Sunday, August 30, 2009


Coach Birch was a towering man. He loomed over us, all powerful and all knowing. His word was final.

As a junior I was the smallest offensive lineman to take the field on any varsity team in our division, 175 lbs. The second week of practice I looked up at the depth chart taped to the wall of the locker room and saw my name, starting at weak side tackle. I was happy. I looked closer and saw my name was also listed as second string at every other position on the line. This made me nervous. It was a hard year.

That was Coach Birch’s first losing season, the school’s first in two decades. I and a few other underclassmen took the blame and we deserved it. Every week a senior, or some super sophomore, would try to take my spot. They never did, I was better. I was better than them, but rarely better than the other team. Long live competition!

Mid season, during practice, Birch exploded.

“D@#$! Brohammas! Pull your head out of your @$$ and play football. I swear you would do a better job for this team if you went and stood in the corner somewhere.”

Half the team stood still in fearful shock, while the other half snickered. I silently seethed as the only acceptable response would be improved play. It wouldn’t happen that day. That was one of those many days where body and mind could not agree. Practice ended and we all just went home.

Birch called that night. I had never heard him apologize to anyone before, in my mind he never needed too. He told me his words were out of line and he regretted them. He explained he had a bad temper, which we all knew, but he continued.

“I will continue to yell at you till you begin to play better. We need you to play better. I wish I knew a better way but I don’t. The problem is I know you are better than you are playing. You can do a lot better. Son, just know that I only yell because I still believe in you. If I ever stop yelling at you, it’s time to worry because that means I have given up on you.”

For all I know Coach had read this line in a Vince Lombardi quote book, but it worked. I gained more confidence from that phone call than anything before it. I was too young and hopeful to be properly skeptical. Sinicism takes years to develop. I believed every word of it.

That was roughly sixteen years ago. I have done many things, been many places, and known great people, but few had the impact he did. I still think about that call. I still think about those years. The older I get the less I speak of them, but their memory hasn’t dimmed. For good or bad, those years and that man are one of the cornerstones of who I am, part of the foundation I am built on.

Mariana Bracetti Academy, in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, was founded in 1999 and now has an enrollment of 1155 students (grades 6-12). They have never had a football team. We have equipment for thirty kids, but no blocking sled, it wasn’t in the budget. We will play in the public school league next year, but this season we are on our own. We have three games scheduled; maybe we can pick up another. Odds are we lose them all. I hate to lose. I hate it with a deep burning hate. We don’t even have a field. We will take the subway to a public field some blocks away for practice and all games will be “away”.

I enjoy evenings with my family. At the moment, my wife enjoys my company. Still, I often find myself thinking of Birch. I am better for having known him. I have explained my motivations to my wife but my words lamely fall flat. She says she understands, I’m sure she wants too. What I do know for sure is that starting next week, I will be smelling grass, wearing a whistle.

Where can I find a pair of those polyester shorts?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Crying wolf, keep the race card for special occasions

Today’s battle for a better world in terms of interracial harmony is primarily a war for minds and hearts, or at least it should be. For the most part needed legislation has been enacted, protections are in place, and a prevailing idea that discrimination is unacceptable exists. While the legal work is mostly done, the battle at the real heart of the issue has been neglected. No one is fighting the battle for hearts and minds, the organs where racism generates.

White people think racism is for the most part, over. They may admit to themselves that there are still some racists lying around but they are mostly old people or Nazis, and neither should be taken too seriously. Now while they (we) think racism is mostly dead, there is the idea that there are sentinels standing on watchtowers on the lookout for racists. These lookouts have itchy trigger fingers and there is a fear that with the lack of real targets, pot-shots are being taken at anyone with an open mouth. Consequentially the general white populace no longer appreciates the work of the guards and digressed to living in fear of them. We are afraid that if we talk about race, or even recognize its existence, a shower of accusatory bullets will rain down from the ramparts. These white citizens in our post racial world are feeling oppressed and growing uneasy.
No matter your opinion on how justified this perception or attitude is, realize that it exists and paints all racial interactions with a conspicuous bull’s eye. How the two players interact, and the consequences of that interaction will determine how those players view all racial issues afterward. That is just how our minds work.

A few years ago I moved to Philadelphia and began working with the youth organization of a local church. What I saw was amazing. One young man, whom I will call Jay, had figured out quite well that there were lookouts ready to shoot and that they were on his side. He had also learned that his youth leaders were young white folk, inexperienced in dealing with black youth, and saw the ground littered with egg shells.

Jay was 17 years old and probably weighed 95 pounds. He did not have the money to dress nicely and spoke with a high pitched lisp. He obviously had little to no power in his daily life, but when interacting with these white folk, the guards made him power hungry. He did and said as he pleased. He never followed instructions, made lewd comments to grown women, and no adult ever corrected him. In observing this I had had enough. I stepped in when he made an indecent proposal and all the adults stood in shock as I scolded the youth for saying things he knew were wrong. He said a word unacceptable in a religious (or really any) setting and I sent him to the hallway.
During the interaction he did it. He tried to call for the guards,

“[Brohammas], you doin’ racism to me. Why you pickin on me? You a racist!”

