White Privilege and High School Football: How I realized racism is still alive and well today

When I was 20 years old I worked for a newspaper company down in Abilene, Texas going around covering high school football games. I didn’t get paid much but I had it pretty easy, I would go to small towns all around the area (and in Texas “the area” means up to an hour and a half away) and record stats and write a brief story about it after the game.

For a sports nut like myself it was a dream job, I got to watch a bunch of football games and bring home some extra cash in the process. Still the biggest takeaway from the job happened at one game, and it had nothing to do with football or writing.

The game was in a small town called Comanche, population 4,335. The day started out like any other, driving through the barren desert that is West Texas, out to a small town and following all the other cars to the stadium. I gathered up my laptop, notepad and other materials that I would need to cover the game and headed into the stadium.

I got to the gate told them that I was with the paper and they let me in. No credentials or anything, it wasn’t needed, who else could the stranger in town coming to watch their beloved Indians be? So, I trekked my way up to the press box and gathered my bearings.

There were the coach’s rooms (because only in Texas would you need two coaches calling plays down to the sideline from the press box for high schools of 50 kids), the radio and stadium announcer’s box, and a separate press box for me.

The press box was tiny, four seats across and already there was another man sitting in there. I headed in and set up my stuff, so I would be ready before the game started and struck up a conversation with the man beside me.

I’d done something similar at every game I’d went to, everyone had always been more than generous to me proving true their southern hospitality that you’re always hearing about. I’ve been offered free food and drinks, programs, and anything else that I could possibly need up in a press box.

This man was no different at first. The conversation that we struck up was much like the conversations that I had at every other game that I had covered. We started by talking about the game that we were about to watch and trust me when I say that everyone in a small Texas town is an “expert” when it comes to high school football.

The conversation went from that to college ball, and inevitably to the NFL. Now this was before players started kneeling during the anthem, but after the Ray Rice debacle showed how the NFL repeatedly tried to brush domestic abuse under the rug.

So, to me the man’s question of “Do you know what’s wrong with the NFL today?” didn’t seem out of sort. There were PLENTY of things that he could be talking about. So, I answered with what I thought was an intelligent response about how players coming from nothing are suddenly bestowed with millions of dollars and didn’t know how to handle it.

What I heard next from this stranger legitimately stunned me. He cleared his throat and said “No it’s more than that. The problem is all the black people”.

Now I’m not from Texas, my formative years were spent in a rural town in Pennsylvania. And we had racism, but not like this, at least not that I had experienced as a white male. People from my town know, and for the most part accept, that racism isn’t cool. So racist behavior, for the most part, is confined to the confines of one’s friends and family. In public you wouldn’t dare come out with it. So never in my life had I heard a full-blown racist rant before.

But while I sat there still stunned from the man’s second sentence that’s what I started to hear. He continued “You see the problem is somewhere along the line people got it in their head that black people are better athletes then whites, and that’s just not true. Just look at Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and all their receivers, they’re all white because whites are better athletes”.

Now I was only 20 at the time and I wish I could say that I had this super witty response or put him in his place. But still I knew that I didn’t want to keep hearing this man talk about how the white race is superior to all others.

So I did what I thought would help and started listing prominent African American receivers that both quarterbacks had played with, before finishing up by talking about how in some areas African Americans are generally athletically superior to Caucasian athletes (it helped that I had just finished reading The Sports Gene which is a book that high lights these physiological reasons for these differences).

But before I could finish my point he cut me off “no, no no. You see it’s just all in your head. White athletes are far superior. And the problem is that enough people in the NFL think like you, so they keep drafting blacks. They’re like animals and they can’t control themselves”.

Now I’m sitting there wondering how my perfectly normal conversation about football had morphed into this conversation based in nothing but bigotry. Bewildered how quickly it had gone from normal to insane. I guess the man realized that he had made me uncomfortable because he up and left or maybe he just didn’t want to deal with me anymore.

But the conversation with this man got me thinking in a way that I never had before. It made me think of my African American coworkers, especially the ones that worked at the newspaper with me. All that hospitality that I had experienced in every small Texas town, would I have still gotten those warm smiles and offer of food if I was black? Did they?

This was before I had ever heard of the term “white privilege”, but in that moment I understood it. I never wondered if the people I shared a room with were racist or not. I never had to worry about how they were going to treat me based off the color of my skin.

And if you’re a white male like myself and you haven’t had an eye-opening moment like this I don’t think you can ever fully understand how privileged you are. It’s not until you take a step back and look at what other people must go through can you understand how lucky you are.

The Dangerous War on Media

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The war on the media is stronger then ever. If you haven’t heard the term “fake news” you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years. Yet it’s still gaining traction every day and the results are dangerous.

