Counter Voices is an augmentation of the website Diversity-Threads.com. The vision and mission is to provide awareness, insights and understanding of the dimensions of Diversity in order to engage in conversations without fear and apprehension. As with the website, the podcast provides language, references, research, stories, and strategies on how to approach with confidence challenging conversations dealing with the connected elements and principles of Diversity, Inclusivity, Equity, Democracy and Citizenship.
The essay by Jorge Prosperi deals with Athletics as a social-cultural-political construct and its connections with History, Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity, Citizenship and Democracy.
Diversity and athletics . . . I can hear the groans as we enter this disquisition. “Oh no, please leave athletics alone – it’s one of the few diversions and distractions in my life that should remain free from all that political correctness, and all those social -isms, phobias. Can we please just leave athletics alone?”
Wish we could – but to do so would be to deny the guiding principles of our website and podcasts – and also deny that athletics is one of our social-cultural constructs that is part and parcel of our cultural identity – with all of its passions and warts.
Let’s agree on the fact that – we do not have to stop loving our athletics in order to continue to evolve in the areas of Diversity, Inclusivity, Equity, Justice, Democracy and our Citizenship. As emotionally intelligent human beings, we can do both. Now, what we prioritize is a different matter.
Whether we know it or not, believe it or not – the wide world of athletics has always been linked to our culture – just like other constructs that all of us live with on a daily basis as human beings.
I fully understand wanting to exist in our own personal caves of entertainment – away from the pathology of all those words that create discomfort upon hearing them – like nails screeching across a chalkboard. We know the words all too well – racism, prejudice, bigotry, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, white supremacy, domestic terrorism, insurrection, political extremism. Each word – each concept has a history and has infected our national identity.
There are reasons why we want our Athletics to be left alone. Athletics is a coveted social-cultural phenomenon in every society. Name the country and there will be fans willing to share their fanaticism. Americans love – simply go gaga over their sports. It’s in our national DNA. But let’s also agree that there is more than one gene in our inherited DNA.
It was on April 29, 1961 – Saturday 5:00 pm that America heard the voice of Jim McKay introduce the Wide World of Sports – the first American sports anthology of its kind on national television. That opening volley should be chiseled on the entrance door to every sports hall of fame – remember?
“Spanning the world to bring you the constant variety of sports . . . the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat . . . the human drama of athletic competition . . .
This is ABCs Wide World of Sports.”
The show provided new lenses to see the depth and breadth of international sports. It affirmed the fact that Americans were ready to compete globally. So for two hours, we traveled around the world to new landscapes outside our borders discovering new sports witnessing incredible feats of athleticism.
Increasingly, because of such programs, our fanaticism grew exponentially. Technology placed us inside locker rooms. We got to know coaches and competitors up close and personal.
We loved taking sides, especially during the Olympics. It was all good and right to be homers, enthusiasts – fanatics. This was one time when divisionism was not only acceptable but strongly encouraged.
For years athletics remained separated from our social-cultural-political realities. Athletics seemed to have their own sacrosanct space. But as with other cultural phenomenons, athletics became part of a wider unforgiving world – that world when existence unexpectanly reveals itself in some stark unprecedented way — shocking mind, heart and spirit.
America in the 1950s and 60s began to lose its innocence incrementally. The U-2 spy plane debacle in 1960 with Russia, the Vietnam war, demonstrations for civil rights and freedoms – the right to vote, fair trial, government services, public education and the use of public facilities. We grieved at the assassinations of John F. Kennedy in 1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in 1968.
Countries were telling us to get our own house in order before preaching from that self-righteous “Shinning City on the Hill.”
Inside and outside the USA we were trying to deal with stark realities that were difficult, if not impossible to deny and justify. We began to ask ourselves if this was who we were and wanted to be. Questions we continue to ask to this day.
