Stereotypes can kill.
Stereotypes can kill.
Sorry we’ve been slacking on our recappin’! It won’t happen no more. (Previously.)
One of the problems I’ve had watching Scandal over these many months is that the show seems to be dead-set on giving you anyone to root for. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily; even the most sympathetic characters on The Wire were capable of discomfiting venality, and the whole point of Breaking Bad and The Sopranos is that their main characters are/were essentially irredeemable monsters and viewers were implicated in their sinning. The problem with Scandal’s characterizations is that its writers don’t seem to have any clue how they want you to relate to their characters. Are they conflicted good guys? Villains trying to do right? It depends on what needs to happen in the plot that week.
Ray Lewis entered the NFL in tears, mourning the death of his slain friend and roommate Marlin Barnes on draft day.
Ray Lewis left the NFL in a spasm of joy Sunday, a two-time Super Bowl champion at the conclusion of the final game of his 17-season career.
In between, Lewis went from an undersized pro prospect out of Miami to the best linebacker of his generation. He was also an enthusiastic ambassador for The Game. He was a motivational speaker, versatile pitchman and audacious proselytizer. He became a willing caricature of himself.
In recent weeks, he came to be known as something else: a murderer.
There has been renewed interest in his role in a double murder outside of an Atlanta nightclub in January 2000. According to court records and testimony, Lewis was present at the scene, may have thrown a punch during the fight and fled in a limo with the two primary suspects.
Long story short, Lewis did not commit murder. He pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and then “did his best to help the prosecutors’ case” by testifying against the murder suspects. Ultimately, no one was ever convicted of murder in the deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar – this was more about the strength of the case than Lewis’ crime.
Lewis was sentenced to 12 months’ probation, the maximum for a first-time offender, and later reached civil settlements with the families of both victims. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL.
If he’s had a legal run-in since then, I’m unaware of it.
In part because of his run of on-field dominance, Lewis had managed to successfully rehabilitate his image. He starred in national advertising campaigns for the NFL Network, Under Armour, EA Sports and Old Spice, among others.
Lewis also has been involved in a number of charities in Baltimore, including his Ray Lewis 52 foundation which offers “personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youth.” The foundation adopts 10 families in the city for the holidays, hosts food drives and raises money through a number of other endeavors. A portion of Baltimore’s North Avenue was renamed “Ray Lewis Way” in honor of his work in the community.
Until Lewis announced last month that he planned to retire, little had been said or written about that awful night in Atlanta 13 years ago.
Then all of a sudden, we were inundated with reminders.
A couple of media outlets staged a mother’s visit to one of the victim’s gravesites. The wife of New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker made a snarky reference to the murders on Facebook and later apologized.
And on the night of the Super Bowl, I set my Twitter search field to “Ray Lewis” and “murder” and watched the responses roll in by the thousands over the next few hours:
ESPN 8 THE OCHO @ESPN_8_OCHO
Daniel Appel @danielappel12
Artie Lange @ArtieQuitter
On and on it went. I’m sure it’s still going on; I don’t know and I don’t care to know anymore.
Reflected in those slanderous tweets are the same mentality that makes it increasingly difficult for ex-offenders to fully re-integrate into society.
Whether it’s employment discrimination, disenfranchisement or other punitive laws, we have conspired to make it difficult for people to overcome their criminal history. The result? ”We will end up with a society in which some people who have messed up even just once never get a chance to turn their lives around — and we will have a permanent class of unemployable ex-offenders who find themselves with few choices other than returning to a life of crime,” Adam Cohen wrote for Time.com in 2011.
This isn’t necessarily a problem for Lewis, who hopefully has a healthy savings account and a number of professional opportunities as he limps away from the game. He’s not the poster boy for recidivism.
But our collective lust for a lifetime of penance is devastating for most everyone else. And because of the bias and systemic racism built into the criminal justice system, it disproportionately affects black men.
If Lewis can’t ever be publicly redeemed, what chance do the rest of us have?
At this point, I’m not sure what is expected of Lewis or if he can ever truly make amends to his unyielding critics. He cooperated with the authorities, met the expectations of the criminal justice system, resolved the matter through the civil courts and has said he “has to live with this everyday.” His name hasn’t shown up on a police blotter since.
And he left the game in a triumphant hail of confetti, a far cry from his mournful entry into the NFL. Over 17 years, he was a lot of things to a lot of people. A star. A narcissist. A leader. A hypocrite. A champion.
But he was never a murderer.
