Tag Archives: Arizona

Being a “Black Contrarian” & The Marcus Smart Example

After the recent outcry over the fraternity “MLK Black Party” that took place several weeks ago & my subsequent blog which you can see here, I received the usual praise, primarily from White folks, & the usual criticism, primarily from Black folks. Let me be clear: I am no race-baiter, I am no opportunist, I am nothing; but with your help, your input, your ingenuity, we can not only sustain, but improve & enjoy more successful race relations. I am only an individual with a desire to bridge gaps, create understanding, & build a better community. We live in the greatest country, in the greatest time, with great opportunity as well as great privilege. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, & those of their ilk, I am not.

I write to open minds, shed stereotypes, & ignite discussion. Imagine my surprise when successful, intelligent Blacks whom I admire, chastise me for being too real, hitting too close to home & holding my community accountable. Often times I am labeled a Black Republican because of my contrarian views, contrasted with those within the Black community. However, even I am guilty of taking the “Black position” (see my thoughts on Justice Clarence Thomas). Even though I am a Black-American, that is only one aspect of who I am. I am an individual, & I’ve learned that I respect those who exercise freedom of thought, & do not fall into the trap of taking a position simply due to their racial makeup, their nationality, or their socio-economic status.

It is never my intent to disempower anyone. That being said, from a kid who lived in the projects growing up, I have lived a blessed life. It’s easy for me to sit from my perch & talk down to folks about what they’re doing wrong & how they could be better. It’s easy for me to talk about opportunity when I’ve been blessed with so many, some that many of my young Black brothers & sisters can only dream of. I’ve traveled, I’m cultured, I know which fork to use at a formal dinner, how to set a table & what to say & how to dress for any social situation. I sit where I am because the community has embraced me, supported me, & encouraged me. I am cognizant of all these blessings, & I take none of them for granted. However, the underlying principles of my life, the things that have made me successful, things like personal responsibility, accountability, perseverance & integrity are the principles on which my personal success is built. These are foundational elements, & we should exalt them, not disregard or downplay them. We, as a Black community, spend too much time being victims, & encouraging others to settle into the victimhood mentality, & this is one of my greatest sources of frustration with my Black community. We can never make progress if the conversation is consistently about who to blame & how we can escape accountability; this is the mindset I am fighting against.

When I talk to my Black family about accountability & the idea of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, I am often met with resistance. Instead, we focus on past wrongs & blame others for our shortcomings as mothers, fathers, & citizens. We can no longer live like this. This is the victimhood mentality that has paralyzed our community & stunted our political, social, & intellectual growth. We have to identify the people & the issues that are stunting our growth and address them head on. We cannot expect the Jay-Zs, the Kanyes, the Sharptons, et. al. to fight those fights for us. Those folks espouse the philosophy of NEW SLAVERY, a mentality that values materialistic conquests & the perpetuation of a victimhood mindset. We need a narrowly focused effort that unifies & educates the family, in the home. Strong homes, make stronger citizens, make great communities. Instead, we have young men & women who idolize the aforementioned celebrities & value a lifestyle that is shortsighted & unrealistic.

The Marcus Smart situation is a prime example where personal responsibility & accountability should be at the forefront of our minds. (In case you haven’t seen it, see the clip here. The fan who was shoved allegedly hurled that racial epithet toward Smart. What the fan said doesn’t matter, Smart shouldn’t have put his hands on him.) Sadly, the majority of my Black brothers & sisters have shown support for Smart & his actions Saturday night. Let me be clear: support for the young man’s actions is misdirected, misguided, & only empowers his sense of entitlement & lawlessness. He has to learn to conduct himself with the aplomb expected of a (potential) professional athlete. Going into a rage & assaulting a person because they dropped that racial epithet is never the appropriate response. Can I knock someone out at my firm because they drop that word? On the street? Anywhere? For those who support Smart’s actions, tell me the logical conclusion of his rage every time some drops that word to disparage him?