We desperately needed an off ramp from somber realities and sports was our panacea. Athletics served as a kind of therapy. Meant to be a diversion – entertainment – our sacred time to simply enjoy a game with some corn chips, a cold Modelo, without any social-cultural-political noise.
We could always rely on the Olympics right? A venerated space where all women and men came together under the flag of 5 sacred olympic rings representing five continents – the Olympics when every four years diversity and inclusivity was realized – matching the best against the best — heralded as “peace through sport.”
But all that came to a sudden stop in 1972 during the anti-semitic Munich Massacre resulting in the death of 11 Israeli athletes. The Wide World of Sports was there to capture the terror with all of its cameras, horrific sounds and visuals. Suddenly, our attention was redirected from “peace through sport” to man’s inhumanity.
Unexpectedly we were wrenched from our cocoon of sports-talk radio, reviews of daily scores and highlights, the pure enjoyment of vetting and betting and thrust into reality. However athletics still remained a kind of sanctuary – we were able to find a retreat as a week-end-warrior or simply as a fan.
I so wish that our malignant -isms and phobias could be ejected from our society, culture and sports. But it has never been thus . . . and we need to remember the reasons why . . .
The year was 1936, Jesse Owens wins 4 Olympic gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. Adolf Hitler watches as Jesse Owens wins the 100meter, 200meter, long jump and 4×100 relay. Hitler with teeth grit in anger witnesses Owens finish first again, again, again, and again. Additionally, Matthew MacKenzie “Mack” Robinson, older brother of Jackie Robinson, medalled in the 200 meter – Ralph Metcalf came in second in the 100 meter. In all, 18 African-Americans won 14 medals — eight of them gold. That was a quarter of the 56 medals won by the entire U.S. team . . . with Adolf Hitler fuming as the world looked on.
The Nazi slogan of “Make Germany Great Again” through the master Aryan white race had been exposed as a hoax to the entire world.
African Americans made a statement in 1936 to a host country that was proclaiming its autocratic extremist Nazi Hitlerism. The African American and Jewish contingency was an embarrassment to Hitler’s claims, as well as those promoting the Eugenics White Supremacy movement in the USA. Eugenics being taught in some American Schools as gospel to middle school and high school students. Eugenics – Race science promoted at the University level by academics. Eugenics – Americas inherited shame of delusional white supremacy. Eugenics – an ideology that Hitler would condone and follow.
Ironically, Jesse Owens, the grandson of a slave, saluted the USA flag as the National Anthem resonated in Berlin and then he returned, with other African Americans, to the segregated Olympic housing – the same that they would experience upon returning to the US.
Owens returned as an international celebrated Olympian. But at a banquet in his honor, he and his wife had to enter the building through the service door. He was prohibited from making appearances at sporting events. He was not allowed to use his status for endorsements and during his life time took on menial jobs as a gas station attendant and playground janitor – at times this Olympian hero raced against amateurs and horses for cash.
Jesse Owens, an international hero, upon his return to America was not invited to the White House nor received congratulations from the president. Why? There was fear that talented African Americans and Jewish athletes would compromise the relationship between Hitler, Washington legislators, US banks and major industrialists who supported Hitler and his ideology.
Fast forward to 1960 to an 18 year old Olympian Gold Medal winner Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali). Upon returning to the USA as a global hero, he receives the keys to the city where he was born, raised and now buried – Louisville Kentucky. But young Cassius discovered that his gold medal did not provide entrance to “white only diners and white only hotels” even in his home town.
Increasingly, athletics of color realized that they were valued for their vertical jump, speed and entertainment. Athletes of color dealt with the reality of going from heroes to tokens within 100 meters or game clock-minutes – creating bandwagons for fans to jump on waiving American flags and chanting “USA – USA – USA.“ Even while being paid well, they heard the silent cold realities behind the cheers – “Stay in your own lane where you belong!”