This post originally appeared at The American Prospect.
Like many sons of the South, my father introduced me to The Game at a young age. Some of my earliest memories are of running around our living room with a Nerf football tucked under my arm, him playfully chasing after me. I spent plenty of time playing tackle football in the backyards around our suburban Houston neighborhood when some parents convinced my father to sign me up, at the age of ten, for the local Little League team.
In Texas, ten years old is a little late for a boy wanting to play organized football. But I took to the game quickly, starting out as a quarterback (where I had the distinct skill of being able to remember all the plays), moonlighting as a defensive back for a couple of seasons, and then settling in as a running back in high school. Just like my father had. By my senior year, I had performed well enough to draw interest from a few small colleges. My parents nudged me to Texas Christian University, which was only four hours away.
Two years later, stuck behind one of the best running backs of our generation (LaDainian Tomlinson, who went on to play in the NFL for 11 seasons) and a few others, weary of the game’s unending grind, and hopeful that I could write about games better than I could play them, my football career came to an inconspicuous end at the age of 20.
I had a mostly unremarkable, short career in football—yet that was still more than enough time for the game to leave its mark, all over my body. I had been dealing with arthritis, joint stiffness, and backaches for years when a weight-room mishap drove me to an emergency clinic in the summer of 2010, when I was 32. Several follow-up appointments ended with me in an MRI machine and an appointment with a neurosurgeon.
The neurosurgeon spent some time reviewing the MRI and had some concerns; namely, two herniated discs and fairly pronounced degenerative disc disease, leaving me with the neck of a septuagenarian. Surgery was an option, but was usually a last resort for someone as young as me, she said. Surgery could temporarily relieve the pain but would fail to slow the disease. It would be a better option when I actually made it to 70.
She asked if I had previously suffered any trauma to that particular area. When I told her I played football in high school and, briefly, in college, she nodded. My neurosurgeon dealt all the time with young-old necks like this—those of former football players. So it was that my father had bequeathed a love of America’s favorite blood sport and a degenerative disc disease to his only son. Some days, this seems like a satisfactory trade, a fair price to pay for those gorgeous autumn Fridays under the stadium lights and the countless Saturdays spent watching our helmeted heroes. On those days when my neck stiffens and my back seizes up with pain, and sprawling on the floor provides only the briefest moments of relief, it seems less so.
I’ve been thinking about that bargain—made by tens of thousands of others—this week as millions of people around the country gear up for our largest sports spectacle, the Super Bowl. An estimated 179 million people—yet another record audience—are expected to gather around televisions to watch the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens compete for the Lombardi Trophy. If you like watching giant men collide, which most people who like football do, Super Bowl XLVII will not leave you wanting. The Ravens boast possibly the game’s greatest linebacker, Ray Lewis, and one of its premier headhunters in safety, Bernard Pollard, who forced a game-turning fumble in the AFC Championship Game by knocking an opposing runner unconscious in midstride. On the other side, the 49ers have returned to their ’80s glory on the strength of a defense as violent as any in the league.
If you don’t like collisions, or find them increasingly difficult to stomach, perhaps you have already joined the growing chorus of fans—and former fans—who fret over the health of the dozens of well-compensated men who will limp off the field Sunday into uncertain futures.
Harambee, brothers and sisters in struggle! With the blessing of another year comes another chance to celebrate our nappy ass roots and search the forgotten annals of black history. For the last few years, we’ve been bringing you the wildly informative and 100% true and accurate* series Know Your History, wherein we tell you the truth about things you thought you knew.
First, we take a look at the embattled history of Christie, the first black Barbie doll.
(PBers Sean and Cindy got married last year, and they announced two days ago that they’re expecting. We’re amped for them! #postbaby. — Ed.)
Cross-posted from Don’t Cross The Streams
When we found out Cindy was pregnant, I was thrilled. I think I actually threw my arms in the air before I hugged her. We had suspected for at least a week before she actually took the test. I wasn’t scared (at least not yet).
Being me, of course I hopped on the Internet and read everything I could about the early stages of pregnancy1. I started following the Reddit boards dedicated to such talk, BabyBumps and PreDaddit. I scoured them for hours reading people’s questions, advice, joy and, in some cases, devastation. Occasionally, one of the posters would tell the group that they would be leaving the board because they had a miscarriage. Suddenly, a train of thought left my mental station without delay, “What if that happens to us?”
Dearly beloved: we are gathered here today to try and figure out exactly WTF is wrong with Kenya.
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