WHAT’S IN A NAME? An Analysis of the Historical Partiality Involved with the use of the Term “Riot”

By: Ashton Reynolds

Covid-19 lockdown protestors at Michigan’s State Capitol on April 30th.
Photo Courtesy of The Guardian.

 

Protestors reenacting the death of George Floyd at Boston Common on June 3rd.
Courtesy of AP Steven Senne

In The Politics of Collective Violence, historian and sociologist, Charles Tilly explains that the word riot is infused with political meaning. He states that the term riot “embodies a political judgment.”  According to Tilly, when power-holders and those who are contingent to power-holders (i.e. those who are at the front of the line in receiving benefits from power-holders) disapprove of violence by those outside of their power structure, they label these demonstrations as riots.

Even when instances of violence are justified, those in power often describe the violence as riotous in order to delegitimize those outside of their group. Once power-holders employ this rhetoric, the assemblies in question are assessed as subhuman and destructive, which further solidifies the strength of those who control the inner-workings of social and political power.

A Historical Example of a Misrepresented Gathering: Millican, TX 1867-1868

Map courtesy of bestplaces.net

In late summer of 1867, the town of Millican, Texas fell victim to a large outbreak of yellow fever that was raging through the state.  George E. Brooks, the minister of a black Methodist Episcopal Church and registrar of voters for Brazos County, set aside politics, race, and grievances to treat sick and dying victims of yellow fever as the majority of the town attempted to distance themselves from those with the viral disease.

Brooks’ acts were a remarkable display of courage and humanity.  He not only cared for black citizens of Millican; he took care of white citizens, the majority of whom undoubtedly detested the fact the he served as county registrar. Indeed, Brooks received some minimal appreciation for his indiscriminate care of the sick and dying. The gratitude of whites, however, only went so far.  Just short of a year later, Brooks’ body was found decomposing in the hot sun on the banks of the Brazos River.  His flesh had been removed in strips and his face disfigured beyond recognition.  He was identified only because one of his remaining hands showed a missing finger from an earlier injury.

The Event that Led to the Eventual Murder of George Brooks

In the summer of 1868, race relations in Millican proved particularly strained.  Blacks were shown definitively that their skin color nullified any possible reconciliation that Brooks’ actions as a caregiver may have initiated.  In July, members of the Ku Klux Klan attempted to intimidate Brooks and his congregation by firing shots at them.  To the shock and dismay of the KKK members, the congregants defended themselves by returning fire.  The congregants’ response was so effective that the clansmen rode away quickly, and in their haste left their robes, masks, and pistols on the ground in front of the church meeting place.

The congregation did not rest on their laurels. Rev. Books organized and trained a black militia to defend the black community of Millican from future attacks. Whites knew of the militia because they trained every Saturday in full view of both black and white citizenry. As expected, the white citizens were unhappy about the black militia’s existence and even more dissatisfied with their practice of consistently drilling.

Most assuredly, the trouble that the militia prepared for came their way. What became known as the Millican Riot began with a rumor.  A leader among the freed persons of Millican went missing, and it was said that he had been lynched because he sought to collect a debt owed to him by a white man. The truth was that the leader had simply gone to neighboring Washington County.

However, because Brooks was unsure about what happened to the man, he sent the captain of his militia with a detachment of men to find the body in order to confirm the lynching.  While on their search, the militia came around a bend in the road. There, they came face to face with the mayor of Millican, as well as the deputy sheriff and a white posse who had come to ensure the militia did not take retribution against the supposed instigator of the lynching, i.e the white man who owed the debt to the missing freedman.

As is often the case when white Southerners described their conflicts with blacks at the time, the white posse claimed that violence began because blacks initiated it. The whites claimed that they were in the process of successfully brokering peace with Brooks’ captain until “a small negro” in the back discharged his weapon.   They responded by firing upon the militia, which resulted in the killing of fifteen to twenty freedmen including the captain with whom they were supposedly brokering peace.

A counter-example to most of the reporting about the Millican Massacre at the time it occurred. This is probably from a black newspaper. The Daily Austin Republic, July 20, 1868.

Undoubtedly, this is not what actually happened.  Rather, it is the fantasy of whites from the past and the present to obscure the fact that the white posse had no intention of negotiating.  Instead, more than likely, Brooks’ men were shot down before a word could even be spoken.  And Brooks was subsequently murdered.