First let’s clear a few things up, every journalist has a bias. You see journalists are human, just like you and me, and if you think you can write a political story without any bias you are only fooling yourself. Bias is a human condition, and as such will always be present in the work created by humans.

Second, most journalists that write for national media outlets in the United States have a liberal leaning. This doesn’t make the stories that they cover “fake news”, but it does mean that most national news stories will have a liberal bias. But it doesn’t change the fact that the facts presented in their stories are just that, facts. You see you can disagree with facts all you want, but a fact will remain a fact.

Facts are something that President Trump has convinced himself, and many of his supporters, changes depending on the bias of the story. Yes, a biased story might mean that there is more to the story that isn’t being presented but it doesn’t make it “fake news”, and the facts presented remain relevant.

News today isn’t any more or less biased then it’s been in the past, the difference is that people used to know how to pull the facts out of the story that they were hearing and form their own opinions. They used to get the story from more then one source to make sure they got the whole picture.

Americans today have lost that ability.

And as such Americans are gullible to attacks labeling legitimate media sources as “fake”. You see once you start labeling a news source as fake you have no way of distinguishing reality from fiction. Certain politicians would have you believe that all news sources are fake. Once they convince you of that the only person you feel like you can trust for your information is them. And if they are your news source they can convince you of anything they want to. And at that point you are following the most biased source of all, the politician.

Boy Scouts, Masculinity, and Feminism: The Hard Truth

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Every time a story about Boy Scouts of America allowing girls to join their organization pops up on one of my newsfeeds I scroll through the comments and am appalled with what I see. The amount of resistance to the idea is horrendous. A private organization has decided to change their policies to try and be more inclusive and the world responds with hate.

Who cares if they decided to allow girls to join? Why does it matter? As someone with both a son and daughter I don’t see why my son should have the opportunity to go camping and learn survival skills while my daughter is told to go sell cookies. And honestly, I don’t understand why my son can’t sell cookies if he wants to.

But it’s not until you understand the basics of masculinity and feminism that you can make sense of either the reason for the change or the opposition to it.

The right wing screams that masculinity is dying or dead, but what they fail to realize is that feminism is doing the same thing. Feminism is evolving into masculinity, and masculinity is evolving into feminism. But this only makes sense if you understand what both feminism and masculinity used to be, so you can understand what they are becoming.

Being masculine used to mean that you drank beer, watched football, and objectified women. It used to mean that you protected and provided for your family. It used to mean that you took care of your family by going to work every day.

Feminism used to mean that you stayed at home and were submissive to your husband. It used to mean that you were meek and quiet. It used to mean that you raised your kids and loved them unconditionally. It used to mean that you took care of your family by staying home every day.

But now that changes.

Masculinity still means that you protect and provide for your family, but now it also means that you raise your kids and love them unconditionally. It means that you take care of your family at both work AND home. It means that you can still drink beer and watch football, but that you respect women, even in the locker room.

Feminism still means that you raise your kids and love them unconditionally, but now it also means that you protect and provide for them as well. It means that you take care of your family at both work AND home. It means that you can drink beer and watch football, and that you respect men, even in the locker room.

You see they’re becoming the same thing, as they should be. And in a world that defines masculinity the same way it describes feminism there is no longer a need for an organization that raises boys to become men in a different manner then it raises girls to become women.

Feel free to let me know what you think in a respectful manner in the comments below!

Addressing the ever rising costs in college education: what can be done?

 

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Photo Credit: Link

There are two resounding questions when it comes to college education costs in the United States.

The first question, with the cost of college tuition ballooning over the last 30 years, is going to college still worth it? The resounding and oversimplified answer is yes. If an individual goes to a public university close to home, they can graduate while spending 40 thousand dollars. That’s without any sort of financial aid, and not accounting for any room and board.

The average difference in salary for a four-year graduate compared to an individual that only has a high school diploma? On average 30 thousand a year.

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Yes, this is over simplified, it doesn’t consider what kind of degree you get, or if you don’t have the option of going to school close to home. But it proves a point, if you go to school for the right degree it’s worth it even if you end up over 100 thousand dollars in debt.  

The second question is more divisive, what, if anything, should the federal government do to address the ever-rising cost of college tuition? This is where I propose a more radical solution. College costs have tripled in the last 30 years, even when accounting for inflation. This is absurd.

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It is also absurd to expect the federal government to foot the bill for a public institution and expect that colleges won’t take advantage of this by raising their rates further. There is a far simpler solution to keep college tuition under control.

Set federally mandated tuition caps for public universities. Set limits on the amount of fees that they can charge their students. Set limits on how much public universities can charge for textbooks in a year. Colleges can do this and still stay in business.

