(Photo: Amanda Teuscher) Attendees to the Movement for Black Lives Convening that took place in Cleveland July 24-26 gather for a group photo on the final day of the conference. An estimated 1,200 organizers and activists participated in the meeting. I t would be tempting to say the timing was surreal, if it didn’t happen so often. Less than an hour after the close of last weekend’s conference of Black Lives Matter activists, attendees were pepper-sprayed by a Cleveland transit police officer while they were protesting the arrest of a 14-year-old boy. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) Convening at Cleveland State University brought together more than 1,000 activists and organizers from across the U.S., and even from other countries. Nearly one year after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, the goal of the convening was to provide a space for the activists to mourn the loss of those killed by police, to show support for one another, to demonstrate pride in their community , and...
Today, hundreds of organizers, activists, and people involved in the Black Lives Matter movement arrived in Cleveland for the first national Movement for Black Lives convening.
The timing is striking: two weeks after Sandra Bland was stopped by an authority-abusing Texas state trooper and was later found dead in her jail cell, and one week after Black Lives Matter protesters disrupted a presidential town hall at Netroots Nation. These events have forced top Democratic candidates to rethink how they approach the movement for racial justice. In the case of Martin O’Malley, whose dismissive comments on Black Lives Matter at Netroots ignited a fierce response from progressives, this has meant apologizing for his ill-chosen response to the protesters. In the case of Bernie Sanders, it meant reaching out to activists for damage-repairing meetings and issuing a strong statement in Houston against police killings of black people. And, in the case of Hillary Clinton who avoided the protest by not attending Netroots, it meant issuing a strong statement in support of the movement on Facebook.
The fallout from the Netroots presidential candidates’ forum has even reached the Republican Party candidates, with Jeb Bush defending O’Malley, saying the Democrat should not have had to apologize for his comment that “all lives matter.” “We're so uptight and so politically correct now that you apologize for saying lives matter?” he said in New Hampshire.
What Bush doesn’t acknowledge, though, is that the statement “Black Lives Matter” has many layers of meaning. It is not simply a banal statement about respecting life, but rather a response to a systematic dehumanization experienced by people of color in countless, ongoing ways. It is a response to a situation that so many of Bush’s followers, and even white progressives, do not have to live with on a daily basis.
But despite BLM’s piercing challenge to the logic of marginalization, and despite the fact the movement’s actions are often organized around and centered around traumatic events, the convening that begins today is a way for the activists to look forward. It includes healing workshops and strategizing sessions, with the goal of confronting the challenges of their work and developing a plan for their mission. The mood in the registration hall this morning was one of shared excitement and camaraderie, with groups of attendees shouting chants and hugging new arrivals.
“[The movement] is organic and spontaneous, and it’s arisen out of conditions on the ground,” Nellie Bailey of New York City says of the Black Lives Matter movement. “I’m cautiously optimistic about whatever draws people together—because of the potential.”
(Left photo: Penn State; Right photo: Gage Skidmore)
Great news for those on the right with victim complexes and deep-seated fears of non-white immigrants: Donald Trump is currently polling in first place among GOP presidential contenders.
It’s proof that even with lethal doses of self-delusion, you can still count on the support of thousands to embrace your racist, nativist beliefs as brave truths, or at the very least, inelegantly phrased facts. And when the P.C. police and liberal media descend, they’ll rally to your defense.
In fact, it’s been a great week for perceived victimhood. Bill Cosby can admit to obtaining quaaludes to give to women, news outlets will report that the drugs were“to have sex” (when, in fact, many would argue that the point of the drugs was to not have consensual sex), and still, famous friends like Whoopi Goldberg will stand courageously by your side—innocent until proven guilty, after all.
Here are some quotes that acknowledge these men as being true victims—can you tell whether it is Trump or Cosby who is being defended?
1. “I admire him for at least being honest. … I think for him to own it and to tell the truth at this point is very courageous.”
2. “It looks like they're trying to destroy [him]. What did [he] ever do to tick off some producer at CNN? Or some reporter? Or some assignment? What happened here? … Basically, he started demanding that people start accepting responsibility.”
3. “I really think he is magnificent. I’m almost stunned at how good he’s being especially considering the world he lives in.”
4, “He’s being punished very severely in the press, he’s lost a lot of income, he may lose it all going forward.”
5. “I appreciate [his] scrappiness. … When he is attacked by other people, he counterattacks and plunges forward and delivers more facts to support the statement that he’s made.”