In the flurry of news reports that followed in the days following, whites sufficiently exercised rhetorical power ensuring that what was in fact a racist massacre designed to terrorize the black citizenry and punish black leaders was labeled a “riot.”  From Galveston to New York, newspapers participated in the active delegitimization of Brooks, his militia, and the black citizens of Millican.  Despite the inaccuracy of the published stories about this event, mainstream readers believed what they read, and they capitalized on the word “riot.”

The story of what truly happened in Millican was replaced with a sensationalized tale about the supposed irrational and undisciplined actions of blacks that threatened the safety of rational, law-abiding whites. As is often the case when describing the actions taken by non-white actors against whites in power, “riot” was the name that was used at the time of the event and subsequently canonized by the historical record.  To this day, the event is most often referred to as the “Millican Riot” rather than the “Millican Massacre,” the preferred term of historians who have studied the event.

Connections to the Present

Of course, the politicization of the word riot is not restrained to that  particular subset of American society.  To this very day, the ethics that we citizens of the United States profess and those that we practice are in sharp contrast and possess a violent juxtaposition.  Images of violence pervade our lives, but they are not evaluated with parity or consistency. Recently, in a scene reminiscent of our country’s troubled racial past, white men dressed in camo fatigues and armed with assault weapons crowded the state capitol of Michigan in order to assert themselves and intimidate those around them. They were not military troops acting at the will of the state. Instead, they were a group protesting their state government’s lockdown policies regarding Covid-19.

Protestor who contested rules regarding Covid-19 lockdown at the Michigan State Capitol on April 30th.
Photo Courtesy of BBC and Getty Images.
More protestors at the Michigan State Capitol on April 30th. Photo Courtesy of BBC and Getty Images.

In evaluating the protests of these men, it is appropriate to assess them in tandem with those of other assemblies who gather to make their grievances known, namely those who currently protest the inexcusable and deliberate killing of George Floyd.  They can hardly be considered an armed force in comparison to those who occupied the Michigan Capitol.  But when these people march – with or without violence — to air their grievances with those who hold power, they are met with impenetrable tear gas, clubs, and other tools of state-sponsored violence.  Their demonstrations are described as meaningless, destructive, and an overreaction.

The occupiers of the Michigan Capitol appealed to history by using aesthetic symbols of rebellion and revolution such as “Don’t Tread on Me” signs and Confederate Battle flags to legitimize their angst. And  generally, mainstream society has not rebuffed these individuals for their protests.

May 31st protest against police brutality in New York City. Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone.

However, those who currently protest the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin are criticized.  Their legitimate protests – whether violent or non-violent – are characterized as riots. There are those among them who have resorted to looting and violence, but the majority of them have not done so. Their demonstrations against the generations of systemic oppression in both conspicuous and inconspicuous forms against African-Americans by police departments across the country are often considered illegitimate.  They have been confronted by the National Guard.

It could be said that the National Guard are a necessary presence because the Minneapolis police have lost credibility within their city.  Nevertheless, by calling upon the National Guard, the governor of Minnesota is sending an unequivocal message that those who protest the death of George Floyd and the systemic issues that caused his death are somehow a threat to be monitored and controlled by the state with force.

 The Moral of the Story

Our guiding ethic that “all are created equal” and that we are one nation indivisible is a noble ethic that we conveniently abandon to our collective peril.  Our professed ethics are meaningless and will remain so unless our nation realizes that there is a disconnection between the ethic we profess and the ethic we perform.  Those in power must use the power of law and order to protect the rights and dignity of all people instead of using it as an arm of protection for some and an entity of persecution for others.

Those who cry “Justice!” in the streets must no longer be met with state-sanctioned violence, and white Americans should join non-violent protestors in burning down the façade of righteousness behind which systemic evil too often is enforced. Officer Derek Chauvin’s decision to end George Floyd’s life brutally reminded us that America is a nation of laws – not a nation of justice.  Our guiding ethic should rest in the later instead of the former.

Viva Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders! A Brief History of Organizing and Mobilizing the Latina and Latino Vote

By: Jonathan Angulo

 

Viva Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders!

