Thursday, August 23, 2007

…so bloody exhausted…

I feel the need to wade into this Vick shit once more.

Since news of a plea hit I’ve read a lot of opinion pieces and seen press conferences featuring black athletes or public figures either defending Mr. Vick, trying to compare dog fighting with hunting or laying the groundwork for his return to football once he has served his time.

I could go on and on about how dog fighting isn’t "just like hunting" or about how Mr. Vick can and most likely will speak up for himself before going to jail.

I could, but instead I’m going to change the angle a bit. I have to, because I live in the real world and public reaction to cases like this matter here…big time.

Pause...sip water...continue...

As a mentor who volunteers with mostly black youth I regularly feel like a fish swimming against the current. I’m so tired…so bloody exhausted…and often I’m desperate for points of moral leadership from those historic civil rights organizations to back me up and keep me sane.

The Vick investigation brought dog fighting out of the shadows and I saw it as a rare teachable moment featuring someone my students and mentee know. I hoped to explore the decision making lessons… why violence against animals is wrong… why we need to be mindful of the company we keep…the fact that money doesn’t make you better or above the law or happy or confident…and the fact that having a violent dog that inspires fear doesn’t make you a man or sexy or look grown.

Instead I have seen knees jerk in a defensive reaction so sadly predictable it makes me want to weep.

Here in St. Louis city the loss of the teachable moment is particularly painful as students return to a public school system in crisis…rising violent crime figures that don’t even inspire shock anymore…and a community still reeling from the shooting death of a 22 year old black police officer allegedly killed by a 15 year old boy over nothing.

Pause...sigh...continue...

We...black people...are not without examples of injustice born from racial prejudice within the legal system.

But I fear some lack the ability to see the difference between injustice and disappointment in the prosecution of a public figure who fucked up.

Clearly some lack the will to say the unpopular truth and lead by example.

So Vick becomes a victim and the crime he intends to plea to becomes no big deal.

Did wrong become right because he dazzled on the football field or because by fighting dogs he "kept it real"?

Jesus, is that what defines "keeping it real" now?

How the hell am I supposed to polish this twisted shit up and put it into context for young people of color who are going to learn a lesson from this case whether we want them to or not?

Damn it all.

I'm so bloody exhausted...

27 comments:

Just Me said...

Thank you. Thank you! THANK YOU!!! Just when I thought I was going to lose my mind, I read your words. I can't take it anymore. Why, oh why, must morally reprehensible behavior be defended because the perpetrators are black?

How many people do you know who make $40,000 a year electrocute dogs? $100,000 a year? How about $5 million? $130 million and going! Going! Gone!!!

I don't know many adult males who electrocute, drown, hang and smash dogs to death for their failure to kill other dogs. The indictment states that 33 dog carcasses were found on his property.

I sure wouldn't want to associate my race with such behavior, nor would I seek to defend his actions based on the issue of race.

What are you saying? The pigment in his skin made him do it? If that were my neighbor, I would be writing him OUT of the race, shouting to high heaven about what an aberration he is, how his base behavior could not and should not be confused with the better instincts of a noble people, instead of trying to smooth it over as overzealous prosecutors pickin' on the poor boy cause he's black.

Poor judgment is when you take two drinks and choose to get behind the wheel of the car. This is repulsive, sadistic, sociopathic behavior NOT something I want to embrace or defend.

If the NAACP believes this is defensible, what is the vision of community in which they want us to live? Is there nothing higher, more noble, life affirming and enabling, the stuff of philosophy, wisdom, ethics, and dreams that we can aspire to and hold one another accountable to than the pursuit of money? How low they have taken a once great organization.

proudprogressive said...

"The Vick investigation brought dog fighting out of the shadows and I saw it as a rare teachable moment featuring someone my students and mentee know. I hoped to explore the decision making lessons… why violence against animals is wrong…
why we need to be mindful of the company we keep…the fact that money doesn’t make you better or above the law or happy or confident…and the fact that having a violent dog that inspires fear doesn’t make you a man or sexy or look grown."

