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Jameis Winston: A Thug, for now

The most famous black college football player in the country this year is now a thug.  And, the outcome of the rape investigation may not change that in many people’s minds.

Like it or not, the most famous, admired, high-profile and celebrated black men in this country are often athletes and entertainers.  And, they’re not always paradigms of virtue.

Jameis Winston is special.  This kid has it all:  the look, the personality, the big smile, youth, charisma, leadership, and no doubt, talent.  He’s done and said all the right things on and off the field and looked to be headed towards the Heisman trophy and possibly, an undefeated national championship.

I’ve been pulling for him to succeed, in part because of the spotlight he commands and his reach.  I talk often about how important it is for us to have strong, positive images of black men in order to combat the omnipresent negative images and stereotypes that exist.  I counted Winston as another opportunity to make positive strides.

You can talk that “innocent until proven guilty” stuff all you want, but truth is, there are now so many questions about how the investigation has been handled and even if Winston is 110% innocent, many right now view him the way people too often view young black men:  as criminals, assailants, thugs.  If he’s guilty, this is a different story, but if he’s not, he may never remove the stain of suspicion.

Guilty or innocent, he may have gone from the kid everyone can root for to just another black man that society should fear.  And, that’s a damn shame.

My New Favorite Show (And, I haven’t even seen it yet)

It’s only been on the air a couple of weeks, but “News One Now” is my favorite show on TV.  Yes, it’s moved to the top of my list, ahead of “The Walking Dead,” “PTI,” and “Family Guy.”  And, here’s the thing: due to a combination of cable company issues at my new home, I haven’t even been able to watch “News One Now” yet.

Roland Martin’s new show is the only national daily news show on TV dedicated to African Americans.  That’s a big deal.  And, I understand better than anyone just how big of a deal it is. (You’ll just have to trust me on that.)

Of course, African Americans have the same hopes and fears about their families and careers as any other American.  Still, some issues are unique and critical to African Americans:  higher unemployment, high school graduation rates for black boys, driving/walking/shopping while black, crime in our communities, etc.  Those don’t get constant, keen focus on other news shows.

“News One Now” has a rare opportunity, and I would even go as far as saying, a responsibility, and I’m glad to see the network taking it on.  I don’t need to see the show first in order to support what I know Roland is trying to do.  I just pray Roland gets the time and support he needs from the network in order to flourish.

I’m a fan of “News One Now.”  And, as soon as I get my cable situation worked out, I’ll be a viewer as well.

My daughter’s first word: the N-word

I’ve heard plenty of smart people debating on news programs and had plenty of people I know and respect make the case for why I should curb my use of the n-word.  None of them were successful in getting me to change.  But finally, ONE person was able to get through to me:  she’s about 20 inches tall, loves Snoopy, and can’t even talk yet.

At 10 months old now, Sabine has been consuming everything I say and do from the moment she was born.  I don’t want her to pick up bad habits, whether it’s my words or behavior.  I’ve made sincere attempts in the past to stop using the n-word.  All ultimately failed.  This one has been working!

The word is no longer uttered in my home which is probably where I used the word most.  Sure, maybe it’s too bad that this (birth of a child) is what it took for me to change, but I’ve changed.  I’m personally responsible for setting an example for someone I’m molding.  (Actually, isn’t that what we’re all doing? Hmmmm …)

If I come home one day, and Sabine says, “daddy! What up, my n—-?,” I think I’d definitely qualify as a bad parent.

What’s a white guy to do?

How confusing this must be for white people!  Paula Deen admits during a legal proceeding that she may have privately used the n-word at some point in her life.  She suffers public scorn and humiliation which causes the collapse of her multi-million dollar empire.  But Richie Incognito uses the n-word openly in front of 300-lb black men, and some of them publicly come to his defense and say he’s not a racist.  Say whaaaaaaat?!?!

Here’s the difference:  Incognito had permission.

There is no way Incognito would have used the n-word around his teammates unless he knew it was OK.  Seriously, can you think of a worse place for a white guy to be using the n-word than in an NFL locker room where he’s outnumbered by black colleagues who also happen to possess superhuman strength?  Still, given the immediate backlash anytime there are stories of a white person/celebrity being caught using the n-word, now comes word that black people are allowing it in some circles?!  That’s news to some.  But not to most black people.

Just about every black person has gone through this experience:  a white friend or colleague becomes so close to you and your group of black friends that he/she is barely distinguishable outside of skin color.  Then, one day, that white friend does an n-word test run to see if they can get away with it.  It’s usually pretty subtle.  But, at that point, you either check them on it and shut it down right there.  Or, you allow it.

It’s difficult to say that a white person could mean no harm by using the n-word.  I suppose it’s possible that Incognito is not a racist, yet it shows disrespect and a level of ignorance and immaturity to use the word around his black teammates, even if they didn’t complain about it.  And, there has to be some fault with the black players for allowing it.  I have talked in the past about being disappointed in my own use of the n-word and that black people should also be held accountable for using it, as well as how our gratuitous use of the word normalizes and sanitizes it.   Now, throw in this Incognito story and what you have are people outside of the black community who hear us use it regularly, tell them they can’t use it, but then, we turn around and allow some exceptions.  What’s a white person to do!

As the saying goes, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”  Not in the case of the n-word.  So, if you, a white person, would like to use the n-word around your black friends and colleagues, I seriously suggest you submit a formal request first.

Forgive me, TSA

TSA agents are such easy targets.  The targets of passengers’ frustration, SNL’s jokes, a steady stream of media stories, and at times, targets for those wanting to score political points.  But, it turns out, from what we just saw at LAX, they can be relatively easy targets for someone wanting to kill.

We don’t yet know for sure, and may never know, why Paul Ciancia, the alleged gunman, went after TSA agents.  But some of what we know suggests he had strong anti-government feelings that he’s now accused of acting on violently.  Anti-government sentiments aren’t rare in this country these days, though most aren’t manifested with violence.  But, those feelings, which extend to the TSA, are augmented as people have platforms to constantly highlight and ridicule TSA shortcomings.  It has created a narrative: the TSA is the enemy.  I, too, unwittingly perpetuate this storyline.

I travel constantly and am quite familiar with the TSA, and dare I say, TSA agents in certain airports are quite familiar with me.  As I travel, I tweet (#travelfun) about my experiences at the airport, including people I meet, flight delays, mishaps, etc.  But, the TSA and its agents are frequent topics.  I have tweeted my complaints about pat-downs, inconveniences, and some objectionable behavior from TSA employees.  I can’t remember any instance when one of my followers challenged something I tweeted about the TSA and defended the agency.  I almost always get empathy, and people are quick to chime in and pile on.

But, here’s what I don’t always point out in my travel tweets:  the lovely TSA agent at Hartsfield-Jackson who went out of her way to assist me when I was traveling with my 10-month-old baby girl.  Or, the TSA agent who took it upon himself to shuffle me through security when he knew I was at risk of missing my flight.  Or, the friendly TSA agent who greeted me with the warmest smile and an enthusiastic, “hey, T.J.!” as I approached the security line at LaGuardia for an early-morning flight last week.  Or, the TSA agent who took the time to pull me to the side and talk me through new rules that might help me get through security quicker.

The TSA is easily one of the most mocked and vilified groups in the country.  Sure, they brought some of it on themselves with some highly publicized missteps, and they deserve criticism when it’s due and should always be held accountable.  But, they can do without one more person (me) piling on.  For that, I’m sorry.

Amazingly, somewhere along the way, the people put in place to help us prevent another 9/11 became the bad guys.  The incident at LAX should remind us of just how serious the job of a TSA agent is.  It’s a matter of life or death.