Why Richard Sherman doesn’t get a “Pass”

ShermanMuch has been made about Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s rant after his team defeated the 49ers in last week’s hotly contested NFC Championship game.  Sherman made an athletic play to tip the ball to his teammate who then secured it for a game clenching interception against the 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree.   Sherman was seen taunting a dejected Crabtree after the play was over and continued his celebration by throwing up a choke sign towards the 49ers sideline.  Immediately after the game, Sherman was interviewed by well-known sports reporter Erin Andrews.   Sherman still excited about his big play, proceeded to shout into the camera about how great a player he was and how “sorry” of a receiver Michael Crabtree was.   Erin had a look of astonishment on her face as she struggled to continue her questioning.

The reaction to Sherman’s now infamous rant reverberated across national news outlets and social media.   My immediate reaction was one of disbelief that an athlete would go so far to disgrace another athlete on such a huge stage.  As a former football player, I’ve dished out my share of smack talk on the field but I always shook my opponent’s hand afterwards – whether in victory or defeat.  However, Richard Sherman decided that he would let out all of his frustrations and toss sportsmanship aside in an effort to further embarrass his opponent and shout to the world about his greatness.

I knew that Sherman had attended Stanford so I decided to google his bio and I was surprised to see that he graduated with a 4.2 GPA.  While I was impressed with his academic performance, I was also confounded about how a top Stanford student athlete could unleash such a vociferous and self- aggrandizing tirade on national TV.  His rant has been the central topic of discussion on sports blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. with many supporters but mostly detractors referring to him as a thug.   Sherman responded by suggesting that the term “thug” was actually just a euphemism for the N-word.  I agree with him that the word “thug” when used to describe a black man is really just a code word — however, that doesn’t excuse his behavior or his antics.  When I saw him shouting into the camera, I didn’t see a Stanford grad with a 4.2 GPA, I saw a wannabe thug embarrassing himself on national TV.

Once the storm of criticism began to swell, many people began to make excuses for him by suggesting that he should get a pass because he made it out of Compton or because he was a great student at a renowned university.   Some have also said that he was just reacting in the heat of the moment, but his demeanor didn’t seem to change until he was forced to issue an apology by his head coach.  Since arriving in the NFL three years ago, Sherman has been known as a “hot head”, an agitator – someone who takes pleasure in disgracing his opponent.  So his post-game rant was really just an extension of his on field behavior.   I applaud the fact that he made it out of a rough neighborhood and became successful, but he’s not the first black man to ever beat the odds nor will he be the last.

I saw a Facebook post comparing Justin Beiber’s recent arrest and his past troubles with Richard Sherman’s tirade, suggesting that there’s a double standard when it comes to black people in the media.  It’s true, there’s always been a double standard!  But does that mean that we should lower our expectations of ourselves as a result?  No, it doesn’t.  Imagine if President Obama blamed his recent troubles regarding the NSA and Obamacare on the fact that he was black and came from a single parent household.  I personally believe that if he were a Republican, they would be carving out a monument for him on Mount Rushmore right next to Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt and Jefferson as we speak.

Every man regardless of his race is accountable for his own behavior.  Yes, some black men are thugs.  Yes, some black men do commit more crimes than others and there may be socio-economic issues that are the root cause but for those like Richard Sherman there should be a higher standard.  That’s why I was so disappointed in his behavior, instead of portraying himself as a smart, fearless football player – he came across as just another thug, beating his chest and looking for personal attention in a team sport.

The real tragedy in his tirade was that instead of America talking about his personal story of overcoming the odds, being a role model and becoming a star cornerback in the NFL – all we heard about was the “thug” word, stereotypes about black athletes and double standards in the media.  I’m personally tired of hearing, “Oh that’s just how black people act.” It sounds like such a cop-out.   If I embarrass myself in front of my clients, I don’t expect them to treat me differently because I’m black – I have too much respect for myself to allow that type of thinking.

Perhaps we’ve come to accept a lower standard, sagging pants, grilled teeth, fatherless children and a lack of education seem to be in vogue.  I choose to hold myself to a higher standard and I expect those with the gifts and talents like Richard Sherman to do the same but maybe I’m just being hopeful and naïve because I still believe in the old mantra – Each one teach one.