 A Brief History of Organizing and Mobilizing the Latina and Latino Vote

Photos Courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo Courtesy of pressdemocrat.com

On February 3rd, the Iowa Democratic Party held the first caucus of the Democratic 2020 primary. Caucuses are notoriously “messy” because they require voters to remain within enclosed locations for hours while votes are tallied. However, Iowa introduced satellite caucuses this year which allowed voters to participate in the election process without being physically present. The Sanders’ campaign recognized that this innovation provided an extraordinary opportunity for mobilizing the critical yet often overlooked Latina/o vote. The decision to engage this electorate with satellite voting secured the popular vote in Iowa for Sanders and placed him in a distinguished group of past presidential candidates who wisely assessed the Latinx vote as critical in their quest of obtaining the highest office in the country.

JFK and LBJ

In 1960, Mexican Americans supported John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s campaign with a statewide partisan organization, Viva Kennedy. Ethnic Mexicans overwhelmingly supported JFK when he began to meet with leaders from the G.I. Forum—a Mexican American veteran organization. In 1959, his staff met with Hector P. Garcia, the forum’s founder,  to organize Spanish-speaking populations. Thus, the Viva Kennedy drive arose. Ethnic-Mexicans also supported JFK because of the Democrats’ 1960  platform. Its agenda called for civil rights, school desegregation, fair housing, and voting rights. The campaign proved to be successful. Kennedy won 85 percent of the Hispanic national vote and 91 percent of it in Texas. The President-elect vowed to appoint more Hispanics—at the time Mexicans were referred to as Hispanics; today they are also referred to as Latina/o—to his administration. Despite this promise, the President failed to appoint Spanish-speaking people to significant political positions.

Courtesy of Button Museum

Lyndon B. Johnson’s relationship with ethnic-Mexicans allowed him to continue the political association with them that Kennedy established. Before becoming Vice-President in 1960, LBJ was a Texan congressman and senator. Johnson began his career teaching ethnic-Mexican students in the town of Cotulla, Texas. There he witnessed the lack of education and economic opportunities that ethnic-Mexicans endured. Upon his first Senatorial term, he organized the burial of a Mexican American veteran, Felix Longoria, at the Arlington National Cemetery. A funeral home in Three Rivers, Texas refused to bury the veteran due to segregationist beliefs. Longoria’s funeral motivated other ethnic-Mexican communities, like those in Cotulla, to fight for integrated cemeteries. When Johnson ran for president in 1964, ethnic-Mexicans knew that LBJ had been present during tough moments for members of their community, and they supported his successful campaign for the presidency.

Ultimately, Johnson’s presidential administration delivered material gains for Spanish speaking people like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Economic Opportunity Act, and Medicare in 1966. Despite these accomplishments, the legacy of  LBJ is somewhat undermined by his  choice to side with agribusiness interests against ethnic-Mexicans,  the Vietnam War (LBJ’s administration disproportionately sent ethnic-Mexicans to fight), and his reluctance to appoint Hispanic members to senior positions.

George W. Bush and Obama

 Four decades later, between 2008 and 2016, President Obama improved the lives and status of Latinas and Latinos within the United States. The Great Recession between 2007 and 2009 decreased the wealth of Latina/os by 66 percent. Obama’s administration worked to decrease unemployment which helped the community acquire some of their lost fortunes. President Obama also made sure to appoint Spanish-speaking officials within his administration. Notably, he appointed the first Latina, Sonia Sotomayor, to the Supreme Court. Additionally, in 2009, he appointed Hilda Solis as the first Latina Secretary of Labor and when she left the position in 2013, Tom Perez replaced her.

While his administration kept major promises to the Latina and Latino community, Obama’s record on immigration was more controversial. Obama allowed the United States’ legitimate concerns regarding terrorism sway him towards hyper-vigilant — and arguably unnecessary –support for deportation.

Before the Twin Tower attacks on September 11, 2001, undocumented immigrants were temporarily allowed to remain in the country if they were married to a citizen or if their children were U.S. citizens. However, this changed once President George W. Bush led the country into war against major nations in the Middle East—formerly known as the War on Terror. Although the Bush administration attempted to use the War on Terror as a means for protecting the citizens of the United States from further terrorist attacks, this conflict led to stronger national and border security initiatives. As a result, Bush’s administration created the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency (ICE) in 2003 which paved the way for the separation of families with mixed immigration statuses.

