for reelection. This is an important election. Democrats and Republicans are trying to figure out how they can use this election to their advantage. If things hold true to form, little will change and the divisive nature of government will continue to fracture this country. As we look around the country and the world, the sides seem to have a divide between them that is so large, there is even talk of a civil war not being too far behind. How do Americans fix this? The first way to begin the healing is to stop the partisanship in the government. The only way to accomplish this is by taking back our democracy and vote out every single incumbent in the upcoming election.

Why should Americans take this drastic step? Quite honestly, nothing else has worked to unify this country. In fact, the rift has gotten wider and the animosity has gotten crazier. Our government leaders, seemingly, have refused to find common ground and work with each other. For example, republican senators and congressmen stalled Supreme Court nominations during the Obama Administration because they thought it was best to wait until after the next president was elected. They got their wish. Fast forward to today and the republicans don't want to wait for the upcoming November election to nominate the next Supreme Court justice. What changed? The republicans have the numbers to get the person they want now. Both sides are doing stunts like this in order to get what they want. This is not what's best for the country.

Our political leaders have forgotten who they work for. Part of the reason is the silent majority of eligible voters who have become disinterested with the political process. According to the United States Election Project, nearly half of the eligible voters in America didn't vote in the last presidential election. Considering both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton got less than 27 percent of the vote apiece, the silent majority won the election. There is huge power in those numbers, but they aren't coming out to vote for the status quo. What can we do to pull them off the bench and get them to play in the game?

Here's the bottom line, folks. The career politicians have no motivation to do what's right. They are there for the money. It's time for a revolution in this country. We need to organize and commit to voting out every single congressman and senator in the next elections. By voting them out, we remind them who's the boss. The only reason we don't have term limits for the Legislative Branch is because they don't want it. Why should they? Reelection rates for senators and congressmen has averaged over 80 percent for decades.

We need to send a message that says we will no longer allow both parties to ignore what's right when it comes to making political decisions. The end-fighting needs to cease immediately. The Legislative Branch needs to vote for an amendment that will give them term limits. Senators and congressmen can no longer be allowed to stay in office for life. Between retirement benefits and money taken from lobbyists, we have legislators that have a net worth in the tens of millions of dollars.

In order for this to succeed, we need to rally as many new voters as possible. We also need to wake up the silent majority and bring them back to the polls with the promise of a new day in government. The country looks to our governmental leaders for guidance and they have failed miserably. We can't do any worse with a new injection of leaders who know what the expectations are from us. If they refuse to honor our wishes, we vote them out too. Let's take back our country! Who's with me? #votethemallout

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When is a Peaceful Protester Worse Than a Woman Beater?

Did you know that the Cincinnati Bengals drafted a player who was videotaped punching a woman and breaking her jaw? Where were all of the social media posts protesting this move? There was little outcry about the injustice done to women around the world by the NFL. I didn't see large groups of people threatening to boycott the Bengals for drafting Joe Mixon (that's his name, by the way). Social media was very quiet before, during and after the draft.

Meanwhile, let's go back to 2016. A pro football player decided to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest for the way African-Americans are treated by police. Many Americans viewed his protest as anti-patriotic and a slap in the face (figuratively) to those men and women who have served in the military. There were a lot of folks who said Colin Kaepernick didn't deserve to live in America anymore, much less play in the NFL.

What's wrong with this picture? Where is the righteous indignation from Americans about Mixon being given a job with the NFL and Kaepernick is still looking for work? I don't claim to be the smartest man in the world, but I feel pretty confident that we should be more upset about a man who brutally beats a woman versus a man who holds a silent protest by kneeling during the National Anthem.

Do I think someone is wrong for being against someone who protests? Absolutely not. I just think we need to spend a little more time thinking before we start firing off the posts and jumping on the bandwagon. If you think Kaepernick doesn't deserve to play on a pro football team because of his beliefs, you should be just as vocal about the NFL employing players who are women beaters, drug abusers and general law breakers. You can't do one without the other.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Use of the N-word in Today's Society

WARNING: Contains language that some would find offensive.

