One Small Voice

I would like to add my small voice to the din surrounding the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman. As a resident of Minnesota I am especially embarrassed by the actions of one of those pledged to serve and protect in what I regard as our best and largest city. It is beyond reckoning. But it happened. And it happens.

As one who was raised in Baltimore, Maryland throughout my adolescent years, I saw some of the blatant racism that pervades the South. Now for those who don’t regard Maryland as a Southern state because it remained neutral during the Civil War, I would simply point out that the state is below the Mason-Dixon line and is in some ways fiercely Southern. Perhaps it’s precisely because it did remain neutral during the Civil War. Now many in that state seem to be out to prove that they, too, are Southern rednecks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not mean to tar all Southerners with the same brush.(And I certainly don’t mean to imply that racism is peculiar to the South. The recent events in Minneapolis prove otherwise.)  Many Southeners are fine people who are just as upset by the murder of Floyd as am I. But there are those in the South who wear their bigotry proudly on their sleeves — as there are Northerners as well.

I was a student in high school in Baltimore in 1954 when the Supreme Court decided that schools should not be segregated and recall vividly making my way through angry crowds at the end of the school day in order to get the bus back home.

In addition, one of my black classmates in college attended a Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland during her first year in college. At the end of the service the priest took her aside and told her that there was another Catholic church on the other side of town “for you folks.” I was astonished and deeply embarrassed on her behalf, but not altogether surprised. I had worked throughout my high school years in a grocery store in Baltimore with two black delivery men who often told me of their anger and pain and I listened in stunned silence. What does one say? I recall one day when one of them looked at me and said “I can take most of the hatred, but when I take my family out for a drive on a Sunday it pains me to see the signs that read ‘No Colored.’ What do I tell my kids?” I had never even noticed the signs before he mentioned it. As I said, Maryland could be as fiercely Southern as Mississippi.

The George Floyd murder has the world in a buzz and one only hopes it isn’t the usual outrage that follows such an event and goes nowhere — like the outrage that followed the shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. We can explain the carnage as an expression of bottled up rage and frustration that has followed this event, but surely we cannot justify it — just as we can explain Hitler’s hatred of the Jews while we can never justify it. Let’s hope the outrage in this case that has expressed itself in the trashing of private property results in positive steps taken to make sure that this sort of thing never happens again. The problem with the carnage, of course, is that many will focus on that and forget what it stems from.

However, it does seem as though the graphic pictures of the policeman with his knee on the throat of the black man handcuffed and pinned to the ground by two other policemen takes the fact of racism in this country to another level: that it makes us realize that the determination of football players such as Colin Kaepernick to protest a few years ago were not out of order, but  a timely reminder that there is hatred and bigotry in this country and that the black population have been the brunt of much of it for many, many years.

What is one to do? That is the burning question of the day and it is heartening to see people around the country talking about steps that can be taken to thwart these sorts of events and help make the world safer for the black population in this country. Black Lives Do Matter. Indeed. What is especially heartening is to see the growing numbers of white folks who are joining with their black brothers and sisters to help see that at least some of the deep-seated racism in the country is brought into the air and dissipated. One can only hope.

Huh?

Rumor has it that as part of the shake-up of football conferences in this country Boise State University in Idaho will leave the Mountain West Conference to join the Big East Conference. That’s right, the Big East. It may not happen because the Mountain West Conference recently worked a deal with CBS to sweeten the pot to make staying in the conference worthwhile for those teams thinking about departing. But the very idea of Boise State joining the Big East Conference makes about as much sense as big-time football does in American Universities — which is to say no sense at all.

Assuming the university will have to charter a plane — or two — to carry the entire football team, the coaches, the band, and the cheerleaders, the cost in dollars alone raises the question: what are these people thinking? The financial rewards of making the change must be considerable, since the motivation that is driving universities around the country to leave the conferences they are in to join others is clearly money. And to paraphrase Lord Acton: money corrupts and lots of money corrupts a lot.

The University of Maryland has been chastised recently for choosing to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference to join the Big Ten, which will consist of fourteen schools soon. (That makes sense, no?) Maryland will pay millions of dollars in penalties for leaving their current conference at a time when they are crying poor and cutting “non-revenue” sports, but the rewards from joining the Big Ten which has its own television network are considerable. In addition, the Big Ten frequently sends as many as six or seven teams to bowl games every year which bring in the big bucks, and those bucks are shared among the member universities. So it is all about money.

But, assuming it ever happens, the cost of a school like Boise State flying to the East Coast and back six or seven times a year to play football cannot be reduced to dollars and cents: it’s about the cost to the environment as well. On average, jet planes burn 45-50 gallons of jet fuel per minute while in flight — and we won’t talk about take-off, landing, and time on the runway. The flying time from Boise, Idaho to, say, Boston is just over 4 hours, which means one plane would burn up about 12,000 gallons of fuel in flight (one way). As a referenced article in Wikipedia tells us: “The contribution of civil aircraft-in-flight to global CO2 emissions has been estimated at around 2% However, in the case of high-altitude airliners which frequently fly near or in the stratosphere, non-CO2 altitude-sensitive effects may increase the total impact on anthropogenic (human-made) climate change significantly.”   In a word, those flights will cost us all in the end.

One would think that this should be a consideration in the minds of university officials whose main job is presumably to educate young minds. But, of course, that isn’t their job. It’s all about money. Not climate change, Not education. Money. Athletics at the NCAA Division I level is Big Business.

I have vented before a number of times in my blogs and even written an essay or two about the “tail that wags the dog” — to wit, Division I athletics. The tail has grown longer. It is no longer possible to pretend that athletics at that level has anything whatever to do with education — or even about setting a good example. I confess I do love to watch college football just as I like to watch anyone do anything they happen to be good at. But I am not foolish enough to think that Division I football has anything to do with education about which I care deeply. So my suggestion has been to pay the athletes money to play football and let the ones who want to get an education do so. They can pay for it just as the other students do. The football teams at Division I schools would be, in effect, semi-professional sports teams wearing school colors. It would be more honest and we wouldn’t have to pretend that things are not what they are.

But it wouldn’t keep greedy idiots from planning to join a conference 3000 miles away in order to make more money. That problem may be insoluble.