Kareem Reacts to the News: DeSantis and Carlson Defraud the Public Trust, NBA's Kyrie Irving Is Getting Worse, NFL Huddles Up for Racism, Springsteen's Got Soul, and More
My thoughts on the top--and not so top--stories in this week's political, sports, and pop culture news.
I’m particularly passionate about this week’s selections of news articles. Although I do talk a lot about racial equality, my main focus in the past years has been education. My Skyhook Foundation was created to help inner-city kids go into the woods for a week to experience STEM education in the wild. So, when I see a deliberate effort to dumb down American children, I get riled up. One of the greatest dangers the country faces is the assault on education by conservatives who want kids to think like them, not for themselves.
Plus, Kyrie Irving goes nuts—again. The NFL is racist—again. And Bruce Springsteen is cool—again.
Education: When People in Power Deliberately Misinform the Public
Ron DeSantis and Tucker Carlson Don’t Know Much About History— Or Ethics
This news item is a bit different than my usual ones in which I summarize an article and then give My Take. In this case, I’m presenting two articles that make the same point: those who argue most to restrict education are the worst offenders when it comes to historical accuracy. Changing history is traditionally how dictators grab power.
This is not a “gotchya” story, but a rumination on just how fragile the future of our country is when those in control of educating our children prefer them to be ill-educated in order manipulate them politically and socially. DeSantis and Carlson have much to gain financially and politically from dumbing down our children. But the country has much more to lose.
Summary: Recently, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis stated, the “American revolution that caused people to question slavery.” He then added: “Nobody had questioned it before we decided as Americans that we are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights and that we are all created equal. Then that birthed abolition movements.” Four historians interviewed by Newsweek declared DeSantis’ statements to be historically inaccurate.
[KAJ: The most telling part of DeSantis’ statement is that he doesn’t include slaves as “we” or “Americans.” I’m pretty sure they questioned slavery.]
Facts: Johns Hopkins University Professor Sarah Pearsall disputed his statement: “The claim by DeSantis is completely incorrect. Plenty of people had questioned slavery before the American Revolution. Of course enslaved people had resisted the system since its inception, but there were also tracts by colonists, such as Samuel Sewell's The Selling of Joseph, published in Boston in 1700, which argued that the institution was unacceptable.
“Early abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic included Quakers; their efforts in some cases predated the outbreak of the American Revolution. Since DeSantis also states of history that 'It's gotta be accurate,' he might want to practice what he preaches.”
[KAJ: Four historians say he’s wrong and this is the guy telling teachers what they can teach. Worse, he hasn’t apologized or set the record straight. That’s not how Florida education works. If they teach something inaccurate, it stays that way.]
Summary: Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Fox commentator Tucker Carlson stated that the British rule of India was mostly “benign.” Among his many statements praising Britain’s colonialism: "When the British pulled out of India, they left behind an entire civilization, a language, a legal system, schools, churches and public buildings, all of which are still in use today. Here's the train station the English built in Bombay, for example... After 75 years of independence, has that country produced a single building as beautiful as the Bombay train station that the British colonialists built? No, sadly, it has not. Not one.” The article proceeds to present a series of facts that dispute Carlson’s claims.
[KAJ: Quick word about Carlson’s claim that India couldn’t produce any buildings as lovely as the train depot. Uh, Taj Mahal seems pretty awesome. Even though it doesn’t have tracks.]
Facts: Reacting to his claim of “benign” rule, the article states: “British policies under the premiership of Winston Churchill were a significant factor contributing to the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed up to three million people, revealed studies.
“The British were also responsible for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, in which men, women and children were slaughtered under the supervision of General Dyer.”
[KAJ: Another quick word: Carlson seems okay with British ruling over an unwilling population (as long as the trains run on time). Guess we know which side he’d have been on during the American Revolution. Also, he makes the classic logic error of using Western standards to judge an Eastern culture and finding they fall short because their culture doesn’t mimic ours. It is the same argument the White patriarchy has made for centuries about other cultures, religions, and even women (“Women aren’t funny.” “Women can’t be philosophers.”)]