Monday night, a Florida state senator from Miami was accused of using the n-word to a pair of African-American colleagues at a members-only club. Ironically, Senator Frank Artiles wasn't accused of calling the African-Americans "niggers." He was referring to six members of the Republican Party in Florida, who have no elected African-Americans. For those of you keeping score at home, this means a white politician used the n-word to characterize six white elected officials. To make the story even more interesting, Artiles defended his actions by saying he didn't call them "niggers," but "niggas." In some circles, the use of "nigga" is not out of hate or racism, but out of friendship or family. My worst fear has come true: our justification for the "positive" use of the word has come back to bite us in the ass.

This senator shows us the danger of allowing a word that contains such anger and hatred, to be repackaged and used again. In the heat of the moment, we don't hear the subtleties between saying nigger versus nigga. Through music (especially rap and hip-hop), comedians, and movies, use of the n-word has become chic. Because of this, America's youth are using the word with alarming frequency. Over the last six years, I have been dealing with teenagers on a daily basis. I can't tell you how many times I have heard students use the word in my presence. On a handful of occasions, I've even had students call me both a nigger and a nigga. This has come from both white and black students. As a teacher, I don't have the time to determine what the intent was behind the use of the word. There are certain words that make your ears perk up when you hear it. The n-word is one of those words that make people pay attention.

When you look at other cultures and races, there is no talk of transforming a derogatory term into a positive by slightly changing it. Hispanics aren't walking around calling each other "spics" and expecting other races to stop using it at the same time. Orientals don't ask us to accept them calling each other "chinks." Nor have I noticed Middle Easterns calling themselves "towel heads" while being mad at the world when others do it. As African-Americans, we need to recognize we can't have it both ways. This word still carries a lot of pain for those of us who have been called it in a derogatory way. While I might be able to tell the difference when someone tries to say nigga, the word has no place in public settings like school, church and work.

So I say to Senator Artiles, you were wrong for being so obscene to your colleagues. Just because your circle of friends like to say nigga or nigger, doesn't mean that everyone else does. You did the right thing by resigning from your position. On a personal note, I have never written the n-word more times than I have in this post. I needed to put it on paper in it's literal form so we can all see it for what it is. The word is destructive and devisive to everyone involved. Every single time you say "nigger" or "nigga," you're telling someone that you hate. Maybe you hate African-Americans and this word accurately expresses your feelings. Maybe you hate whites and saying "nigga" is your way of getting back at them. Or just maybe, you truly believe it's a word that has lost it's power over the years. No matter your reason for using it, I would challenge you to use something else. I am not anyone's nigger or nigga.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The One-and-Done Needs to be Over-and-Done

Another successful season for John Calipari, right? Depends on who you talk to and what the expectation is. Under any other circumstance, an Elite Eight appearance for a team with three freshmen starters would be a huge success. Why? Because we could look at the team and see four returning starters with over 150 games under their belt at the college level. To see this team as a huge favorite next year to win the championship would be an understatement. Unfortunately, we are living in the era of the one-and-done so our four starters have all declared for the NBA Draft. For this reason, I see the need to change what UK is doing and act more like a traditional team. John Calipari needs to take his circus act out of town if he can't see we won't have another championship team anytime soon.

Calipari handles his team like it's all or nothing every year. He is a master recruiter and sells these McDonald's All-Americans on the dream of playing college basketball with the most visible team in the nation for a year and going on to be a NBA lottery pick. Any team with this level of talent can win most games on it's natural ability alone. Coach Cal can look at the Big Blue Nation and show them a winning percentage of over 80 percent. There are few teams that can boast success like that. But, when you are promising titles in exchange for the support of your system, you better produce.

