Normally I write the report in an urban vernacular to make it fun and entertaining. I never put the G’s on the ends of my words because I’m paying homage to my home town of Gary, Indiana which we so affectionately call The G. However, today I’m writing a piece that is so serious that I can’t afford for people to miss the message by getting caught up in how I’m articulating the message. Therefore, I’m going to write this one with the seriousness of Job. That’s the book of Job in the bible for all of my non-bible readers.
As the NFL Draft has come and gone I’ve been blown away at the response of the Cincinnati Bengals taking former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon. Every sports commentator and fan breathing with an opinion wants this kid arrested, jailed and unable to make a living for the rest of his life.
There is no excusing what Joe did, as a matter of fact, it was deplorable. He could have killed that young woman with the strength he possessed. Although he had just turned 18 the day before this dreaded incident he had the strength of a gladiator. So in no way am I writing this piece to excuse his behavior.
However, I do want to examine the circumstances as to how we even got to the point of the confrontation in the first place. I want to look at how emotions can go from 0 to 100mph in a split second. I want to look at how the environment on that campus allowed such a confrontation to even take place. How did race and culture or better yet, how did the lack of cultural tolerance contribute to this situation?
Most of my caucasian brothers and sisters in this country can live their entire lives without having to be conscious of race and culture. Why? Because it doesn’t exist in the world that they live in.
Joe Mixon was a kid that had just arrived on campus a month before to the culture shock of being one of just a hand full of people that looks like him on that campus. How do I know? Because I went to a very large predominantly white state school coming straight out of an environment that was 99.999 percent black and very dangerous.
When I stepped on campus at Purdue University in 1985 there was nothing there that was familiar to me and very few people looked like me. What was extremely evident from the first day I set foot on campus was that most of the white folks on campus weren’t happy to see me. There was an outward show of privilege as folks rode past in cars shouting out of their vehicles calling my friends and I the N-word. There were several incidents where friends of mine were spit on, nooses were hung on trees on campus and urine was even poured under my dorm room door ONCE!!! The word ONCE is capitalized for a reason.
So to leave an environment in Gary that was dangerous for other reasons (gangs, drugs, etc.) to walk into a place that was just as dangerous and comfortable for an entirely different reason (racism) was very unsettling.
I always felt like I needed to protect myself just walking to class and eating in the cafeteria because I was suddenly in a place where I wasn’t welcomed.
Well ladies and gentlemen, let’s fast forward to July 25, 2014. Joe Mixon has walked into the same environment nearly 30 years later. Keep in mind that in March of 2015 the University of Oklahoma was the same campus that had to shut down Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity because the ENTIRE frat was caught on camera on a chartered bus screamin’ racial epithets about black students. The chant went “There will never be “N” in SAE!” Sure, more than 25 students were subsequently suspended but the tone had already been set. Somebody had allowed for it to be permissible to do on that campus and to a larger degree, all over this country.
Everyone has seen the tape of the assault but no one is willing to examine what type of climate causes these unfortunate incidents to occur.
Joe got into an argument with some kids like kids that age typically do. Unfortunately, one of the young lady’s friends had enough privilege swell up inside of him to call Joe the N-word.
Going back to what I stated earlier, most white folks in America can live their entire lives and not have to deal with the issue of racial injustice. Their families have never been affected by racism or institutional racism that allows laws to be passed that keeps certain groups of people in impoverished neighborhoods filled with drugs and gangs etc. I’m quite sure that most people aren’t even aware of the 1930’s Housing Laws that existed for more than 40 years that made it legal to discriminate based on race. I’m not even going to get into the practices that have kept people from getting jobs etc.
I’m not telling you what I heard I’m telling you what I know. I grew up in the middle of the ghetto on a middle class street in Gary, Indiana. Both of my parents were college educated in the segregated south in the 1950’s. My father was a pharmacist and my mother was an elementary school teacher. However, we couldn’t live in the suburbs because discriminatory housing laws prevented us from living in the same neighborhoods that my father’s co-workers lived in.
So because most white kids don’t understand the reality of injustice in Ameirca they find it easily to call someone that they know nothing about an “N.” In the case of Joe Mixon that word merely lit the fuse. However, it didn’t stop with just that word. According to reports that weren’t highly publicized the young lady spit on Mixon, shoved him and grabbed him by the throat which was visible on the tape.
He responded in a manner that was unacceptable, but I’m not sure if I know very many 17 or 18 year old black kids from the inner city that would have responded any differently than he did. The only difference is that he was a Division I football player that caused more damage than he ever imagined.
Mixon was DEAD wrong in how he handled that situation let me say that again. However, no one has stopped to address the behavior of not only this young lady but her friends well. As long as we only focus on Mixon and how he handled this situation poorly and never address the behavior of the young lady and her friends. This tragic situation is bound to repeat itself.
So if all we ever do is dive on the kid that responded ignorantly to a terrible situation created by a society that says it’s okay to demean people of color and if we never hold folks accountable for exacerbating a negative environment of racism we all lose. Joe Mixon or kids like him will continue to serve as the mask of a larger more systemic American issue. People will continue to focus on kids like Joe that handled a situation poorly instead of focusing on the root of the problem that caused him to react so poorly in the first place.
And please stop calling this a domestic violence incident. It was an argument that resulted in two assaults. Unfortunately, only one person was charged and we haven’t as society fixed the problem. Stop me when I start lyin’!
The is no need for a Playas Thesaurus today!