Why We Still Hurt

blackpainPresident Obama’s recent unexpected comments about the Trayvon Martin tragedy were quite revealing in the personal manner in which he described his own experiences with being profiled as an African American man.     Obama talked about being followed while shopping in a department store, noticing people lock their doors as he walked across the street and also seeing white women who clutched their purses and held their breath while they were in a confined elevator with him.

These are all very familiar themes for African Americans because we continue to be subjected to these overt acts of profiling in our daily lives.   I recall shopping at an upscale mall where I had purchased a back massager from Brookstone which came in a very large box.  I decided to peruse the mall before I took the box to my car.    As I was walking through the Nordstrom’s men’s section on my way to the exit, I suddenly saw a mall security officer leap from behind a rack of clothes as if he wanted to startle me.

He was talking on his walkie- talkie and never introduced himself or said anything to me.   I thought the whole incident was strange but as I was walking to my car, I realized that he was trying to get a reaction from me because he thought that I was a thief.

The following day I called the mall security and asked them if they had a policy of following African Americans around the mall as they shopped.   I explained to them what happened to me the previous day and that I felt slighted by this officer’s conduct; of course they denied that this was their policy, but it was obvious that this was probably standard procedure for them.

My primary reason for calling was because I was upset that I was profiled and I wanted to make sure that someone responsible heard my voice and my complaint.   One of things that really resonated with me about Obama’s statements was that he indicated that black people felt put off by the failure of society to acknowledge that this type of profiling was prevalent.

This failure to acknowledge our pain and our frustrations is the very root of many of the maladies that exist within the black community.   Without a means or an outlet to vent our frustrations about profiling and discrimination on a daily basis, many times that anger is directed towards our own community.   Escalating black on black crime in many large cities is rooted in disappointment, lack of opportunities and decades of discrimination.

In 1995 after the overthrow of the white majority rule in South Africa, President Mandela helped to establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) where witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings.   Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution (Source:  Wikipedia). The result of this initiative was profound because it helped to heal some of the pain associated with decades of apartheid on the majority of black South Africans.

America has never apologized for two decades of brutal enslavement that our ancestors had to endure, nor has there ever been an attempt to reconcile the pain and the injustice of slavery.    Since we’ve elected our first African American President, I think some people assumed that we were living in a post racial society.   But the Trayvon Martin tragedy was a reminder that race is still prevalent and we still have a long way to go to achieve MLK Jr.’s dream of a non-racial society.

I often feel as though we’re becoming two different races composed of educated and affluent African Americans and a distant race of disaffected black youth who don’t feel as though they’re a part of our society.    There are many reasons why these youth feel so disenfranchised but I believe that the primary reason is the absence of strong black male role models in their life and the decline of two parent families in America.

Young black men are more likely to join a gang because the gang lifestyle represents an extended family of male role models who serve as surrogate father figures in their life.    The result is typically an early death or extended incarceration, which has not declined over the past 20 years.

I believe that we have reached a point in the black community whereby we can help those who want to help themselves and we simply have to pray for those who are lost.

Profiling George Zimmerman and how he killed Trayvon Martin

GZSince the controversial not guilty verdict from the George Zimmerman trial in Florida just a few days ago, there’s been lots of discussion about race, profiling, stand your ground laws etc. but very little has been mentioned about the actual killer George Zimmerman.   We know from the news and from the trial that Zimmerman wanted to be a police officer and that he studied criminal justice for a short time.   We also know that he voluntarily started a Neighborhood Watch program in his gated community where Trayvon Martin happened to be visiting his father.

These are all descriptive facts about him but the real George Zimmerman is actually a sociopathic wannabe cop who may have committed the perfect murder.   I’m convinced that Zimmerman was a sociopath because of his actions before, during and after the killing of young Trayvon.    The textbook definition of a sociopath is a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

We know from the news coverage of the trial that in 2005, Zimmerman got into a fight with an ATF agent and was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer,” both of which are third-degree felonies.   Also in August 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancee, Veronica Zuazo, filed a civil motion for a restraining order alleging domestic violence.