I chuckled at his accusation, looked him in the eye, and told him I was the wrong guy to play that game with. I told him he knew he was wrong and… knock it off. He did. The other adults stood in shock that it was that easy. I’m sure they thought only I could have gotten away with it because of my wife, which isn’t true, any one of them could have said the same thing long before, but they didn’t know that. They still don’t.
No big deal here, stupid kid saying stupid things, that’s all. Problem is that really, most white people have a story like this, or at least they think they do, meaning a friend or a cousin had an instance like this, and it gets told around.

Stories of false accusations of racism are like brushfire in California; they travel fast, do a lot of damage, and whether it’s a threat or not it gets taken seriously. Stories like this hurt “the cause”.

In the mind of a person who thinks racism doesn’t exist these false, or even questionable, accusations just further entrench the belief that there are no justifiable complaints at all. The too oft pulling of the race card has two affects: one, the stifling of any honest discussion of race across racial lines, as the white people are afraid the card will be pulled and the guards will shoot, and two, the destroying of the race cards power for anything but trifling matters. In other words, any time the card is justified, be it a police beating, a loan denied unfairly, or a professional glass ceiling, all those who should take notice and learn, or even better ACT, will assume the this is simply another case of someone crying wolf and do nothing.

I know, it’s a hard thing to ask, and who am I to ask it, but if there is any doubt, and if you really want to make things better, don’t pull the card. Save it for a special occasion. Save it for a time when it will have some power, some affect. Racism is nowhere near dead, and pulling the card when it isn’t justified is helping keep it alive.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Interracial Dating

The following is a response to a blogger asking why white men don't date black women. This is an old post, and since this time I have seen mixed couples, like mine, all over the place. Maybe the movie "Something New", had an influence, but I'd rather think that I'm simply a huge trend-setter.

You can read the original blog post and follow the conversation from back then, but I thought this could be entertaining over here as well. We are a slightly different audience.

Now before we get too far I must add one thing that usually ends up irking" me when discussing interracial dating. Dating is a game of individuals and we should be very careful when interpreting the actions of one as a societal problem rather than a personal one. In other words, sometimes the two of you don't get along, or there is no mutual attraction, and it ISN'T race.

I said it, now here we go....

"Wow, I get to speak for all of us!
I'm game but just wait as I'm sure C1 or one of your many other readers will follow behind and disagree with me, completely blowing my spokesman status, not to mention the idea that all us white folk stick together (remember that is the secret to our success).

Now if that opening hasn't stirred up enough dust to distract you, I'll address the issue.

Rather I should say this is a whole bundle of issues. Race, gender, sex, and you even threw in age. We can not boil down an individual’s behavior in this/these instances to one issue or the other. They are all in play.

Different types of guys approach women in different ways and for different purposes. (remember I have been out of the game for 9 years now). "Type" can mean; white or black, marriage material or fling, shy or aggressive, racist or open minded, on and on and on.

A scuzz ball will proposition anyone/thing they think they have a chance at, and a few they think are out of their league. This is a guy who has no long term plans and as a result has little time for build up flirtation and gets right down to business. He may get shot down often and does not mind as much, he’s playing the numbers game in hopes it will pay off. This white guy will probably approach a Shaquanda, Becky, Ming Lee etc. and usually do it in some potentially offensive or sexual way. Now it should be mentioned here that I have known many white girls, who confuse a direct approach from a black man with the scuzz ball, earning said black man a style of rejection he may not deserve… or a measure of success with the types of white girls he isn’t quite ready for.

I will admit here, in this section, that Scuzz ball may very well be more inclined to ask Shaquanda than Becky. I have heard white guys say or imply black women are looser than uptight little Becky. Of course these are rarely guys who have any first hand knowledge, pride themselves in simply not being afraid to “tell it like it is”, and in regards to their racism I must repeat, THEY ARE SCUZZ BALLS.

You say the guys you are actually attracted too insert themselves into the “friend zone”. I am usually skeptic of any man who is great, close friends to a girl/girls. I know I’m a jerk, sexist. Whatever, but in my experience these guys are usually just lurking, waiting for their shot at someone in the group. Not lurking in a shark way but in a Duckie way. They are a little afraid, awkward maybe, but generally good guys that just don’t quite exert themselves like other alpha males. Rather than flexing the shoulder, they offer it for you to cry on. You call him a pansy, he may be, but at some point in life, most guys have dabbled with the friend zone and learned from it.