By all means this young man has a bright future ahead of him, yet, without accountability he will never have an opportunity to see the NBA riches he covets. The correct response isn’t support for his actions, but constructive criticism for his lack of self-control. We need to distinguish him as a person from his actions Saturday night; condemning him for one should not be confused with condemning him for the other, & this is what we have failed to do as a Black community. Smart was forced to apologize; he should be. He was suspended for three games; it’s warranted. Don’t undermine the disciplinary process by telling the young man his actions were acceptable Saturday night, it gives mixed messages & more importantly, the wrong message. The young man has a history of tantrums, hopefully this is the wakeup call that helps him toe the line.

The praise from my White colleagues about the blogs I’ve written often make me uncomfortable. Sometimes I ask myself, am I a conduit through which they can voice an opinion they wouldn’t say aloud? This troubles me.

To my White friends & family, I urge you to be cautious in your words. Your experience is not the Black experience; your hasty disregard for your Black brothers & sisters story undermines the relationship we need to build. That relationship can be built if we listen & are receptive to what they have to say. To say that slavery does not affect you, to say that you haven’t struggled, to say that your experience is not worthy of my time, is to silence that person’s story. You’ll never understand being the only black person in a corporate meeting, or being the only kid in your class who is Black, or being told you can’t get into a Scottsdale club because your jeans are too baggy or you’re wearing Jordans, or whatever creative euphemism the doorman gives you that night. I would also caution you about your insistence that racism is nonexistent (it is very much alive & well), & the idea that it only exists in Black folks’ minds. Consider this: poverty is cyclical, & for a family, especially a family whose ancestors were firmly rooted in Jim Crow, slavery, & inequality, the cycle continues to this very day. This is not just Black families, but many white families as well. Once we understand the cyclical nature of poverty, it becomes abundantly clear why access & inequality still exist. In many places, we are living with the “badges & incidents” of slavery from decades past. Hell, inequality is written into our Constitution (check out that whole 3/5ths thing).

The sheer bigotry & vitriol for President Obama is enough to make even the most optimistic Black American suspicious of the political process & the true motives of the Right. Our history is littered with injustice (for a graphic recount of the lynchings & sheer terror Black Americans experienced, particularly Black women, go here), & when we turn on the news & see George Zimmerman go free (in some cases lauded as a hero) for the death of Trayvon Martin or Jordan Davis or Kimani Gray or Ervin Jefferson, or Timothy Stansbury Jr., or Sean Bell, or Victor Steen, (Start the video at 1:00 to see footage from the patrol car of Victor being run over by the officer), or Oscar Grant or even Emmett Till, how can we believe in a fair & just system? Compare that to Casey Anthony. How many of you have been stopped & frisked by NYPD because you fit a stereotype? When you say things like “get over it,” or “stop complaining,” not only is it insulting, it’s infuriating. Don’t cursorily dismiss any Black person’s situation, frustrations, & social misgivings. There is an abundance of evidence that lends credence to the thought that Black folks don’t get a fair shot in this country, even if one has made it to the White House. This is not meant to reinforce White guilt, this is meant to raise awareness; be cautious before you dismiss our story.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve probably pissed you off, or maybe you agree with what I said. The point is I want to challenge your assumptions, have the discussion, shed stereotypes & promote understanding. We each have an important role to play in the discussion on race, we can contribute to it, or we can detract from it, but it is long past due for us to address it respectfully in the spirit of unity, brotherhood, & greater comprehension.

I love you all, & there’s nothing you can do about it.

JW

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To the Gentleman grilling hot dogs at the Phoenix Open on Saturday: Why?

The weekend of the Super Bowl & the Phoenix Open here in Arizona is the ultimate socialite’s dream. Sports, drinks, people, & the Who’s Who of Arizona can all be seen walking the greens at the TPC Scottsdale on Saturday afternoon. I have enjoyed the tradition for many years, & this year was no different. After the usual drinks with family & friends we headed out for a great afternoon of socializing, more drinks, & a little golf. However, this year, something happened to me that I hadn’t experienced before at TPC. Let’s talk a bit.