In 2008, Zimmerman applied to become a police officer in Prince George County but was rejected probably because of his prior arrest record and domestic abuse charges, but what these events really demonstrate is his history of confrontation and inability to control his anger.  It’s obvious that Zimmerman was intent on becoming a police officer and probably became ever more obsessed with his desire upon being rejected just a few years earlier.

Some controversial and racist comments from Zimmerman’s 2005 MySpace page have recently emerged indicating that he was upset about his arrest and had animus towards Mexicans and his ex-fiancee whom he refers to as his “ex hoe”.

He speaks about what he doesn’t miss about his former home in Manassas,Virginia,

“I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!”

He bragged about not going to jail regarding a case with an ex saying,

“Im still free! The ex hoe tried her hardest, but the judge saw through it! Big Mike, reppin the Dverse security makin me look a million bucks, broke her down! Thanks to everyone for checkin up on me! Stay tuned for the A.T.F. charges……”

A few days later, he spoke on getting his felonies reduced.

“2 felonies dropped to 1 misdemeanor!!!!!!!!!!! The man knows he was wrong but still got this hump, Thanks to everyone friends and fam, G baby you know your my rock!” 

Source (The Urban Daily)

Based on Zimmerman’s language and his boasting about being acquitted of the domestic abuse charges and having his felony assault charges against the officer reduced to a misdemeanor, he was not only elated that he was able to escape his charges but he seemed to gloat about his ability to evade justice.    This is the same state of mind that he had when he approached an unsuspecting Trayvon Martin on a rainy night on February 26, 2012.

Zimmerman was familiar with Florida’s “Stand your ground” laws from his criminal justice studies and his amateur police work.    He knew that he could not be portrayed as the aggressor because the aggressor cannot claim that they were standing their ground when they’re in pursuit of a potential criminal.

In listening to the 911 call he made, you can hear him paint a picture of Trayvon as looking suspicious, and peeping into neighbor’s windows and then eventually circling his car.    These were all lies that he told so that he could establish an alibi and a justified reason for confronting him.    Most importantly, he has a virtual witness in the 911 call operator to document his side of the story because he knows that no one can dispute his story.     The way he describes Trayvon and his actions were designed to portray Trayvon as the aggressor.

Trayvon likely never saw Zimmerman until he confronted him on the way home.    Based on Rachel Jeantel’s testimony, Trayvon was confronted by Zimmerman who abruptly asked him, “What are you doing here?”   Jeantel also said that she heard Trayvon say, “Get off!”  and then she heard a scuffle that sounded like they were on the ground and the phone went dead.

Her testimony clearly demonstrates that Zimmerman was the aggressor who approached Trayvon without introducing himself as Neighborhood Watch.    He never introduced himself because he wanted a confrontation!   Zimmerman knew in advance that he had a loaded gun and he knew that he needed a reaction from his “suspect” to justify shooting him.   His approach to Trayvon was similar to how a “dirty” basketball player will foul and harass another player to get a violent reaction from them.

So he confronts Trayvon and probably pushes him and that’s when he says, “Get off!” but he wasn’t saying “get off” as if Zimmerman was on top of him, he was saying “get off” much like black people might say if someone grabs or pushes them by saying, “Hey get off me man!”.

Once they’re engaged in a scuffle, Zimmerman who outweighed Trayvon by almost 50 pounds probably let him get a couple of punches in, including one to the nose.    He knew that he had to have some bruises and scars from the encounter to make it seem as though Trayvon attacked and nearly killed him.   Zimmerman probably never threw a punch, but he wrestled with Trayvon because he wanted ALL the evidence to demonstrate that Trayvon was the aggressor.

Once he got Trayvon into a state of rage, where he wasn’t backing off or defending himself he knew that he could shoot him in so called self-defense.    Zimmerman was probably struggling for his gun as they were wrestling and Trayvon began to yell for help.    It’s obvious that Trayvon was the one yelling for help because the screams stop abruptly after the shot.   If Zimmerman was the one yelling for help, he would have continued screaming in shock of shooting his attacker.