Fast forward to 1968, the medal ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City – African- American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, win gold and bronze medals respectively in the 200-meter, they turned to face the US flag on the awards platform, as the music begins, they lower their heads and raise their arms with clenched fists to the sky. In addition, Smith, Carlos, and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all wore human-rights badges on their jackets. In his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Smith stated that the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute but rather a “human rights” salute.
That salute is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics and created a racial firestorm of criticism in America. As a matter of fact, that conversation regarding that moment continues to be debated.
Again fast forward and – in a blink of an eye it’s 2016 and yet another athlete brings America to its knees. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49s quarterback, refused to stand for the national anthem as a statement against “social and racial injustices.”
His statement was supported by some and vehemently opposed by others. Even the president politicized and radicalized the event. It was red meat for that segment of old school America that was holding on in desperation to the past – using that archaic slogan “Make America Great Again” – sound familiar?
Like Carlos, Smith and Ali – Kaepernick asked for Americans to reflect on social and racial injustices . . . yes . . . while the anthem played. But the ask was again too great – and we responded by going to our – not so neutral corners. The national divide was there to be seen in HD and surround sound on any given Sunday and on Monday nights.
Again, athletes, on their athletic stages, reminding fans that our founding principles had not been actualized or authenticated. Athletes asking us to lean into the discomfort of America’s inherited prejudices and predispositions about each other – asking us to do some serious soul searching in order to deal with our legacy and our communal citizenship.
Our view of our super heroes seemed to be restricted to – in and out of bounds demarcations. Athletes of color and their families knew the dimensions of the legacy of those social-cultural playing fields. They knew that Michael, LeBron, or any of the Fab Five, could be profiled just for walking or driving in spaces regarded exclusively for privileged patrons. Even today, mothers and fathers of color feel the need to have “The Talk” with their children warning them that for some fans, their lives don’t matter.
Athletics, just like our society and culture, has always had a dark side. Through the years we heard the breaking news regarding the use of steroids, enhancement drugs, blood doping, accusations of domestic violence, sex abuse by coaches, trainers and doctors, victimizers and their accomplices enabling – turning a blind eye to victimization, hazing, recruiting violations, betting scandals, use and abuse of athletes by “plantation schools”, game-fixing, corrupt racist franchise owners, college admission violations, questionable academic grading, truncated graduation requirements, unethical coaches willing to win at all cost and recently the suppressed research on Chronic traumatic encephalopathy – otherwise known as CTE.
Athletics also has a long history with sexism and discrimination against women. In 1994, some 22 years after title 9 – Mariah Burton Nelson wrote a book titled: “The Stronger Women Get – the More Men Love Football.” The book served as an introduction to what Robert Lipsyte, a New York Times sports columnist described as “a book on the collision of sports, sexuality and gender relationships. – A book that takes us to the hoop.”
Athletic fanaticism tends to blind us. We reimage athletes and coaches as god- like super heroes and worship them – even when we discover that they are flawed human beings unworthy of our trust. The same that citizens do with corrupt, pathological liars, charlatans and wannabe patriots.
We witness institutions lawyering up to defend the indefensible – college athletic directors and alums looking the other way justifying the unjustifiable. It seems that our sense of justice and fairness as fans and citizens is clouded when it comes to our alma mater or political party.
It’s impossible to think of America without thinking of the mania for athletics. It is not only entertainment but big business beyond our awareness.
Imagine Las Vegas without its sport books, imagine sports without fantasy leagues, betting on the thousands of games played weekly, the playoffs – Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup. Imagine without the Summer and Winter Olympics, Wimbledon, the elusive Triple Crown, World Cups, Tiger Woods wearing yet another green jacket, College Bowl games and March Madness. It is a massive, colossal conglomerate and juggernaut.
Athletics is a monster business. From the millions of tailgaters toasting their favorite gladiators wearing their names and numbers – to bars with massive flat screens showing several contests simultaneously over burgers and brews.
There are reasons why corporations will pay in 2023 — 7 million dollars, a new high, for 30 second units during the super bowl. So as to the significance of sports – “tell me what you are willing to spend your money on and I’ll tell you what is important to you.”