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Some background is necessary; Speaking to a white gentleman at the Open, I made small talk, asking him how he got such a cushy job grilling at the most beautiful course in Arizona, on the best weekend of the year. As we talked, he mentioned something that caused me some consternation. Out of nowhere, he mentioned Obama. He said, with an air of sarcasm, that he didn’t need to work, & that Obama would provide jobs for everyone. Stunned, I said nothing. He went on to say that he doesn’t worry about anything because Obama would pay for everything, because, well he already does. I could only respond with, “is that right?” To which his response was, simply “Yep.” I took my hotdog & slunk away, unable to mount a response or truly grasp the underlying meaning of his words. To the man at the hot dog cart near the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale, I have some questions: Why? Why do you feel the need to accost a stranger at a golf tournament about our Nation’s first Black (see: multiracial) President? Do you approach your white customers & complain about Bush or Reagan or Clinton policies? How does a conversation about grilling & hot dogs turn into one about your disdain for the President? Is it because of your deep-seated racial beliefs that you felt it was necessary to project said beliefs onto me? I just can’t shake the feeling that your frustration with Barack Hussein Obama is tied to his Blackness, & that manifested itself in the words you spoke yesterday to Joel Demitrius White III. (This is also further evidence of why many in our community think that much of the opposition to Obama is because of his race, over pleas that objections to him are in spite of it.) I hate using race as the basis for assuming disparate treatment, but in this situation, I am left with no other choice to assume the worst. In any event, I need to say today, what I failed to say yesterday: your behavior was boorish, inappropriate & wrong; your conduct displayed a level of bigotry & ignorance not readily apparent to many, but necessary to identify & discuss. I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d approach a white person & project my disdain for — insert any of the 43 white presidents we’ve had — onto them. I am not a stand-in for your criticism of the President because I am not him, we simply happen to share a similar racial makeup; it’s critically important you don’t confuse that point. Let’s be clear, I won’t use this space to silence you, ask you to not serve hot dogs at the Open next year, make personal attacks or condemn you as a person. I don’t want to engage in race-baiting & turn this into a case of Black Victimization, because I simply don’t believe those things are conducive to a healthy conversation about race. It’s your actions that gave rise to these words, & we should never confuse the actions of a person with that person’s otherwise moral character. I want to use this space to say to you if your words yesterday are indicative of your true feelings about a group of people you work with, go to church with, serve at a weekend golf tournament, & share a community with, then you are wrong, & you should reassess your thoughts, conscious & otherwise.

I can’t stress this enough: there can’t be true discussion about race if we simply condemn those people who share non-mainstream views to silence. That is not how a healthy discussion is coordinated, & we can’t continue those practices. We punt on racial issues in this country so much & so often, in the hopes that we can drown them out & relegate those beliefs to the sidelines. Let me be among the first to say that we have to go for it on 4th down, & that attempt can only be successful with a healthy, well-rounded, robust dialogue.

I hope you all reblog, repost, retweet, & share this enough times in the hopes that this man sees that what he did was inappropriate. While I dropped the ball on Saturday, I want to use this space to have that conversation. As always, I write from a place of love, unity, & understanding, with the goal of forming a more perfect community.

I love you all, & there’s nothing you can do about it.

JW

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Desegregating Arizona’s Public Schools

Every once in a while I come across a piece of writing that touches me to the core. Brown v. Board of Education gave birth to my law school dreams, and it continues to be a highlight not only for me, but for all of American jurisprudence. This particular writing is a brief history of the process of desegregating Arizona’s schools. I wouldn’t waste your time with banal thoughts, so if I’m posting it, there must be some value to it. Take 15 minutes and learn about how the Arizona courts led the US Supreme Court in deciding that “separate but equal is inherently unequal.”

Blessings. JW

A Brief History of Desegregating Arizona’s Public Schools

 

I love you all, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

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