racism

Gun control just flag it

Guns have one purpose to shoot bullets. Those bullets are intended to kill something living. I grew up with guns, Dad was a hunter and his collection of rifles and shot guns never had any other meaning to me as a kid. When I spent a year in North Carolina in my late teens I had a bit of a reality check around the relationship between guns and bullets and how they are used. My first week of high school a student was shot outside a football game and this small town Kiwi kid suddenly had to grapple with the idea that people intentionally shoot people outside of war. When I heard a loud bang in Thames I just assumed it was a car back firing as it wasn’t uncommon. But back in Charlotte NC, I remember being pulled away from the window at my friends place when I went to see what kind of ‘car’ was having such a hard time. My education for a year introduced me to US history and US literature and other unintended experiences and learnings, such as how segregation still existed as a form of internalised practice. When we went to class all the ‘white’ students sat on one side of the class and all the ‘black’ students sat on the other and two rows of desks were left in the middle. This empty space spoke volumes, more than the rushed and superficial attempt to teach the history of the USA from ice age to current in one year. There were no discussions, or conversations about those awkward things like slavery just a pure memorising of facts and standardised tests of true false or multiple choice. I got a taste of the fear and mistrust that is born out of a history of colonisation that has been ‘white washed’ – at least that was my lasting impression. It certainly helped me to reflect more on our own history and whose voices are privileged in the documenting and accounting for the meaning of particular events.

Walking into a church and shooting 9 people could easily be made into an argument about gun control but perhaps the conversations that need to be had are about what fuels fear, supports it and gets in the way of seeing others as more ‘like us’ than different from us. Notions of purity and contamination, threat and danger generate the conditions for justifying extreme actions and sanctions.

I wonder if those two rows still sit empty at Myers Park High School? I wonder how many other ways rows of separation happen to segregate communities, those indirect yet quietly divisive modes of power. Kiwis might resonate more with the debate around the use of the confederate flag as a symbol of identity given our current musing on changing our national flag. That while not lethal in itself serves as an icon signifying particular values and beliefs belonging in another time. That in taking down unites people in other ways and enable a new story to emerge to be blown in the wind rather than blown away.

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Racing ahead without looking behind

Down here in NZ where the oval ball rules, we have not escaped the global phenomenon of more spherical ball games including basketball. Why we have our very own Stephen Adams playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder – and all of a sudden I love basketball. That’s just how we roll sometimes, we connect personally with our fellow nest flyers…walkers (silly me forgot we are the land of flightless birds), and adopt them. It’s like living in a very large extended family. We can of course double our chances with the Adams family – sister Valerie is quite a good athlete herself. Olympic Gold, World Champ, Commonwealth Champ – yeah she puts that heavy round thing out there!

You don’t need to follow sport anymore – it follows you! Sport is a business and whilst we want children and young people to be active and enjoy the positive aspects of sport, in the end it is about generating profit. The relationships between marketing and promoting brands and sport is about as in your face as a ball in the face. What happened over the last week with the ‘racism scandal’ and the Los Angeles Clippers will be picked up as an issue around human rights, racism, justice and rightly so. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has ‘cut out the tumour’ excising as much removal powers as possible by cutting ties with Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But what will be the follow up treatment and overall recovery regime for the NBA?

While this decision has been lauded by most and is probably the right one, it is hardly a brave decision. It doesn’t require any party involved to deal with the fall out or be genuinely accountable. Legal teams are probably rubbing their hands together gleefully. Silver will be the ‘good guy’ cleaning things up and taking a hard line, Sterling the ‘bad guy’ and merchandise, new branding will probably be created to ride the wave of unity while the ground swell of public awareness is firmly fixed on the NBA. Sponsors will be running to advertisers to ensure they don’t drop in too late. Rest assured it will be ‘business as usual.’

What to learn and take from this? Money talks. Everything is for sale. That is the sad truth. This was never really about exposing racism – someone cashed in with that tape. If it does generate conversations about any form of discrimination in sport or generally, then great, but these will be fleeting and more about political point scoring.

I will be keeping an eye on proceedings but so long as my boy Stephen is playing well and representing the silver fern I will ride my own wave of national pride vicariously and cross my fingers he gets the respect he deserves as a player because of how he plays. I’m also hoping coaches with a homophobic streak get a bit of a wake up call. A note to Mr Silver then – you might want to look into that to.