ICE began to deport more immigrants, and by 2012, the Obama administration continued the practice of the Bush administration by  expelling  400,000 undocumented immigrants, 90,000 of which were undocumented parents of U.S. citizens. In 2014, the Obama administration’s record of deportation led the country’s largest Latino organization — the National Council of La Raza and its president, Janet Murguía — to identify Obama as the “deportation president.” Many of those who were deported were part of the Latina and Latino community.

Activists and the Obama administration worked together to provide benefits to the undocumented community after immigration reform failed in 2010 due to a bipartisan coalition of Senate Democrats and Republicans voting against immigration reform. This had been the case since 2001, and undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children—Dreamers—continued to fight for progress. Their initiatives proved to be successful when, on June 15, 2012, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security determined that it would not deport individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children under an undocumented status.

That same year, the President signed an executive order—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)—which established that some undocumented immigrants could apply for a driver’s license, open a bank account, and would not be deported as long as they continued to renew their status. Individuals were eligible as long as they were sixteen or under 31 years of age, resided in the U.S. before June 15, 2007, had graduated from high school or were enrolled in a school, and had not been convicted of a felony. DACA therefore protected families from being separated. This initiative significantly impacted the Latina and Latino community as some came to the U.S. under an undocumented status to work in sectors like construction, hospitality, and agriculture.

Courtesy of Univision

Bernie Sanders and the 2016/2020 Democratic Primary

Between 2015 and 2016, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton campaigned against one another for the Democratic nomination.  Throughout the election, Sanders enhanced his relationship with Latina/os and was challenged for his previous stances. Sanders infamously voted against Immigration Reform in 2007 arguing that bringing thousands of immigrants into the U.S. lowered wages for American workers. Additionally, organizations like the League of United Latin American Countries (LULAC) encouraged Senators to vote against the bill. LULAC argued that the legislation lacked a pathway to legal residence under its guest-worker program, eliminated numerous family-based green card classifications, and that the guest-labor initiative lacked many worker protections. One year later, in January 2008, Bernie traveled to Immokalee, Florida, to witness the working conditions of tomato laborers.

After two months, the Senator convinced his peer Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to hold a press conference regarding the conditions of these workers. Two years later, the laborers, employers, and tomato purchasers agreed to increase tomato pound rates, improve working conditions, introduce health and safety programs, and make it easier to address complaints of sexual abuse. While Politifact states that Sanders did not entirely ensure these outcomes, his visit to Immokalee placed a spotlight on the workers’ issues who were undocumented and people of color.

The Senator’s campaign created an ad about the event which resonated with the community during the 2016 campaign. Despite this, Sanders lost ten out of eleven states where Latina/os made up much of the population. Since 2016, some of Sanders primary platform issues such as a single-payer health care program and tuition-free colleges/ universities reverberated with Latinas and Latinos. Yes, immigration policy is important to the Latinx community, but so is health care and education.

In 2019, Sanders decided to seek the 2020 Democratic nomination and has continued to solidify his relationship with Latina/os. For example, Bélen Sisa—a dreamer—has become the deputy press secretary for his team. Additionally, Sanders also hired Chuck Rocha-an ethnic-Mexican Texan—as his Senior Policy Advisor. Moreover, Carmen Yúlin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, became a co-chair for the Senators’ team. Throughout the campaign trail, Bernie has spoken at the National Association of Latin Elected Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Countries (LULAC). His appeal to the community has motivated supporters to create the group, Unidos Con Bernie. There is even a shirt on the campaign store that reads, “Tío Bernie” (Uncle Bernie). Additionally, The New York Times reported that Sanders polls well with Latina/o voters. Additionally, a Texas Lyceum Survey stated that the Senator garners 36 percent of the Hispanic vote.

Courtesy of Latino Magazine

Sanders was able to close his electoral deficit in the 2020 Iowa caucus because of his collaboration with Latinas and Latinos. The state had four Spanish-language satellite caucuses, and the Senator almost unanimously won them. Out of the 442 votes in the sites, Bernie’s campaign acquired 428 of them. This accomplishment would not have occurred without the help of volunteers like Marlén J. Mendoza who was one of the precinct captains in a satellite caucus. Throughout mass-Latina/o neighborhoods in Iowa, Bernie won 66.5 percent of the vote.