This may seem controversial, but keep in mind that Zimmerman is a wannabe cop who knows the law.    He also did not have life threatening injuries that would indicate he was completely in fear of his life.   He also refused medical care and simply wanted a doctor’s note for his job the following day.    Zimmerman probably thought that he would make a positive impression on the local police and his neighbors by killing a potential criminal.   He also hoped that he would be hailed as hero and that his hopes of finally becoming a police officer would come true.

The entire shooting may not have been premeditated but it was certainly calculated which made it so difficult to try in court because most reasonable people would never assume that someone could deliberately orchestrate a murder that seemed so random; but a sociopath like George Zimmerman knew that from the moment he stepped out of his car with a loaded gun.

 Fast and Frivolous…


Today the Republican led Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for allegedly withholding requested documents related to the clandestine Fast and Furious gun walking program.    The events that led to this vote are complex and convoluted, partly because of the secretive nature of this operation that may have caused the death of an ATF agent.

The facts regarding the death of the ATF agent Brian Terry, supposedly by one of the guns that were surreptitiously sold to the Sinaloa Mexican drug cartel by the ATF are quite dubious.    In 2006, under the Bush administration, an operation was set up to intentionally sell guns to the cartel, in hopes of tracking the weapons and connecting them to the cartel.

The ATF entered the serial numbers of the guns into a database called eTrace which allows the electronic exchange of traced firearm data in a secure internet-based environment with Mexican and other international law enforcement officials.    The ATF discovered in December 2010 that Agent Brian Terry while patrolling the Arizona border had been killed by one of the guns that was sold to the cartel.

The Fast and Furious gun walking operation did not receive public scrutiny until after the death of the ATF agent, however, once this information was made public it was discovered that the Bush administration had operated 2 other gun walking programs into Mexico dating back to 2005.

The ATF began Project Gunrunner as a pilot project in Laredo, Texas, in 2005 and expanded it as a national initiative in 2006.   Project Gunrunner was also part of the Department of Justice’s broader Southwest Border Initiative, which seeks to reduce cross-border drug and firearms trafficking and the high level of violence associated with these activities on both sides of the border. (Source: Wikipedia)

(Fortune Article disputing Fast and Furious facts)  http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2012/06/27/fast-and-furious-truth/?hpt=us_c2

The Congressional Investigative Committee led by Republican Darrell Issa received over 7000 subpoenaed documents from AG Eric Holder, but continued to press for additional documents in an effort to needle the Attorney General and hold him personally accountable for a program that was started under the previous Republican administration.

In response, President Obama claimed executive privilege in an effort to thwart the investigation and prevent private executive communications from becoming public or becoming available to a politically motivated Congress.

This Republican Congressional vote of contempt and the Fast and Furious investigation is simply a divisive attack against President Obama’s chosen Attorney General.    Republicans such as Issa and NRA congress members have recently been making ludicrous claims that the Fast and Furious program was somehow a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to gin up support for more gun control.

Typically, incoming administrations will extend a certain amount of gravitas to the defeated party and not pursue contempt votes or criminal charges.    When President Obama took office in 2008 with a Democrat dominated Congress and Senate, he could have easily called former President Bush and Vice President Cheney before a congressional committee on charges of war crimes for lying about weapons of mass destruction and misleading the country into the Iraq war that cost nearly a trillion dollars and cost over 4500 young soldiers their lives.  Instead he chose not to pursue criminal charges for the good of the country and for the sake of civility within our union.

Republicans in Congress have clearly not extended President Obama the same amount of respect and they have demonstrated that they will use any contrived conspiracy or so called scandal to disgrace the President and his executive staff.

Why Race Still Matters…

                                                                                          I’ve been a suspect my whole life.    As a black man you learn very early in life that you’re guilty by association no matter how well behaved or well dressed you might be.   I can recall nearly being shot by a police officer in downtown Pasadena, CA a few years ago, simply because I stepped off the curb to enter a car that was waiting for me on the street.   My buddy and I were confused about why we were being pulled over, when there were other cars clearly waiting in front of the restaurant as well.

