The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.19.13: Jim Brown vs. Kobe Bryant, Beyoncé, and more

Brown’s statements about Kobe earlier this week weren’t shocking for a man who has always taken athletes to task. On The Arsenio Hall Show, Brown made it clear that he doesn’t consider Kobe to be a socially conscious black man.

“He is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country,” Brown said. (Bryant spent part of his childhood in Italy, where his father played professional basketball.) “[Bryant] doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.”

Back in the 1960s, Brown hosted a gathering for top black athletes interested in social activism. “If I had to call that summit all over,” he said, “there would be some athletes I wouldn’t call. Kobe would be one of them.”

Jim Brown is old school—from his walk to his unrelenting focus on youths in the community. He is what many black men aspired to be before heroin and prison and success came and ravaged their sense of accountability. He believes that to be a world-renowned athlete who doesn’t contribute to the community or the conversation about being a better black man is to waste one’s athletic gifts. Because for Brown it is bigger than sports, and always has been.

Beyoncé’s feminist credentials are always in question. Whether it’s her attire, her husband or her concert tour titles, you can always find pieces that declare she isn’t feminist enough on almost any pop culture site. Not all of the criticism is unwarranted, but the tone of the critiques often hinge on the idea that feminism is an either/or proposition. Admittedly, feminism has always struggled with representing all women. Whether the discussion is racism in feminist circles, or arguing that disability should be why abortion must remain legal (despite the protests of disabled feminists), feminist discourse has a problem with inclusion. As a result, women who are reaping the benefits of the work done by proclaimed feminists often shy away from the label. Even when they do claim the label, their individual interpretations may not be in line with existing academic theories. Yet, they are living many of the tenets of feminism—just on their own terms.

Pop culture feminism, albeit flawed in concept and execution, is nothing new. In fact, it is often much more accessible to young women who aren’t necessarily familiar with the history or academic theories of the movement. Beyoncé’s use of an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists has given Adichie an unprecedented platform. Libraries are reporting an uptick of interest in Adichie’s books, and while it is too soon to predict the long-term impact, it is safe to say that at least some eyes will be opened. Does that mean Beyoncé is the new ideal feminist? Of course not. Just look at Jay-Z’s verse on Drunk In Love, in which he references Ike Turner and that infamous line “Eat the cake, Anna Mae,” a reference that many will recognize from the abusive diner scene between Ike and Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” The song is clearly not intended to be a feminist anthem. If anything it is likely an exploration of sexual dynamics.

When “Giovanni,” a commercial truck driver in his forties, was granted legal permanent US residency in 2010, he thought that his troubles with immigration were over. Giovanni had lived in the US without authorization since he was a teenager, and when he married Susan, a US citizen, she submitted a residency petition on his behalf. Like most immigrants who entered the US without permission, Giovanni had to return to his native country, Mexico, while his case was processed. Eighteen months and more than ten thousand dollars later, Giovanni came back to the US—this time with green card in hand. But life as a legal immigrant has not gone smoothly so far. Giovanni constantly feels stressed out that his US residency could be revoked. A misspelling on his green card has left him unable to get a driver license and subjects him to extensive interrogations when he travels. Most important, he says that the long months away from his family took a toll on his relationship with his wife and daughter, and they now must work hard to put their lives back together.

Still, Giovanni could be considered lucky. After all, his marriage to Susan did eventually allow him to legalize his immigration status. Indeed, marriage to a US citizen is one of the few relationships that allow some undocumented people in the US to change their status. Further, Giovanni and Susan were able to pay more than ten thousand dollars in attorney and immigration fees, and they also had enough savings and credit to allow them to survive 18 months without Giovanni’s income. In addition, Giovanni has no criminal record, speaks English, has a stable work history, and otherwise fits the standard stereotype of a model immigrant. As a boon to their case, Susan does not speak Spanish, is unfamiliar with Mexico, and was thus able to persuade immigration agents that moving to Mexico would constitute an extreme hardship for her. In all, Susan’s US citizenship and her “whiteness,” coupled with their class and sociolegal characteristics, enabled Giovanni to attain legal US residency. Most of the 11.7 million unauthorized people living in the US are not so fortunate.