As an example, military students using tuition assistance have their cost per credit hour capped at 250 dollars. Schools know this and want the students to attend their universities anyways, so many of them lower their tuition rates to these students. Why aren’t school willing to do this for all their students? Because they don’t have to, and they want to make as much money off each student as possible.

Schools now have the same mindset as every corporation in the United States, how can we make the most money. When it comes to higher education that shouldn’t be the case. And it doesn’t have to be. It is time for the federal government to step in and regulate these schools, so everyone has the chance to further their education after high school.

Politics and Religion: A quick take

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Photo Credit: Mark Fischer

Politics and government. The two are inexplicably and forever intertwined despite the perceived “separation” of church and state, a phrase that occurs nowhere in the Constitution. For clarification lets quote what the First Amendment does state regarding religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

It’s been that sentence that has been used to take religious monuments out of parks, God out of school, and just about every other rule exorcising religion from every aspect of government life. Yet look at Congress. Religious symbolism is abound. They pray before every session. You see freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

It just means that the government won’t officially endorse any religion, and that you are free to practice whatever religion that you choose. That’s why the phrase “under God” remains in our Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” remains on our currency, and Moses and the Ten Commandments will remain in the Supreme Court.

The military prays at just about every military function. There is a book of faith at the POW table. The phrase “so help me God” is in the oath of enlistment.

Just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that the entire country bends to accommodate them. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it. Pray where you want. Be who you are. Believe what you want to believe. This is America that’s your right. Just don’t try to infringe on anyone else’s right. And don’t freak out anytime you see religion or God at a government building or event, freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

Trump’s Transgender Policy: The Rational Solution

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The White House has passed a new policy “banning” transgenders from serving in the United States military, “except under a few limited circumstances”. Without getting into the controversial and often bigoted debate about whether transgenderism is a “disease” or “mental condition” let’s break down the new policy.

If you take an objective look at it, what it does is prevent individuals from transitioning genders while they are in the military. Which falls under policies currently in place for military members already.

Don’t believe me? Military members are kicked out if they are not deployable for 12 consecutive months. How long does it take to transition? Best case scenario is two years. For those two years they are nondeployable. So, under current policies they should be kicked out.

As far as it being a full “ban” on transgendered individuals, it’s not. When you look at the exceptions made all they do is ensure that individuals can’t transition after they join. Let’s break down the “limited circumstances” that the White House has outlined.

The first exception laid out by the White House policy is that individuals who have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession” may join. In layman’s terms, if an individual fully transitioned 3 years ago they can join the military.

While an argument can be made on whether this is necessary, it is hardly the only thing that can require a mandatory waiting time. For instance, anyone who has gotten LASIK or PRK must wait 12 months before they are eligible to join.

Now 36 months is overkill to ensure that no unexpected health issues arise from the transition process, but so is 12 months for eye surgery. That’s just how the military does things. Should the mandatory waiting time probably be less? Yes, and it might change after the courts get a hold of it.

The second exception is for those individuals that “do not require a change of gender”. Now this reeks of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but once you get over the guttural response to the wording, you can understand why this is a necessary provision. If an individual wants to join the military and is willing to forego the medical process of transitioning they should be able to do so. In an idealistic world this wouldn’t be necessary, but in an idealistic world we wouldn’t need a military.

The final exception is for those transgender individuals that are already in the military. They can stay in. This is the right thing to do. You don’t tell people they can do something, then kick them out for doing it.

So, while media sources go nuts on this new policy, President Trump is right when he says it’s what senior military leaders want. They are tired of having a force that isn’t fully deployable. And transitioning members only add to that number.

Omnibus 2018: An example of Republican Hypocrisy

 

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Photo Credit

 

2,232 pages. The largest funding increase in United States history. Less then 24 hours for Congress to read it before voting. Everything the Republican party has stood against for the last 10 years. It’s hard to imagine voters in 2016 imagined this when they gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. It’s also hard to imagine that this November voters are going to be forgiving.

I am a fiscal conservative. But it seems to me that the Republican party is no longer the fiscally conservative party. After years of President Obama and the Democratic party lowering the national deficit, I had high hopes that the Republican party would come in and finish what Obama started. I was dead wrong.

The deficit is back over a trillion dollars, and the debt is over 21 trillion. President Trump has stated that this will be the last time he signs a bill like this.  I believe him. Why? Because the Republican party is going to lose control of the House, and likely the Senate in November, and Democrats aren’t going to make the same mistakes the GOP just made.

You see if Trump was presented with another massive spending bill he would sign it. But he won’t be presented with one. Democrats won’t give him that chance and come 2020 Trump won’t be sitting in the White House. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying a Republican won’t, but I don’t see any path for another 4 years of Trump.