Can race play a role here? SURE it does. It may not be right, but white people are ingrained with the idea that black people hate us. This friend guy is already not the type to meet social challenges head on within his own race, so of course he isn’t going to do so cross-racially. Is he racist? I don’t know, that is a whole other conversation about how much greater society’s racism and connected responsibility filters down to an inexperience individual. But the friend zone guy lacks some confidence and social finesse. Race would naturally magnify that.

Now we will take what for lack of better terms I will call “normal” guy. The guy who may have actually enjoyed high school, has had a girlfriend before, may or may not have dabbled in the friend zone and or the scuzz ball stage, and most likely fits your ideal white guy caste. He may have been a scuzz ball and is now tired of that scene and ready for a real relationship. He may have dabbled in the friend zone and got his shirt sloppy with mascara, followed by a handshake and the door. Now he finds himself in a high stakes game where rejection may be a little more personal, the pay off is long term, and catching someone worth keeping may be tricky. –I should insert here that “old guy” may be a scuzz ball, or a scuzz ball who played around during his prime and now finds himself a bit desperate, tired of games and more willing to take a risk, or once again…a scuzz ball. I mean to a scuzz ball, young+black must = easy right???-

Back to normal guy.

Most white guys, if they are used to white girls who don’t like scuzz balls, are forced to play a little cat and mouse game in an attempt to show interest, but not desperation, all the while trying to prove they are not a scuzz ball. This is the ploy of the movie Swingers three day rule to call a girl (of course T is a scuzz ball trying to pose as a normal guy while Mikey is trying to bust out of the friend zone mode). Call too soon = scuzz ball. Normal guy usually has options as well. Of course he does, or he should appear that he does, because no girl worth having should feel she was a last ditch effort, or the figurative last one picked for kickball.

If we assume he does have options race will probably come into play big time. Once again I go back to the notion that black people hate white people. Add to that the scarcity of WM /BF couples. If we back out the WM who is interracially experienced or specifically seeking out a black woman, this would seem a large hurdle to overcome. If he has other options the easy way out would be to go there, or, this must be an Alpha male indeed who is looking to prove something, or, this black girl must be unusually HOT and worth the risk. (my wife is/was unusually hot)

All this being said there will always be the curve ball guy who doesn’t fit any category. I cannot account for him. The games we are forced to play in trying to lure a mate may be different from one geography to another, the same it may be from one culture (be it class or race) to another. In the culture I was raised in the only acceptable way, to not be a scuzz ball, was to play the long drawn out flirtation dance over a period of time, be it hours days or months.

The first time I saw a black man use the verbal, direct, or in my view at the time, overly forward approach, and not get the scuzz ball treatment, I was astounded and a bit jealous. This was not part of my culture in either the presentation or the reception. When I met the woman who would be my wife and I decided to give it a try, I could not bring myself to attempt the, what in my mind was the overly direct/forward approach, because it was not me. I could not try to be something that is not me, especially when it comes to attracting someone you really hope will be attracted to you.

This has been the longest response in history, you are probably sleeping, and you asked for it.

I know here it comes…. Bring the heat.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Eric was a kid I've known for about three years or so. A good kid, one of the more respectful and pleasant guys in the group. Preston would drop by his house once a month or so just to see how he was doing. They would sit down stairs, talk about sports, talk about church, talk about school.
We come in contact with lots of kids, they come and go. Some cause trouble, most ooze apathy, but not Eric. If he was there, he was present. He was awake and connected. That is not the norm for most of the 16 year olds we deal with.
I liked him.

While reading the paper today I came across this:

"About 3:35 p.m., police said, Eric Dixon and Hector Soto, both 16, ended up in a fistfight at the playground, on Lehigh Avenue near 4th street, after they exchanged a few cross words, apparently over a girl.
The fight ended quickly, with Dixon falling to the ground, unconscious. Less than an hour later, he died at Temple University Hospital from unspecified injuries suffered during the scuffle, homicide investigators said...

[Eric's Grandfather was quoted at the scene a few hours later] It was another senseless killing. There will probably be another one tomorrow, and you'll be talking to another family."

This is a young man who was not out running the streets causing trouble. Yesterday would be just like any day in the life of any 16 year old boy anywhere in the country, except the ending.
He deserves more than just a blurb in the ever so present murder section of our Daily News. He will be addd to the list of statistics and it is not fair. He is not a number, he is not one of the notorious "them".

I'm sitting here at the keyboard, have been sitting here motionless for at least ten minutes.
I have nothing else to say.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


My young friend was found guilty today of aggravated assault and robbery.
He was identified by the victim the night of the crime (which happened outside at 10:30 pm), the arresting officer said he found the stolen cell phone on his person, the victim claimed the young man punched him in the face, fracturing his jaw and cheek bone.

I'm sure the victim and the cop think he is the one who did it.

I'm sure he is guilty of being a stupid 15 year old. I'm also sure he isn't capable of punching his way through a wet paper bag... he didn't even have the strength to flatten out his back when in a three point stance.

They never asked me what I thought.