“It’s still a very unusual thing for us to find any previously unknown document from this period by an African-American writer,” Mr. Smith said. “From a literary point of view, I think there’s no other voice in American literature like the voice of this penitentiary narrative, which has a very lyrical quality. And from a historical perspective, what makes this so fascinating at this moment is the deep connection between the history of slavery and the history of incarceration.”

Nancy Kuhl, a curator at the Beineke library, said the manuscript “significantly enriches the canon of 19th-century African-American literature and deepens our understanding of all 19th-century America.”

Reed is believed to have been born a free man near Rochester. As a young man, according to Yale’s research, he was sent to the New York House of Refuge, a juvenile reform school in Manhattan, where he learned to read and write. By the 1830s, a string of thefts resulted in his incarceration in a state prison in Auburn, now known as the Auburn Correctional Facility, which was built in 1816.

The manuscript, written with the dramatic flair of a natural storyteller but in unpolished English, with grammatical and spelling errors, traces his life from childhood to his years at Auburn. It is written under the name Rob Reed, although it is unclear why he used that name, according to Yale.

TRIGGER WARNING FOR THE NEXT TWO ITEMS

Last fall, Lena Chen was sitting in the back of a lecture hall when she heard a girl in front of her mention something about rape.

“Sorry, what did you say?” Chen interrupted.

“Did you know this professor has a rape scandal on the Internet?” the girl replied.

“Yeah,” Chen said. “I’m the girl he supposedly raped.”

Surreal exchanges like this have been the normal course for Chen for more than five years now. It’s the kind of surreality that can exist only in a world where reputations are solidified in Google search results, where anonymity permits new lows of human indecency and where people you’ve never met have seen you naked against your will.

On Christmas Eve 2007, during the winter break of her junior year, Chen discovered that an ex-boyfriend had posted intimate photos of her on the Internet. This practice now has a name: revenge porn. Back then, it was simply called scandalous.

News broke in November that Winston had allegedly committed a sexual assault in December 2012 — but a full investigation was never done and the state’s attorney was never contacted. It was a terrible confluence involving the star QB of my beloved football team and the work I do as a journalist covering the intersection of football and rape culture.

In early September, after first learning about the horrific Vanderbilt gang rape that four players were reportedly involved with this summer, and the Navy trial of three football players for a gang rape in 2012, I became interested in how the sports media failed to cover either one of those stories in much detail. In doing research around those two rape cases, I started to find mentions, links and footnotes to previous football players accused, and some found guilty, of rape, dating back to the 1970s. I began to keep a list (which has since grown rather long). And to keep tabs on what was happening in Vanderbilt and Annapolis, I created a Google alert for “football rape.” And so for nearly two months prior to the Winston allegations surfacing, I had been receiving a grim daily email listing any article or blog post where those words were close together.

I paid careful attention to the Winston case (it showed up a lot in my daily “football rape” email). I wrote a piece before Thanksgiving about the larger issue of football and rape culture. I watched Florida state attorney Willy Meggs’ press conference (video) live on ESPN when he announced Winston would not be charged because there was not enough solid evidence to build a case. I then watched Winston’s attorney’s press conference. I downloaded Meggs’ 248-page report and read it. Twice. Then I printed it out and read it again.

It was more damning than I expected. It was hard to read. Why didn’t Meggs tell us the woman waited a month to identify Winston because she didn’t see him again until the first day of the spring 2013 semester, when they were in the same class? Why didn’t we hear more about what details she actually did know the night she reported the rape? Things like Winston’s roommate’s name, that he was a football player, that she accurately described the building where they lived. Why no specific talk about the blood on her pants and the bruising on her body, which the police officer noted was appearing in the hospital as she was reporting the crime? Why wasn’t it made clear that the two witnesses for Winston were fellow football players and no one actually interviewed them until November? Why didn’t Meggs elaborate on how much the Tallahassee Police Department failed to do, from not obtaining video from the bar to not tracking down the credit card used by one of the men to pay the cab that night?