Courtesy of The Intercept

On February 20th, the Senator’s campaign won a decisive victory in the Nevada caucus because of Latina/o support. The official results reported that Bernie won 46.8 percent of the general electorate. According to entrance polls, he won 51 percent of the Latino vote and placed a strong second with African American voters. 27 percent of the African American community supported the Senator, and 39 percent voted for Vice-President Joe Biden.

After Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020 where fourteen different states voted, Joe Biden effectively beat Sanders in ten states while Sanders won crucial elections with large Latina/o electorates. The vice-president won Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas due to his strong African American support and endorsements from ex-presidential candidates Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg. Additionally, Biden’s strong finish in South Carolina and Democratic House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s endorsement gave him a strong momentum leading up to Super Tuesday. However, Bernie Sanders won Colorado, Utah, Vermont, and California. According to California exit polls, the Senator won 49 percent of the Latina/o vote. Sanders narrowly lost to Biden in Texas by a 4.5 percent difference,  but he won 45 percent of the Latina/o vote in that state.

As some of his predecessors who sought the presidency,  Bernie Sanders’ is making a collective effort that engages, understands, and organizes the Latina/o community. Numerous states have voted in the 2020 primary cycle; nevertheless, Latinas and Latinos will continue to make their voices heard.  As a Mexican American, I am convinced that even if Sanders does not win the nomination, the Latinx community will make sure that future candidates and administrations continue to listen to us. We are a growing demographic, and politicians who sincerely fight for health care, the environment, education, criminal justice reform, immigration, and affordable housing will have our vote.

“Ad Perpetuam Rei Memoriam:” In Memoriam of Kobe Bryant

By: Camille Davis

Photo Courtesy of clipart.com

As the world reels from the news regarding the sudden and horrendous death of 41-year-old Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, it seems as though no particular tribute or testimony provides the adequate amount of answers or comfort. Grief is often debilitating, and when it is met with shock, the two culminate into a potion — or sometimes a poison — that seems impenetrable.

Although this is the case, we at The Future of the Past believe that historians have a mandate to tackle life as it comes — or in the case of history — has come. History is filled with both triumph and disaster, as well as questions that have no easy, definitive explanations. Ours is a field that encompasses the entirety of the human experience, and it is a field that provides a long, broad lens from which to examine both past and current events. With this in mind, we join the rest of the world in submitting our “ad perpetuam rei memoriam,” our “permanent record of the matter” regarding the loss of one of the most well-known and respected cultural icons of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Photo Courtesy of thewrap.com

 

Photo Courtesy of ABC

Exceptionalism

Bryant’s professional, athletic accomplishments are well-documented. Among them are being a first -round NBA pick during the 1996 draft, earning 5 NBA championships and two Olympic gold medals, appearing in 18 All-Star games, setting an NBA record as the third-highest scoring player in a single game until Lebron James surpassed his record on  January 25th, and playing with the Los Angeles Lakers for twenty-years, which is more than three times the span of the average, professional athlete’s career.  Yet interestingly, despite the gravitas of his NBA record, Bryant’s life off the court seems to provide the most compelling components of his legacy.

Photo Courtesy of NBC

Mamba Mentality

“Mamba Mentality” is a term that Bryant famously coined in 2016. He described it as the ability to “be the best version of yourself.” He named himself “Black Mamba” after a snake that was used as the symbol of an assassin in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 film “Kill Bill.” The term evolved into a mantra about challenging oneself for greatness, exceeding the boundaries of physical and mental comfort, rising to the occasion, and focusing on solutions instead of excuses. In 2018, Bryant formally articulated this philosophy by co-writing a book called The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. The book became a manifesto for goal setters — both athletes and non-athletes — about how to meet the challenges of life with courage and commitment. New Orleans Saints All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis told USA Today, “Kobe’s impact transcends the game of basketball. It transcends life… Mambo mentality is more of an approach than anything else. It’s about attacking what’s in front of you with passion and purpose, without fear and doubt and without an ounce of quit.”