What is even more sad about this system is Calipari's apparent need to accumulate McDonald's All-Americans at all costs. When you look over his rosters for the last nine years, you see that very few of his players last the full four years with Kentucky. He looks at these freshman as if they are only good to him for a year and then they're either put on the bench or they transfer. The Harrison twins were not ready for the NBA as sophomores. Neither were lottery picks and one of them isn't even in the NBA anymore. Question...what does a starting junior have that a freshman doesn't? About 60 more college games under his belt.

Under the current system, Calipari has no room for returning starters. That forces the freshmen to make a hard decision when the season ends. Do I enter the draft and take my chances or do I stay with Kentucky and hope Calipari has a rough recruiting year. This year, there are two players that are making the jump to the NBA too soon. Issiah Briscoe and Bam Adebayo have declared for the draft (Adebayo has not hired an agent yet so he could return to UK if he wants). Calipari has these young men believing that their only option is to make the jump because there won't be room for them next season due to the next one-and-done class.

When you create this type of environment, your team's Achilles Heel will always be lack of experience. Look at this year's Final Four and all of the teams had a lot of tournament experience. When a team has "been there before," they know how to win under different scenarios. There was a stretch during the middle of the season when UK couldn't hold a lead. That was all inexperience and a lack of team cohesion. Imagine if we had Adebayo and Briscoe come back next year. Those two would have experience that could turn an Elite Eight team into a champion.

Another reason to hate the one-and-done system is the joke it makes of the college experience. There are no other students on a Division I campus that have no intention of getting an education. The motivation to go to class is solely based on staying eligible to play basketball for a year. What no one wants to discuss is the potential for academic fraud due to the school, the team and the player knowing the student/athlete will likely not be there next year.

We need to be honest with ourselves. The school uses these kids for their athletic prowess and could care less if they graduate or not. Coach Cal doesn't care because he has made it plenty clear they aren't supposed to be there more than a year. Most importantly, the player is only there because they can't go straight into the NBA. These one-and-done programs are promoting nothing more than a farm system. The schools are making millions off the kids so they don't mind and the kids are looking for the big payday so some coaches are willing to put up with the instability this style of playing causes.

No one plays the one-and-done like John Calipari. He shows little desire to keep these young men on the team in a vital role if they don't have the goal of going to the NBA after their freshman year. This is bad for the school, the team and the player. Everyone involved has sold their soul to the devil in order to get what they want. If the player doesn't make it to the NBA in the first year, he loses. If the team doesn't win the championship, the school and the team loses because there is no next year. We have to rebuild and start over every year. The constant rebuilding is getting old and will, ultimately, do Calipari in if he doesn't hang another banner soon.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Greatest Sports Moments in Your History

Last week was the 55th anniversary of the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game. I was listening to sports talk radio and one of the hosts asked what single sports moment in history would you want to see live. As I was driving down the road, I started thinking about the question and so many events crossed my mind. What makes a single sports moment so special that you would want to see it? Is it a championship game? Is it a world-record setting event? I racked my brain and I came up with eight sports moments as well as two history-making moments that are timeless.

What is 94-88? If your answer is the score of the 1978 NCAA Championship game between UK and Duke, you would be right. Even though I was only nine years old when this game was played, that score has remained in my brain permanently. Maybe it's because this was the first championship for UK during my lifetime.

On September 11, 1984, Pete Rose got his 4,192nd hit and broke Ty Cobb's all-time hit record. I remember watching the game on TV and getting chills as he slapped that hit into left-center field. Imagine sitting on the first base side of the field and watching Rose break down as he hugged his son in celebration.

When someone mentions the Slam Dunk Competition, the names that immediately come to mind are Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. For me, the most memorable competition is 1986 when a 5-foot-7 Spud Webb shocked the world by defeating Wilkins for the title. I would have loved to be at court side to see how far off the floor he was when he dunked.

