The media on race, sexual orientation and gender-based violence

A recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals that the old punchline about white folks having only one black friend might very well be true. (Who else was happy when Aisha Tyler’s character briefly appeared on the NBC sitcom “Friends”?) The Washington Post breaks down the results of the study this way: “In a 100-friend scenario, the average white person has 91 white friends; one each of black, Latino, Asian, mixed race and other races; and three friends of unknown race. The average black person, on the other hand, has 83 black friends, eight white friends, two Latino friends, zero Asian friends, three mixed race friends, one other race friend and four friends of unknown race.” This means that white people have about 91 times as many white friends as they do black ones. White America, please marinate on this information and then govern yourselves accordingly. And Black America, the next time a white co-worker tells you that some of their best friends are black, smack ‘em on the head with this LEO and tell ‘em to quit lying. 

It’s football season, and despite reviews that he played well in the preseason, Michael Sam was dropped by the St. Louis Rams, but then picked up at the last minute by the Dallas Cowboys. I am glad that Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, will continue to play the game he loves and get paid for it, at least for now. It seems to me that because he is openly gay, Sam’s performance on the football field is judged more critically and skeptically than would otherwise have been the case. Jason Collins, as the NBA’s first openly gay player, has similarly had his performance discounted and underrated, despite indications that he was a satisfactory player before his coming out. Couple Sam’s cut from the Rams with the offensive and reductive coverage by ESPN of his locker room showering habits, and it seems to me that openly gay professional athletes in the major pro sports still have an uphill battle to get the respect they deserve both on and off the field.
Elsewhere in football, 27-year-old Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens is facing stiff public backlash after TMZ released video footage of the 212-pound running back cold-cocking his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator and dragging her unconscious body into the hallway. Initially, the league only suspended Rice for two games for the domestic battery incident, admittedly never having asked the hotel for the elevator footage. Readers, please understand that athletes have been punished more harshly than a two-game suspension for smoking weed. It was only because of the video release and the subsequent public outrage that Rice has since been fired by the Ravens and banned indefinitely by the NFL. The handling of this and other domestic violence cases by the NFL sends a horrible message to players, women and young male fans alike about the value the league places on a woman’s worth.
Speaking of gender-based violence, reports of the assault and murder of trans people, especially trans women of color, continue to make the news (or not make the news). I recently hosted award-winning transgender blogger Monica Roberts of The Transgriot as a guest on my “Strange Fruit” radio show. I was shocked to learn from her that more than 400 trans women have been murdered in Brazil in the last few years.  Domestically, it happens far too often, too. A trans Latina woman named Alejandra Leos was killed in Memphis just this month. A Trans* Violence Tracking Portal (TVTP) report from May reveals that at least 102 trans people in 12 countries were murdered by that time earlier this year. Although the specific motive for each instance of violence and murder is undocumented, TVTP founder Allison Woolbert notes that social and institutional bias against trans people is the prominent factor in the deaths, as she explained in an interview with the website Vox: “All of the murders that are in our system are directly due to the societal conditions in which transgender people are forced to live. The suicides, the violence, the missing persons and the murders are all directly related to a person’s gender identity.” 
I look forward to the day when violence against women, trophy wives and transgenders alike is no longer a national or international phenomenon.