Bryant used this ethos to guide his post-pro-basketball life with the same intensity and intent that guided his time on the court. And equally as important, he spent his time in retirement encouraging others to do the same.

In 2016, he began the Mambo Sports Academy with the specific goal of mentoring athletes at every level of the game: NBA players, potential NBA recruits, high school students, and children. The academy included men, women, boys, and girls, and it was symptomatic of the teaching, support, and encouragement that Kobe had generously given to younger athletes during a large portion of his career. During the summer of 2019, Kobe Bryant and his Mambo Sports Academy hosted NBA players Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, Tobias Harris, Isaiah Thomas, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne recently explained that as Bryant planned to leave the NBA, she conceptualized writing an article about him that would “top them all.” When pitching her story idea to Bryant, she admits to appealing to his ego in order to get his permission to write a story that would be filled with grandiose language. She inferred that her article would simultaneously flatter Kobe while advancing her own career. Bryant saw right through Shelburne and declined. Instead of accepting a piece filled with vainglory, he encouraged her to write something authentic.

“He said he’d do a story with me about his life, but not out of vanity — mine or his,” she admitted. He told her, “I’m not interested in self-serving pieces. It has to be something where an athlete reads it and is inspired by something, learns something, and pushes themselves.”

Bryant’s famed “Dear Basketball” retirement poem confirmed this reality. He was done with vanity. He was ready to see himself — and for the world to see him—as he truly was: strong yet vulnerable to the wears and tears that time and experience unequivocally make upon the body.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images

The Beauty of Authenticity

In 2018, at the 90th Academy Awards, Bryant earned an Oscar within the category of “Best Animated Short Film” after turning his retirement poem into an animated film. He chose storied, Disney animator, Glen Keane, as his illustrator for the film, and he tapped legendary composer John Williams to write the film’s score. Though not formally educated past high school, Bryant was a known intellectual who favored Beethoven, which impacted the rhythm and tone of the music he preferred to accompany his autobiographical poetry.

Mumba Mentality and “Dear Basketball” were not the only pieces of literature Bryant penned. In early 2019, he began publishing the first volume of a children’s book series called The Wizenards, through his media company Granity Studios. Bryant co-wrote the series with author Wesley King. The next editions of the series were supposed to launch in March of this year. King has stated that the news of Kobe’s and his daughter, Gianna’s, deaths led him to delete the manuscript. The first edition of the series made The New York Times best seller list.

In addition to writing formally, Bryant also regularly made time to send text to friends and colleagues whom he believed needed encouragement. ESPN writers Ramona Shelburne and Jackie MacMullan both wrote pieces this week attesting to Bryant’s generosity of spirit exhibited through his notes of inspiration.

Photo Courtesy of theheavy.com

 

Photo Courtesy of NY Post

Fatherhood

The person he encouraged and instructed most passionately was his 13 year-old-daughter, Gianna, who was one of four  daughters he shared with his wife, Vanessa. In addition to his usual fatherly activities, he spent a significant amount of his time mentoring Gianna in basketball and providing tutorials to her AAU teammates when they visited the Mambo Sports Academy. Both Gianna’s death and her fathers were premature, and there will never be a human explanation insightful enough to ease the torment of their passing.

Photo Courtesy of Black Enterprise

Final Analysis

Despite the tragedy of this moment, it is reasonable to assume that Bryant lived  the end of his life with a peace about himself and all that he accomplished. His epic achievements and adventures are astonishing and inspiring for those who witnessed them or subsequently learned of them, but they seem right in line with what young, Kobe Bryant planned and fantasized about as a boy growing up in California and in Italy. As he scurried around shooting tube socks pretending to make clutch plays, as he describes in “Dear Basketball,” one can imagine a notebook, a journal, or maybe even a scrap of paper with a detailed plan for his life and these Italian words scribbled across the top of the page: Perpetuam Rei Memoriam, The Final Records of the Matter, before those records ever even occurred.

On behalf of your fans at SMU, rest well Kobe and Gianna.

 

 

When Virtue Comes in Color: The Historical Implications of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s Voyage to South Africa

By Camille Davis

The Duke and Duchess in South Africa. Photo Courtesy of Yahoo News.