Since I already mentioned them, I would have loved to watch the Slam Dunk Competition in 1988 between Jordan and Wilkins. They put on a show that has yet to be duplicated. In case you forgot, that was the year Jordan made his famous dunk from the free throw line. It was one of those moments that will be a part of sports history until someone else tops it.

On September 16, 1988, Tom Browning of the Cincinnati Reds threw a perfect game in front of the home crowd at Riverfront Stadium. Imagine going to the game and feeling the intensity grow with each out of each inning until the last throw and the last out was made.

I remember sitting at work on October 20, 1990, watching the fourth and final game of the World Series. The Cincinnati Reds beat the heavily favored Oakland A's in shocking fashion. The image of Cincinnati first baseman Todd Benzinger catching a pop-up to end the game is still etched in my mind.

It was known as the "flu game." The Chicago Bulls were playing the Utah Jazz for the 1997 NBA Championship. It was Game 5 and Michael Jordan was playing with the flu. Looking a hot mess and totally drained of energy, Jordan mustered up every ounce of strength in him and went on to lead the Bulls to victory by collecting 38 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists.

What's a list of my favorite sports moments without my alma mater, Western Kentucky University being mentioned. March Madness is my favorite time of the year and that is elevated whenever WKU plays in the tournament. During the 2008 tournament, 12-seed WKU took the 5-seed Drake to overtime before beating them on a last-second, 26-foot shot by Ty Rogers.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. This simple, but defiant act became one of the most important events during the Civil Rights Movement. I try to imagine the look on the faces of the bus riders, black and white, when this small, 42-year-old black woman refused to give up her seat. To be an eyewitness to this event would have been life-changing.

The words, "I have a dream" took a deeper meaning on August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the speech that some have labeled as the top American speech of the 20th century. I would have loved to be in the crowd on that summer day and feel the energy that speech emitted to the world.

So, what's your favorite sports moment? Feel free to leave it here or on my Facebook page.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Black History Month Revisisted

Earlier, I had a conversation with a friend about meme that he posted on Facebook. During that conversation, I said the following:

"As a teacher, I challenge myself daily as to why we do things. I have found that Black History Month is not about "history" as much as it's about shattering the stereotypes that still exist about the African American's role in society. Some folks (Blacks included) think our path to success is measured by a ball, a microphone or a role in a movie. If the month of February doesn't do anything else, I hope it shatters those stereotypes. I have been teaching in Montgomery and Clark County for five years. I have only seen one black male teacher, other than myself. I know there are others out there, but there are few. We need to shine a path and let young black teenagers know that teaching is not just for white folks."

A classic example for the need of Black History Month is the movie, Hidden Figures. It tells the true story of how a group of black female mathematicians were instrumental in the NASA program during the sixties and seventies. I have heard several people ask how a story that important could have gone untold for this long. In case you haven't seen the movie yet, I will avoid divulging any details. I will just say that we may have never seen a man in space without the efforts of at least two of these women. 

We forget that kids (and some adults) need to know they aren't traveling in uncharted waters. I can't tell you the number of times I was the first-ever black male to work for a company or accomplish something at school. Sometimes, all it takes for a person to believe they can do something is knowing that it's been done before. I took it for granted that I only had one black male teacher throughout my entire education. It never crossed my mind to even consider teaching as a good profession until about twenty years ago. It was never suggested to me by friends, family or church leaders. Maybe if I had seen more black men teaching, I would have considered it.

To paraphrase a wise saying, you don't know where you're going until you know where you've been. Children of color need to see themselves in our history. They need to know we are capable of doing anything we set our mind to doing. With our changing demographics, history classes needs to be more inclusive of all races. For those of you that say history is history, I would only say this. The United States of America has only existed for 240 years. Out of those 240 years, classrooms have only been segregated less than three generations. Whether we want to admit it or not, history tends to be taught from the point of view of the oppressor. History books are changing. but it's nice to take a little road trip and get history from a different point of view.