There is your lesson, right there clear as a bell. Right vs. Wrong. Humane compassionate vs. inhumane and callous. Animal cruelty shows a lack of love and ability to indentify with the suffering of other beings in a human heart. Tell them what the Psychiatrists say about animal cruelty - assignments , not sure what subject you teach or what is feasible. But do not let this one go.

What kind of people do these kids want to be ? - Can they ask themselves that question? "what are my values" What is a value ? How do we live our values etc...

Would you hurt an animal, even if your dad just beat you ? Bullies are always a ripe topic. What is real strength..

Do two wrongs ever make a right ?

How do we stop the cycle of violence - Do we first stop it in our own hearts ? If we have been wronged how do we cope with that - what are the coping skills needed ?

You are a great and natural teacher-
you need no advice from me.

But its seems asking the right questions (the Socratic Methed ?) is one key to the inside of the kids hearts/minds and characters.


Remember too ONE (you) passionate Adult Role Model ONE, proclaiming the wrongness of this and why - can and will affect a child for the rest of their lives.

It must be exhuasting, overwelming at times. The arguements for breaking the cycle of violence I am sure are tatooed in your heart.

Rest Shark-Fu , take mini vacations for a couple of hrs. etc. Because each day the revolutionary in you puts you right back in the frey - It seems to be who you are. A leader, a teacher, a healer,with a kick ass sense of humor.

You very being and speaking out is already sowing the seeds of change, maybe just this second you cannot see em. But they are germinating in the minds of those who listen to you.

Carry on ABB ! (and remember you are not alone)

megamoose said...

I saw part of a sports program last night-they were discussing the Vick case, and it seems like the NFL is concerned over the GAMBLING aspect. pause-blink-WHAAAAT? Not tortured and murdered dogs? On a more positive note, many Vick jerseys are being donated to an Atlanta animal shelter, and they are using them to line the cages.

Red7Eric said...

ABB, as a white gay man, I've only had to deal with a fraction of what you describe, most memorably with Andrew Cunanan, the "homicidal homosexual" (thanks, Tom Brokaw) who killed Gianni Versace -- but you could also point to Mark Foley, and others.

All I can say is -- you ask really good questions. And I wish I had some answers.

Dusty said...

My post is up about this today as well ABB at Sirens and The Peace Train. I worry about the race issue being tossed into the mix here.

Isn't it possible that what he did transcends the color issue? To me it does.

He didnt' do something which was painted as a race engendered problem. Brown people do this type of endeavor as well.

So do white folks in the south. I know about the white folks doing it because I was taken to one of these types of disgusting fights by a new friend who thought it was a cool way to spend an evening in GA. when I lived there. I had to call a cab to leave..my 'friend' didn't understand my utter disgust and horror. Every face there was white. Every face there was also lower income..and I think its more of an income or class level(for want of a better term) issue than a color issue.

The whole thing reeked of machismo..seriously..the testosterone was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife.

It reminds me of when someone gets all badass on someone..for 'disrespecting' them..when in reality no such thing took place. It's a show of manliness to take part in this type of thing because the folks living in poverty have very little, if anything positive, to look up to in their own neighborhoods.

As a women of color..the color brown..I have lived in and still do actually, poverty-stricken neighborhoods. I see what passes for cool and its not pretty. Its about who can drink the most, who can act bad the most and who can kick the most ass.

The value system is broken at the poverty level and thats what we need to fix..and address.

ALso..as a brillant man once told me..Ignorance and stupidity are colorblind.

I hope this all makes sense, if not I apologize.

stljoie said...

Oh dear. It is a phenomenon. Sport figures are so hyped as heroes when they are actually very competitive and aggressive. I understand that this country has a history of devaluing the accomplihments of African AMericans but dog fighting is vicious stuff...whoever is doing it, it's wrong.

BLACKinUSA said...

I hear allot of real spit over this situation. Some defending his ass some want him to rot in hell for dog fighting and all it trapping. Shit going to jail until the publics short attention span fades on this issue maybe the safest place for dude.
Simple fact, Mike Vick fucked up. Who in the hell doesn’t know dog fighting is illegal. His homies rolled on him and now he’s copped a plea. Unless he’s snitching on someone else up the food chain, muthafucking Vick is going to jail.
Making teachable moments for our Black youth, I think the proudprogressive said it more succinct.
Keep your head up ABB! Keep your head up Black people! Be strong America!