The number one priority for our country right now isn’t to build up our military, our even to create a path to citizenship for DREAMers, although both are noble goals. The number one priority should be getting our massive debt under control. If not, it will cripple our military, our economy, and our country. Why can’t the Republican party see this?

Is it as simple as Democrats state, and Republicans will say anything to get elected? Or is there something else that I’m missing?

Can Trump just fire DeVos already?

 

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Photo by: Gage Skidmore

It’s beyond time to fire Betsy DeVos. Her latest comments on 60 minutes just highlight what most in tuned individuals have been saying about her since the start, she doesn’t know what the hell she is doing. But don’t take my word for it, lets look at some shining examples of her ineptitude since being nominated.

Shining example number one, she made it harder to prosecute sexual assault on school campuses. In a country where only 31 percent of rapes are reported, and only 0.7 percent result in felony convictions, is it really the time to bring about additional protection for rapists? The guise of protecting those falsely accused falls flat when you consider that of all rape accusations, just under six percent are false.

This just doesn’t make any sense. And what does DeVos have to say when asked if the number of people raped and the number of people falsely accused are the same? “I don’t know”. Well DeVos, all of the United States, myself included does, why don’t you?

Example number two, she thinks grizzly bears are attacking students in Wyoming schools. Well not attacked, but that’s only because all the teachers have guns in Wyoming right? If not, those bears would be chomping at the bit.

Moving on to example number three, she didn’t know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was a federal law. You know the act that requires public schools in all 50 states to provide education to students with disabilities? Not that it’s important for the Secretary of Education to know these things…

One last example of her incompetence, she has never “intentionally” visited an underperforming school… yet she wants to slash their funding. Yes, it’s important to know what the best schools are doing, but unless you know what underperforming schools are doing you have nothing to compare it to. You have no idea what makes the best school the best. So how can you propose legislation and work on changes without knowing what makes the best schools the best?

The good news for the United States, even Donald Trump seems to be distancing himself from DeVos, hopefully a sign that he’s about to tell his Secretary of Education his two most iconic words “you’re fired”.

 

Secure the Border – Without a Wall

WallPresident Donald Trump’s proposed border wall could end up costing taxpayers 70 billion dollars to build and an additional 150 million dollars a year to maintain. While securing the border is a common sense goal, building a wall is an archaic an ineffective way to do it.

The President should be seeking 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Instead of investing 70 billion dollars on a wall it could be invested in personnel, sensors, drones, and other technological equipment to more effectively secure the border.  

Start by simply spreading the initial funds out over 50 years. That’s 1.4 billion dollars a year. Then you can add in the 150 million dollars that it would cost to maintain the wall. That gives you a little over 1.5 billion dollars a year to devote to border security for the next 50 years.

When you look at the fact that border patrol agents make, on average, 77,000 dollars a year, that means with just the funds for the wall you could hire 20,130 more border patrol agents for the next 50 years. Or you could hire 10,000 more border patrol agents and use the rest of the money to invest in technological solutions to securing the border.

Pair this legislation with a bill for DREAMERS so both sides get a political win while solving two issues that this nation is currently facing. This is a plan where both sides win while giving something up.

So, while the GOP feels like they are losing by giving up on the wall, they get much needed funding to secure the border that they wouldn’t be getting otherwise. And in exchange for this border funding Democrats get to present a permanent fix for DREAMERS allowing them to become full fledged citizens.

Trump gets to secure the border and Democrats’ get to help out DREAMERS, what’s not to like?

Trump’s Saccone Comments–Just more Hypocrisy

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If you haven’t heard there is a special election happening in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and while it’s no surprise that President Donald Trump is supporting Republican candidate Rick Saccone over Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, what is surprising is the rhetoric that he is using to do so.

While he lauds Saccone for “loving vets” he simultaneously blasts Lamb as “Lamb the sham”. The irony? Lamb is one of those vets Trump supposedly “loves”. More ironic? The fact that Trump is trying to champion gun rights after proposing the unconstitutional action of raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21. Something his own party and the NRA vehemently disagree with.

Having the president support you should be a boon for your chances win the election. But with how hypocritical and unliked Trump is, it currently does the opposite. Trump is for Republicans what Nancy Pelosi is to Democrats. But Lamb had the common sense to distance himself from Pelosi, while Saccone was foolish enough to cozy up to Trump.

While Trump argues that Lamb will just follow the Democratic party line (although he’s publicly bucked the party line on multiple issues), paradoxically what he wants out of Saccone is for him to follow the Republican party line on every issue. And elected officials that don’t think for themselves and simply follow party lines is exactly what is wrong with Washington.

Now does that mean Lamb beats Saccone? Unlikely considering how conservative the district is. But even having to have the conversation doesn’t bode well for Republicans.