We were both incensed about the police officer’s explanation and felt that we were simply being racially profiled because we were in a predominately white part of town.   My friend Les Monroe who was driving was so incensed that he nearly floored his SUV and fled the scene, but I quickly urged him to stop when I saw the police officer reaching for his gun.

When we exited the car, I approached the officer and began to chastise him for harassing us and endangering our lives because of some minor violation that we unknowingly committed.     As I continued to chastise the officer, a small crowd began to gather at the site of a black man publicly confronting a police officer.   Most people that walked by probably assumed that we deserved to be pulled over because we were black and had most likely committed some type of crime or offense.

 I urged the officer to summon his Captain immediately so that I could file a complaint for racial discrimination and harassment.    Once the Captain arrived the situation began to dissipate, I discovered that the officer was a rookie and was probably seeking to impress his partner by pulling over a couple of black guys.     We were eventually issued tickets for a curb violation, which was mysteriously tossed out prior to our court date.

This story is not uncommon for most men of color.   I don’t know any African-American who doesn’t have a racial profiling story and that’s what makes Trayvon Martin’s tragedy so emotional for black people.   We’ve seen this movie before and the ending is always the same.    Young black male, wearing a hoodie (in the rain), walking back to his parents home to watch the NBA All Star game is somehow deemed suspicious by a wannabe cop who confronts him and eventually shoots him at point blank range.

Trayvon’s tragic death has raised awareness about racial profiling, but I feel that it’s only temporary because we’re all guilty of profiling.   Whenever I’m in an unfamiliar neighborhood or I see people, who appear to be “shady”, I’m going to be a lot more alert and aware of my surroundings… it’s called having “street smarts.”    However, Trayvon was simply minding his own business and was not posing a threat to his killer George Zimmerman.     Trayvon was not trespassing on his property or making physical threats towards him, which means that Zimmerman stalked him, confronted him and killed him.

I don’t believe that racial profiling will be eliminated because I can’t stop “being black” nor can I be held accountable for the actions of people who may look like me.   I just pray that Trayvon’s family will see justice and that an eventual arrest and conviction will give them some solace in this tragedy.

Red Tails, more than just a movie?

Like most of my friends and family I was anxious to see the highly anticipated movie Red Tails.  Not since Color Purple have I seen so much fervor for the release of a “black movie”.    As a college student I spent most of my college career working part time at a local airport for USAir Express, where I essentially did everything except fly the planes!    

When I was growing up, I remember my Mom working for the now defunct Piedmont Airlines, which was eventually acquired by USAir.   I’ve always had an affinity for aviation and even today I’m still in awe when I feel the rush of takeoff on my flight.   

I was never really enthralled with the idea of being a pilot but my goal as a young college student and part time Airline worker was to eventually matriculate into sales and/or marketing within the airline industry.    Although I had spent a lot of time around planes and working within the airline industry, I never saw any black executives or marketing professionals who could potentially serve as role models for my career aspirations.   

Racism within the airline industry was not uncommon in the late 80’s and early 90’s; I was the only black Agent and probably the first that the airline had ever hired for my airport.     I can recall the first African-American Mayor of Greenville, NC seeing my face at the ticket counter, he seemed surprised and bewildered at my presence, stating “Oh they let you work at the counter too?”    

When I left college I took a job as a Ramp Agent at the Greensboro, NC airport in an effort to work my way up to achieve my goal of becoming an airline executive.   When I arrived for the interview I could see that the receptionist was amazed and flabbergasted that I was black, I guess I sounded professional and “white” enough on the phone to elude her defenses.     I eventually met with the Manager who liked my experience and my ambition and offered me the job a short time later, where I was the only black Ramp Agent.

I was excited to work around the big 757’s and other jumbo passenger jets and was always intrigued and proud to see an occasional black pilot in the cockpit.    While I was watching the movie Red Tails, I felt that same since of pride, seeing capable black men given an opportunity to fly and to fight.   The most compelling scenes in my opinion were the well orchestrated aerial fight scenes.   I thought the Director Anthony Hemingway did an excellent job of blending the CGI fighting scenes and making the movie- goers feel as if they were in the cockpit, without any cheesy special effects. 