Dusty said...

I also would like to make a point about the whole issue of Dog fighting;

Vick will be doing far more time than the avg dog abuser does on any state level. In most states dog abuse is only a misdemeanor that is punishable by probation or at most 6 mos in the slammer.

If we as a nation are truly pissed off about dog fighting and abuse of animals in general..we need to address the issue of punishment fitting the crime. Vick just brought the whole issue of animal cruelty to the forefront..he didn't invent it, nor was he the first to get busted for dog fighting..a 'blood sport' that has a history that goes back centuries.

As some asshole on CNN said last week, he would of been better off raping a woman. That kind of mindset just trips me out and makes me want to slap the taste right out of his mouth for uttering such a phrase.

kelseXy said...

Keep on trecking
Good to know somebody out there cares to try

Dr. Stimplove said...

I almost cried reading your post. I was angered by the stupid statements from Marbury and the NAACP, but I hadn't thought until now of how they could affect efforts to use the Vick situation to educate black youth about compassion, justice and those other things you mention. At least with Marbury, you can just point out this ain't a bright guy talkin'. But the NAACP ... jeez.
I notice both have backtracked on their remarks, but it's too late now. So much damage has been done.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with race or class. It has everything to do with sociopathic behavior which goes all the way up to the government in this society. Vick's, Cheney's, Bush's behaviors all learned. These guys have one thing in common they are sociopaths who don't care about anyone else. Cruelty is not a socio-economic thing. It is a behavior.

terrintokyo said...

you're speaking truth, ABB. Please take a break and breathe, in and out, and look at people/things that give you joy. You need to be sure to balance the horror and stupidity we perpetrate on ourselves, and on each other - if not for peaceful, brilliant warriors like you, the world would be infinitely worse than it is...

much love from Tokyo

proudprogressive said...

"How the hell am I supposed to polish this twisted shit up and put it into context for young people of color who are going to learn a from this case whether we want them or not" ABB


This will come naturally to you, the color issue here is a red herring. Class do you know what a red herring is ? ...
OK then, lets look at just what "keepin it real" means. What does it mean to these kids..ask them to define that thoughtfully.

What other role models are out there past and present who kept it real ? Cornell West jumped to my mind but the list of potential discoveries are endless.
bring it home - "keep it real" - Dog fighting,killing dogs that don't fight well, is sick , wrong, illegal, no matter who is doing it.

What are the qualities of a role model?

There is a big difference between Jackie Robinson and Michael Vick. Vick is no role model and no victim of anything but his own flawed character. Role models compare and contrast. as you would say pause..reflect..continue.

The criminal justice system is very seriously flawed for black people,for poor people,for non violent offenders, for lots of folks, and yes mostly people of color. (about 2 million in jail as we type) The class could brainstorm on this issue. What are the answers in the face of injustices. There are no easy ones.

Me i see future lawyers being born by the seeds you may plant in that discussion. The law vs emotion on a layer cake of institutional racism.
Soo Naturally
A teacher type bitch who gets her "teech-er" on regularly, could delve into all the keepin it real role models. And why its so important to keep it real.

My guess is that would might tell em - they got you thinking and now its their turn...lol

Hope teaching to the damn test,does not hold you back - damn Congress and the Chimp, and the no child left behind act.

It ties the hands of all many excellent teachers out there. This is an existentialist course that could change a chid's life.

phew, got myself exhausted just thinking about it - no wonder you are too - its overwelming - and why its sooo important to get your chill on regularly - prevents burn out. Thanks for the post, and your honesty.

And you know no matter what you are doing more good, just by showing up and being YOU than you might imagine. Give yourself a break gal.

Tooo shark-fu with loooove - (me doing twisted lulu immatation of the to Sir with love)

yep i may be cracking up, yep yep finally happening *g*

CP said...

It's not affecting only children of color, ABB. My son, who loves wrestling, football and various other sports heroes thinks it is "awesome" that Vick was "keeping it real". I try to explain to my 11 year old why dog fighting is wrong. He gets it, but still...there is this man, larger than life with rings on his fingers and chains around his neck, driving his Escalade and saying, "it's cool". My son said, I feel so bad for him.

I was ready to cry.

CP.

Frogspond said...

What ProudProgressive said.

and

I had a teacher in first grade that I will never forget. She stood up for me when I was defenseless and alone. She is a woman that to this day I admire and try to live up to. I don't know where she is today, I wish I did cause I would tell her thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I believe you are like her. I believe that your kids see it too. You are touching more people (parents too) than you think.

Maya's Granny said...

Shark Fu,
As you know, the distance between cruelty to animals and cruelty to people is very short. When I was working in child protection, we would gets reports from animal control whenever they discovered an animal cruelty case where there were children, because they knew it was just a small step from the dog to the child.

Even if that were not true, animals deserve to be protected. Many of the young people you work with love animals. They can see this through the eyes of the animal in their household, or the animal next door who is fun to play with.

LA in TX said...

I'm a middle-aged conservative white guy from Texas, probably the last person you'd expect to read, let alone post here. However, decency, compassion and honesty transcend all the other usual pigeonholes and stereotypes.

The second 'A' in NAACP stands for 'advancement'- to improve the image, lot and quality of life for Blacks (and really, all people).

This statement by the president of the NAACP Atlanta chapter does NOT further or improve the advancement. It is the statement of a person who is being opportunistic and leaves the impression that 'the content of his (Vick's) character' is not as important as the 'color of his skin'.

Martin Luther King would weep.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Dear Black Lady,
I'm very sorry for the exasperation you are experiencing from this. You are not alone.
You are a true hero for doing the things you do. Please don't lose faith.
Warmest regards,
SagaciousHillbilly

Anonymous said...

"In most states dog abuse is only a misdemeanor that is punishable by probation or at most 6 mos in the slammer."

No. Dog fighting is a felony in every state except Wyoming and Idaho.

Who cares if Vick didn't invent it? Who cares if it goes back centuries? The same is true of any contemporary wife-beater or murderer.

And Vick was not at all an average dog fighter, he was running and funding one of the top-tier dog fighting organizations. His organization was not average, it was a full-time, organized endeavor. The "average" dog fighter does not own a house for dog fighting purposes and employ an entourage of people to abuse and train the dogs.

Anonymous said...

The police went to his house for a drug bust, not for dogs, the police were looking for somebody else not vick ,, they found dogs,dogs dogs, and dead dogs, not a good thing to have on YOUR property!!!

Dusty said...

To the anonymous fool..

Dog fighting is not the same as animal abuse in a court of law. Its a separate charge.

Anonymous said...

You guys were gutless not to publish my comment!

Anonymous said...

Dusty, then why on earth did *you* bring up abuse, and say Vick would get punished more than the average abuser?

Who is the idiot here?

Shark-fu said...

Anonymous...um, I don't recall rejecting any comments to this post.

Which Anonymous comment by Anonymous did I neglect to publish?

Blink.

Oh, and there is only one Mistress of Bitchitude who writes and moderates here...so trust that no "you guys" are involved in a damned thing.

Toodles...

Kathryn said...

ABB-

Long-time reader, first-time commenter.

Bless you for teaching youth about why cruelty to animals is wrong. The entire Vick scenario makes me sick, and I can only hope that good people like you will use it to teach others compassion.

I try so hard to make this a better world for animals ... as a vegetarian who has done animal rescue work, doesn't buy leather, shops for cruelty-free products ... the comments people make defending Vick make me lose hope.

You give me hope back.

Frogspond said...

So, been thinkn about what "keeping it real" means. One of the kitties I am cat sitting for gave me the answer last night...

Keeping it real means not getting caught up in:

self to the exclusion of others

status

or image

atlasien said...

"Shark Fu,
As you know, the distance between cruelty to animals and cruelty to people is very short. When I was working in child protection, we would gets reports from animal control whenever they discovered an animal cruelty case where there were children, because they knew it was just a small step from the dog to the child."

This is so true... I keep hearing the "he didn't harm a human being", but people who really know dogfighting and think clearly about the situation know that's a false dichotomy. I recently read a good analysis from an interview with an animal control officer (black) here in Atlanta.