But, it’s time that we as fans see ourselves foremost as human beings who happen to also be citizens. Our citizenship is not seasonal – it does not deal with quarters, innings, halves or time-outs. There is only one team – one uniform and we wear it every day as citizens.
Our democracy will endure only if we as citizens make time to focus on, what Richard Haass writes in his book the “Bill of Obligations – 10 Habits of Good Citizens.” That is, our responsibilities and obligations to – Be informed, Get Involved, Stay Open to Compromise, Remain Civil, Reject Violence, Value Norms, Promote the Common Good, Respect Government Service, and put Country First.
These obligations seem to be familiar and simple to follow – and yet – so damn hard to live by. Were those obligations ever presented to us during those 12 years of formal education? But, I digress . . . or do I?
But we live in a Democracy that provides choices and change and so – together – we can step into that national field of play heralding . . . That all men and women are Created Equal – with inalienable rights as human beings — and at the same time, not deny but acknowledge the legacy of the paradox of equal but separate. A paradox that requires daily attention in order to make our founding principles just and true.
Let me be clear – there is no denying that there have been significant improvements in Athletics. The same is true for our country regarding social justice – we have made significant, remarkable enhancements – but we continue to struggle with antiquated capricious pathological -isms and phobias connected to our past. We have a hard time letting go of those ingrained preconceptions and attitudes about each other.
As Americans, aren’t we just damn tired of holding on to delusional predispositions about others? Aren’t we just damn tired of that old playbook of fear mongering, hate, bitterness, divisionism causing needless anxiety and stress?
It’s insanity to live professing grievances rather than solving problems together. It’s insanity to live with chaos as a society by choice. We are better than this – we must be.
So . . . is there hope? Yes! You can bet on it. The lenses by which to view the world of Athletics and diversity have changed dramatically – we now have instant replay in the majority of sports so that we can overturn what we used to put up with — and live with.
Fans were frustrated witnessing glaring injustices that could have been avoided. Fans demanded transparency and fairness. Yes, it took time and technology – but we are better for it.
We also have instant replay on cultural, social and political playing fields. We rely on our declaration of independence, constitution, bill of rights, our revered right to vote, the peaceful transfer of leadership, rule of law, and investigative journalism in order to probe and expose untruths, debunk misinformation, unmask and hold accountable fraudulent extremist actors. These are the tenets and principles of our democracy.
We have become more astute and demanding as fans and citizens wanting credibility and verifiable truth. There is hope as more Americans want to understand the complex layers and intricate connections between history, diversity, equity and inclusivity rather than deny the past and its connections to the present.
Yes – there is hope. Imagine one day arenas and stadiums with standing room only – fans as citizens standing as one before each contest – before the national anthem begins – taking just 30 seconds – in silence – just 30 seconds to look around and see each other – really see each other – our diversity – calling for inclusivity as the anthem begins to resonate validating and affirming its meaning.
Imagine fans, citizens fanatically believing that the future will be what we make of it – imagine a day to no longer consider reasons for lifting a clenched fist to the sky or for taking a knee.
“To the children yet unborn with the hope that we leave them a better world in which to grow.”Yael Danieli – from her book, International Handbook of Multigenerational Trauma, 1998
It takes generations to undo the imprinting of an autocratic-despotic ideology. This is because the ideology becomes more than an opinion but rather an embedded belief that imprints the mind, heart and spirit of generations of adults, and lamentably, the children.
No citizen wants to wake up realizing they were lied to and used. No citizen wants to believe that their leaders were corrupt. No citizen wants to admit that the ideology they believed in – mind and heart – was fraudulent to the core.
This is the legacy and ashes that Republican Trumpism will leave behind.
For many followers of Republican Trumpism, it will become impossible to come to terms that they were used and abused as commodities by one man and a party.
This is why we continue to hear the desperate screams from Republican Trumpism leaders, allies and supporters that deny the undeniable and defend the indefensible.
Nevertheless, this is the deafening reality that awaits the allies, enablers and supporters of Republican Trumpism . . . and their children.
* The extended treatise of this post is on the following link:
The Victims of the Victimizers: The Invisible Legacy of Multigenerational Trauma
It seems that we, as Americans, have developed a template to follow each time we hear about an act of Domestic Terrorism. It has become a metanarrative – our overarching story to the world and our children. It has become our national brand.
Click here to read the essay
For far too . . . too . . . too long . . . People of Color have been trying to educate WHITE PEOPLE on the legacy, complexities and intersectionalities regarding the ideology of racism. Such efforts often falling on deaf ears and teflon hearts because the academicians, educators, facilitators, activists happen to be African Americans, Latinas/os, Asian, Native American, immigrant or non-Christian. It’s been historically an ironic and exhausting weight to bear – that is – trying to define, explain, clarify, educate and reach out to WHITE PEOPLE for awareness and reflection on our communal humanity.
Such efforts often defined by WHITE FOLK as one of those “others-them” trying to blame, bash and shame WHITE PEOPLE. Racism (overt, covert, adverse by the well intended) simply white washed – not needing prioritization – not connected to delusions of entitlement, privilege, power and control . . . or even citizenship.
We know that the soci0-cultural pathology of fear and hate does not stop with race, but comes from the same cesspool of sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.
I have always posited that America will not turn the corner on racism until WHITE PEOPLE begin to openly and courageously take a civil literate stand against WHITE PEOPLE who radicalize and normalize the rhetoric of hate, -isms, phobias and division.
Senator Mallory McMorrow (Michigan 13th District) is one of those WHITE PEOPLE who courageously and eloquently rebuked, not only her WHITE colleague, but all WHITE PEOPLE who follow the Republican Trumpism ideology of fear and hate.
The tone and impact of the message is critically different when the rebuke is WHITE on WHITE. America has been waiting . . . and now turning the corner . . .
Say YES! to a Democracy that thirsts and hungers for local and national politicians and citizens with backbones dedicated to being agents of change that prioritize and enhance the quality of life for all Americans – without exceptions – and who will protect the earth with courage, reverence and respect. Say YES! with each vote in the 21st Century . . .
YES! to moral leadership . . .
YES! to elect Americans who have demonstrated honesty – trustworthiness – credibility, seek consensus-collaboration, willing to make selfless tough choices for the greater good . . .
YES! to critical thinking and pedagogy . . .
YES! to science and validated knowledge bases . . .
YES! to pursuing the truth in all things and ways . . .
YES! to a free press . . .
YES! to family members, community, workplaces, schools, religious sects being proactive against white supremacy, domestic terrorism, hate crimes, racism, sexism and xenophobia . . .
YES! to a national socio-cultural curriculum promoting social justice, equity and inclusivity . . .
YES! to researching and teaching the truth about America’s history without fear, revisions, excuses and denials . . .
YES! to the rule of law without exceptions
YES! to a Capitalism that views all citizens ethically and fairly as stakeholders for human progress, opportunities of worth and common interests . . .
YES! to appealing to the young to change America’s future for the better . . .
YES! to voting with a ‘conscious conscience’ . . . empathy . . . compassion for all who remain voiceless and invisible
YES! to America’s Democracy that thirsts and hungers for mindfulness, wellness, soundness and sanity . . .
Out Town is a poignant three-act play by American playwright Thorton Wilder. It was written in 1938 about American citizens living in Grover’s Corners (a fictional town in New Hampshire near Massachusetts) between 1901-1913.
While the town is imagined, the play often reminds me of America today. That is, what we as Americans tend to identify as “normal folks” going about our “normal business”, slightly invested in each other by way of generalities, heresay, innuendos, rumors and accusations about the lives of others. At the end of Act One, Wilder* brings home – to our very doorsteps, the limitations of viewing the world through a peephole.
End of Act One: Rebecca: I never told you about the letter Jane Crofut got from her minister when she was sick. He wrote Jane a letter and on the envelope that address was like this: Jane Crofut; The Crofut Farm; Grover’s Corners; Sutton County: New Hampshire; United Stated of America. George: What’s funny about that? Rebecca: But listen, it’s not finished: the United States of America, Continent of North America: Western Hemisphere: the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe: the Mind of God - that’s what it said on the envelope. George: What do you know? Rebecca: And the postman brought it just the same. George: What do you know! Stage Manager: That’s the end of the First Act, friends. You can go and smoke now, those that smoke. * Author: Thorton Wilder Our Town - Play in Three Acts - 1938 & 1965 HarperCollins Publishers
Open-mindedness, benevolent attitudes and inclusivity are not guaranteed to be taught, mentored and learned as members of a family, school, native region, religious sect or as member of a profession. In 1938 or 2022, knowledge, transparency and veracity are lethal to racism, sexism, xenophobia and narrow-mindedness.
This is why it is wise to often examine how we were raised, schooled and influenced throughout our crucial developmental years when the formation of thinking, language, attitudes, values and predispositions were imprinted regarding identity, difference and otherness. To occupy an unexamined space and time by choice with absolute notions of righteousness, in one small corner of the earth, is to not live but merely exist and perish without significance.
It’s at the very end of the play that the Stage Manager is asked by the ghost of 12 year old Emily if anyone truly understands the value of life while they live it, he responds, “No. The saints and poets, maybe – they do some.”
Emily returns to her grave next to Mrs. Gibbs and watches impassively as George kneels weeping over her. The Stage Manager concludes the play and wishes the audience a good night. And so each of us return to our towns . . . major lenses of how we view each other and the world we walk upon.
Our towns . . . molding and framing our humanity.
It is excruciatingly painful to realize that despotic “Strong Men” around the world and their enablers continue to live in the 20th century.
Two major examples are the insurrection attempt by Republican Trumpism on Washington DC and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Both are major attempts by draconian “Strong Men” meant to destroy Democracy by brutal force. The Washington insurgency is America’s wake-up call that Autocracy and Totalitarianism are not just words defined in the past tense.
With the invasion of Ukraine, the world is now soberly awake to the fact that narcissistic “Strong Men” living in the 20th century, continue to capriciously and tyrannically open Pandora’s Box of evilness for absolute control of political power, delusions of grandeur and financial aggrandizement.
Both attacks were grave miscalculations causing “needless suffering” – a trademark of fascism – always leaving ashes behind. This has been history’s lesson all along – unfortunately not learned, heeded nor respected.
Yet again . . . this is why EACH VOTE MATTERS beyond low gas prices, inflation, tax breaks, Wall Street and easy access to purchase AR-15 rifles with a 60 round magazines.
We must be better than living a self-serving existence where “You’re not the boss of me!” and “Don’t tread on me!” negates civility, decency, rights of others, tolerance and compassion.
EACH VOTE MATTERS – be it for school board member, police chief, attorney general, mayor . . . each local, state and federal position and agency matters . . . because the quality of life of all children matters . . . the rule of law matters . . . social justice matters . . . awareness and respect for the human condition matters . . . citizenship beyond self matters . . . truth and credibility matter . . . the principles of Democracy matter.
Regardless of contrived political obstructions . . . crawl through barbed wire if need be . . . but VOTE . . . in the 21st century.
“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone—any person or any force—dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. […] Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself.”
by Gloria Lopata-Prosperi
On this annual day of commemoration, I join many families that will pause to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism. With each life lost, daughters, sons and grandchildren are left to bear the grief and the multigenerational and intergenerational trauma. My dad’s family were victims of Nazism in Poland, but fortunately he was spared the horror. As a young man, he fled to America which became his second home that provided life from the ashes. It is with honor and lasting love that I remember him.