6. “The amount of abuse that [he] has taken, the efforts that have been made to destroy him … it has been serious. It has been an onslaught and he has not buckled. And I'm telling you, whatever you think of [him] and all of this, try to keep that in perspective. Most people would have buckled long ago. Most people would have cried uncle and begged forgiveness … I have an incredible amount of admiration and respect for just this aspect of what [he] has done. Look at what it has cost [him]. Look at the abuse that he has taken and had to take.”
7. “[He] is worth $400 million, and yes, it’s pertinent. That’s four hundred million incentives right there.”
8. “For all its crassness, [his] rant on immigration is closer to reality than the gauzy clichés of the immigration romantics unwilling to acknowledge that there might be an issue welcoming large numbers of high school dropouts into a 21st-century economy.” (OK, this one is easy, but can you guess who said it?)
9. “I’m slightly anti-anti-[X] because I’m so sick of all the establishment types being so earnest in disdaining him.”
1. “I’ve been down to the border and checked across these places, and the number I come back with 75 percent [of children] are sexually abused on the way to the United States. So I’d say in Donald Trump’s defense, somebody’s doing that to these kids that are being raped and abused and when they’re coming across Mexico it’s a reasonable assumption to conclude that the people who are doing that are Mexicans.”
2. “You want to talk about rape? That’s media rape, right there. You said you would not do that. Since when does your ‘no’ mean ‘yes’? Do you know the definition of ‘no,’ sir? You’ve just raped Bill Cosby. You said you wouldn’t do it. You just did it and then you blamed it on him. My gosh, maybe we should have a lesson on rape.”
On Sunday night—surely you know by now—the United States Women’s National Team won the World Cup with a high-scoring 5–2 victory over Japan.
What has gotten just as much attention as the match itself—and rightfully so—is the pay disparity between men and women’s sports. The U.S. Women’s Team took home $2 million for their third World Cup victory. Last year, the German team won the Men’s World Cup and took home $35 million, while the U.S. men took home $8 million after being eliminated in the first round of the tournament. The total payout for women in 2015 was $15 million. For the men in 2014, it was $576 million.
Obviously, FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, has ethics in inverse proportion to its hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue—just imagine the NFL operating in multiple countries, with Bond villains at the helm. And FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who last month announced his resignation following corruption investigations, once suggested female players should wear “tighter shorts” to increase popularity (and incorrectly said that women play with a lighter ball). In 2014, a group of international players sued FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association for gender discrimination after it was announced that the 2015 tournament would be played on artificial turf instead of real grass. Any moves toward making international soccer more equitable will clearly not be coming from inside FIFA.
But that of course does not mean criticism of FIFA should cease; nor does it mean we should ignore the very real inequality in U.S. sports. The National Women’s Soccer League’s minimum salary is $6,000, with salary caps for entire teams at only $200,000. In contrast, the MLS minimum is now $60,000. Writing in The Atlantic last month, Maggie Mertens made a compelling argument that support for women’s soccer, or lack thereof, is a feminist issue.
Sports command enormous cultural and capitalist importance, and when players are compensated one-tenth as much as others for the exact same work simply because of their gender, we cannot pretend sports are frivolous, or that they are anything less than a deeply unequal workplace. And if it weren’t for feminist achievements like Title IX, it is doubtful that the Americans would be as dominant on the world stage.
But lack of interest in women’s sports is still the reason given for lack of pay equity—and for lack of coverage. And what follows this excuse is a shrug of shoulders at what appears to be circular problem: If fans were more interested in women’s sports, there would be more coverage; if there were more coverage, fans would be more interested. But I don’t buy it.
Sure, the bars were less crowded in D.C. than they were last summer for the men’s World Cup. But I was heartened by the sight of so many men in U.S. jerseys at watch parties, and of male friends leaping from chairs to throw arms up after a goal. More than 25 million viewers tuned in on Sunday night—more than any soccer match (men or women) in U.S. history, and more than the recent NBA Finals. As Dave Zirin points out in The Nation, people are watching women’s sports (when they can), and enjoying it. It is the broadcasters clinging to the sexist idea that no one does—or should—care about female athletes that has, as one 25-year study found, kept attention to women’s sports averaging around just 5 percent of total coverage. Just as it is the fault of FIFA and women’s leagues all over the world that don’t pay their players fairly, it is also the fault of sports journalists and publications that choose to ignore those athletes, or, as that same study notes, offer coverage with a distinct lack of excitement. Not everything has to have the same intensity as Andrés Cantor’s “Gol!” calls, but just imagine if women's sports got half the production value of the NBA draft.
Of course, there is one point that I haven’t yet addressed, and that is that the style of play is very different between men and women’s soccer. On this, I will concede.