Recently, the world watched Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and their four-month-old son, Baby Archie, as they spent ten days touring South Africa. The media images of a royal, Western, interracial couple visiting a country that is notorious for its recent, segregationist past presents a poignant and powerful message about the progress and transformation that is present in both the British royal family and in the former apartheid-ridden, South Africa. Even more so, the racial context of the Duke and Duchess trip is palpable because of the criticism Markle has faced for her racially mixed heritage. The royal family has fully accepted Markle, but the British press has not.  There are also those within the American press who are relentlessly indignant about the African blood in Markle’s veins.  During her tenure as a royal, the duchess has not spoken explicitly about her ethnicity, until her most recent visit to South Africa. While addressing a crowd in Cape Town, she referred to herself as “a member of the royal family, a mother, a wife, a woman, a woman of color, and as your  [the people of Cape Town’s] sister.” This statement is powerful because it attests to the ability of Markle to represent multiple components of herself simultaneously. In essence, she exhibited that being a woman of color and being a British royal are not mutually exclusive. One can be both — and represent both—exceptionally well.

One of the great Western misconceptions about people with non-European heritage or racially mixed identities is that they are incapable of filling roles outside of those traditionally prescribed for them. For those who think this way, it is difficult to conceptualize a person of color operating in a position that has been historically preserved — either by law or custom — for those who are white. The Daily Mail’s infamous reference to Markle as being “straight out of Compton” and other pejorative comments of that sort are rooted in the idea that a black woman could not effectively navigate the responsibilities of a British royal. Her ethnicity and/or the culture that the ethnicity represents imbue her with a limited capacity.  In short, a woman of color is not fully a woman.

The Duchess of Sussex guest editing British Vogue. Courtesy of @SUSSSEXROYAL

Such marred perceptions create a proverbial tight rope for which Markle must walk. With each step, she must carry multiple layers of her identity with dexterity and grace because a misstep means that one or all of those layers will be marginalized and diminished by a jeering, chanting critical onlooker. A misstep means that she is criticized about her race, her role as a wife, her role as mother, her role as a royal, her identity as a woman — she is critiqued about her success or failure at being all of these things at once. The cynicism about her race creates a sense of dubiousness about the other parts of her. “Can a black woman be a  ______?” This is why Markle’s public, multi-faceted identification of herself in her various roles is so important. By simultaneously claiming her familial roles, her royal role, and her race, she asserts her awareness of the tight rope and her willingness to walk it. And what better place to do this than in a country that is still healing from its deeply embedded, historical, racial wounds?

The Duchess cooking at the Hub Community Kitchen, a place for victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fires. Photo Courtesy of the LA Times via Jenny Zarins/ AFP/Getty Images/Kensington Palace
The cover of the September issue of British Vogue.
M.M’s birthday cake by Luminary Bakery. Photo Courtesy of Marie Claire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A thank you note from M.M. to Luminary Bakery for her birthday cake.

Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk

As is the case with all of us, the ultimate test for the Duchess of Sussex is what she does — not just what she says. In Markle’s case, the ease in which she delivered her Cape Town speech was indicative of the life she is living and has lived. During her two years as a member of the royal family, she has accomplished a tremendous amount. The most well-documented achievements include working with fashion designer Misha Nonoo  and the charity Smart Works to create a clothing line for unemployed British women who are attempting to re-enter the workforce; being a co-author and royal patron of the Together: Our Community Cookbook to raise money for victims of the  June 2017 fire in  the Grenfell Tower high-rise; guest editing the September issue of British Vogue and creating a theme for the issue that focuses on women who are creating positive social and political change in the world; also commissioning  her birthday cake from Luminary Bakery, a bakery that hires women who have survived trauma that includes abuse, homelessness, and incarceration. Additionally, she recently flew commercial in order to attend the U.S. Open in support of her friend, another woman of color, Serena Williams.

The Duchess at the U.S. Open on September 7th. She is sitting next to her friend, Serena Williams’ mother, who is on her right. Photo Courtesy of Fox News.

Do these actions tell us everything there is to know of her? Absolutely not. However, they do say that she has the ability to be a representation of feminine excellence for a woman of any race in the same way that her storied and beloved, late mother in law, Princess Diana was – and still is. By being an excellent woman of color, Markle will contribute to the eventual characterization of women of color as simply and unequivocally “women” by the Western world.