My Take: DeSantis’ comments were given as he bragged about his relentless efforts to restrict historically accurate information to schools. Sure, let’s instead teach the misinformation that DeSantis just spewed so our kids can be dumber. DeSantis went to Yale and Harvard, which makes us wonder whether he was just a really bad student, or he’s openly lying to his constituents because he holds them in such contempt that he thinks they’ll believe whatever he says.
Unfortunately, there’s some evidence to support his belief that Floridians won’t hold him accountable for anything. Here’s an excerpt from historian Heather Cox Richardson’s Substack newsletter: “As a newly elected congress member in 2013, now-governor of Florida Ron DeSantis was one of the 67 House Republicans who voted against a $9.7 billion federal flood insurance assistance package for the victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey. Now, with Florida on the ropes [due to Hurricane Ian], DeSantis asked President Joe Biden for an emergency declaration to free up federal money and federal help even before the storm hit, and said Tuesday, ‘We all need to work together, regardless of party lines.’”
DeSantis is against the federal government helping others—unless he needs them. Remember that when he runs for president.
As for Carlson, we all know by now that he’ll say anything outrageous to try to be relevant. Buying anything from any of his show’s sponsors only enables his grift.
The purpose of education is twofold: to prepare for a profession and to learn how to shed ourselves of our biases so that we may think clearly and make logical choices rather than emotional choices based on our prejudices. This second one is meant to cleanse us of the pressures of family, society, government, peers, and friends so that we may be reborn pure and whole, ready to make choices based on values that we have chosen rather than those thrust upon us when we were too young to think for ourselves. That doesn’t mean we reject the values of family or society, just that we can choose them—or not—freely on our own. Education untethers us from the heavy baggage of tradition for its own sake and makes us less able to be manipulated by politicians. This is the kind of educated citizen this country wants and needs to thrive.
Unfortunately, the kind of education being promoted by many Republicans is based on the armadillo. When ideas that threaten the status quo are presented—no matter how true, factual, or logical—they curl up into a protective ball that can’t be penetrated by facts or logic. They want to churn out factory-fresh children who think just like them, which they do by restricting education to teach—not how to think logically—but just embrace the conservative dogma and curl up into a ball whenever that dogma is challenged.
It’s basically child abuse, because the end game isn’t to benefit the child but to benefit the adults by making mini-me’s. DeSantis and his ilk are groomers. This doesn’t hamper kids from growing up to be successful in their chosen professions or being loving parents, devoted friends, or keeping their lawns neatly mowed. It just keeps them from ever reaching their full potential as individuals. Their political and social IQ has been stunted because their brains have been bound the way they used to bind the feet of Chinese women to make them more traditionally feminine.
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Sports: Too Big to Fail, Too Dim to Speak
Summary: Kyrie Jones posted on Instagram a 2002 video clip of Alex Jones expressing a conspiracy theory regarding a “New Word Order” out to profit on our misery.
My Take: There is some irony in this news item coming right after the previous one about the miseducation of American youth. Because Kyrie Irving’s thought process is an example of what happens when the education system fails.
Last October, I wrote a piece about Kyrie Irving’s refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 (“Should We Just ‘Leave Kyrie Alone?”) and why this reckless choice was destructive to the country and especially the Black community where he would be an influential role model. The facts proved that accusation to be true. Irving didn’t care. He continued to promote his anti-vax sentiments—regardless of the cost in lives and health to others—proclaiming himself a “martyr.” Not kidding.
We might have just left him alone to stew in his own gelatinous ignorance. Rich and famous people get away with saying dumb things all the time because their money isolates them from consequences. They surround themselves with Yes-people whose job is to confirm whatever hare-brained ideas they have. Yes, sir, Mr. Irving, the Earth has never been flatter.
But now Irving is back and more destructive, insensitive, and just plain silly than before. He decided it would be a good idea to post a 2002 video clip from Infowars founder Alex Jones. Yeah, the guy who has been on trial for denying the Sandy Hook shootings and who previously admitted in open court that he’s a performer and his onscreen persona is just a character (that bilks millions of dollars from unaware viewers). The main gist of the clip is a warning about a cabal of international leaders who are secretly releasing plagues on the world from which they can profit. (Of course, we know who really profits from making this claim.)