Many of the negative comments that I’ve seen on Facebook about the movie involve the interracial relationship that ‘Lightning’ had with an Italian woman and also the sometimes ‘corny’ dialogue.     While I was surprised to see an interracial relationship develop in this movie, I eventually accepted the premise that they simply loved each other and that the storyline was an homage to how differently black men were treated abroad compared to the discrimination they faced at home. 

I also thought that Terrance Howard and Cuba Gooding did a great job portraying the strong black role models that the fighters needed to maintain their sense of duty and their willingness to fight despite the racism they were subject to.     Terrance Howard did an excellent job of bridging the primary themes of the movie, which were racism, politics and war.   His character represented respect and authority for the black fighters and challenged the idea that black fighters were inept and cowardly.  

The most inspiring aspect of the movie was their patriotism and their ability to compartmentalize the racism and stay focused on completing their mission.   Overall, I thought it was entertaining and occasionally informative, I would definitely pay to see it again.

 Barrington Ross

Faux News: The Cult of Ideology

Fox News, also known as Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda machine claims to be “Fair and Balanced”, which seems like the most ridiculous moniker for a news network like Fox. Fox and their biased reporting first came to my attention after watching Michael Moore’s documentary, Fahrenheit 911. Moore illuminated Fox’s role in prematurely reporting G.W. Bush’s controversial victory in the Florida 2000 elections.

To most people this would have gone unnoticed, but in retrospect, this premature reporting seems consistent with Fox’s attempt to influence our elections and further control the minds of their minions. Prior to Fox’s emergence as a conservative news network, most people relied upon CNN as their primary source of political news coverage. But over the past 10 years, Fox became a powerhouse by capitalizing on the conservative movement and shrewdly differentiating themselves from CNN and MSNBC and in the process developed a cult like following.

One of the attributes of a cult involves subtle brainwashing and propaganda, which is something that Fox has perfected. I was watching Bill O’Reilly’s show recently and he was delivering his usual dismissive and caustic commentary about the “Liberals, Bill Maher, Obama, etc.”, but I noticed that as he spoke, the background graphics changed like flash cards with every buzzword he delivered. With each point, he would look in the camera and say things like “Socialist Plot” and a picture of Bill Maher would appear. As he continued his buzzword laden rant, whenever he mentioned “Government Takeover” a picture of President Obama would appear.

To the avid Fox News fan, this would have been totally normal, but to a casual observer it was extremely odd to see this kind of blatant brainwashing taking place. I immediately thought of those strange 1960’s Sci-Fi movies where people were kidnapped and brainwashed by constantly bombarding them with mind control videos. Clearly, Fox is employing these types of psychological techniques to further invade the psyche of their already devout viewers. The objective of this type of programming is to create a chasm of ideology between conservatives and “others”.

By creating a cult of ideology, Fox is able to espouse their views and provide a forum for the GOP, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and their constituents to subvert the current President and provide legitimacy to asinine issues such as President Obama’s birth certificate and his faith. Fox News knows that it’s easy to convince believers who are ready to believe, but now their network is facing a backlash.

Fox’s ratings have declined over the past two years and they’ve seen the departure of their premier Right Wing Nut, Glenn Beck. Beck was forced out of his position due to declining ratings and outside pressure from activists on their advertisers to get rid of Beck and his polarizing show. Jon Stewart a frequent critic of Fox News, has surpassed Fox News in his ratings because he appeals to a more centric audience.

At the height of the 2008 Presidential election, Fox enjoyed phenomenal ratings by capitalizing on the anger of the Tea Party and the overall opposition to President Obama’s election. However, they have lost viewership because of their wholesale support of the Tea Party, including organizing events for the nascent party. As support for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party has quelled, Fox’s ratings have also fallen.

Young viewers are more likely to watch Jon Stewart’s tongue-in-cheek political commentary and lampooning of both parties as opposed to Fox’s rabid pontification of GOP ideology. Fox in their attempt to align themselves with the GOP has sealed their fate with the rise and fall of this party and has seriously damaged their credibility as an objective news organization that claims to be “Fair and Balanced”.

Barrington D. Ross