Alex Jones is one of the most despicable human beings alive and to associate with him means you share his stench.
Kyrie Irving would be dismissed as a comical buffoon if it weren’t for his influence over young people who look up to athletes. When I look at some of the athletes who have used their status to actually improve society—Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russel, Billie Jean King, Arthur Ashe, and more—it becomes clear how much Irving has tarnished the reputations of all athletes who strive to be seen as more than dumb jocks.
Irving does not seem to have the capacity to change, but we have the capacity to keep fighting against his brand of destructive behavior. One way to do that, beyond shaking our heads and nasty tweets, is to write to his sponsors and tell them to drop Irving—or you will drop them. Nike has likely decided not to renew his contract past this season. But he is still sponsored by Pepsi and 2K Sports. (Don’t feel bad for Irving: his career earnings at the end of the 2022-’23 season will be $230 million. That buys a lot of Yes-people.)
HOW THE NFL BLOCKS BLACK COACHES (The Washington Post)
Summary: This special report by The Washington Post details their findings after an investigation into the NFL’s hiring practices and treatment of Black head coaches. They concluded that in the two decades since the Rooney Rule that was supposed to aggressively create more equality and opportunity for Black coaches, things have gotten worse.
Says The Post: “Black coaches tend to perform about as well as White coaches, The Post found. But while White candidates are offered a vast and diverse set of routes to the league’s top coaching jobs, Black coaches face a much narrower set of paths. They have had to serve significantly longer as mid-level assistants, are more likely to be given interim jobs than full-time ones and are held to a higher standard when it comes to keeping their jobs. Since 1990, Black coaches have been twice as likely as others to be fired after leading a team to a regular season record of .500 or better.”
My Take: Nearly 70% of NFL players are Black. Yet, here we are. Again. Discussing inequity based on the systemic racism that about half of Americans say doesn’t exist. What those benefiting from this prevalence of racism hope is that we will get tired of presenting facts that prove its existence and devastating effects in the face of their gaslighting the public and just give up. That’s been the pattern as long as I’ve been actively fighting racism and I guess it will continue because even good-hearted people get weary of shaking their fists at a hurricane.
And the NFL is an economic and cultural hurricane. It made about $11 billion in 2021. And 75 of the country’s 100 most-watched television programs in 2021 were NFL games. That money and air-time creates a lot of influence on Americans. But Americans have the power to influence the NFL economically and culturally until it bends toward embracing American ideals of diversity and equality. As The Post study shows, it’s not even a matter of judging blindly on merit: Black coaches are put through a more strenuous and convoluted job process, judged more harshly on their performance, and fired more readily for having the same record as a White coach.
That’s not who we Americans want to be. And we shouldn’t tolerate it from our sports leagues.
Music: The Boss Has Soul
Summary: Bruce Springsteen is releasing an album of soul song covers originally recorded by the Temptations, the Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, the Supremes, and many other legends. “I wanted to make an album where I just sang,” Springsteen said in a statement. “And what better music to work with than the great American songbook of the Sixties and Seventies? I’ve taken my inspiration from Levi Stubbs, David Ruffin, Jimmy Ruffin, the Iceman Jerry Butler, Diana Ross, Dobie Gray, and Scott Walker, among many others. I’ve tried to do justice to them all—and to the fabulous writers of this glorious music. My goal is for the modern audience to experience its beauty and joy, just as I have since I first heard it. I hope you love listening to it as much as I loved making it.”
My Take: Hell, yeah! Bruce has included soul music in his concerts for years. This is a great opportunity to honor some of the classics that influenced him as well as re-introduce the music to a wider audience.
The album will include: “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” (The Walker Brothers); “Turn Back The Hands of Time” (Tyrone Davis); “When She Was My Girl” (The Four Tops); “I Wish It Would Rain” (The Temptations); “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” (Jimmy Ruffin); “Someday We’ll Be Together” (Diana Ross and the Supremes); and others.
Here’s a cut from the album: “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)” originally recorded by Frank Wilson: