Sha’Carri Richardson, athletics and marijuana

Tokyo Olympics

sha'carri richardsonThe 30-day suspension of American Sha’Carri Richardson for a positive marijuana test means she is barred from competing in the women’s 100-meter dash at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. But as I’ve read reactions across the board, I’ve concluded that her suspension is stupid.

From the Denver Post: She should have nothing to apologize for. “There is only one reason why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) should exist: To ensure athletes’ success on the international stage is determined more by pure athletic ability than who they employ as their pharmacist. Which is why [the suspension] makes absolutely zero sense.

“Back in 2011, a WADA-sponsored paper determined marijuana was a performance-enhancing drug, which might hold more water… if Richardson were a competitive eater or gamer.

A ‘substance of abuse’

“Now a decade later, marijuana’s inclusion on WADA’s list of banned substances is tied to its classification as a ‘substance of abuse.’ Of course, that bit of paternal moralizing has nothing to do with ensuring Richardson doesn’t have an unfair advantage on the track.

“Another unfortunate and devastating development? That Richardson felt compelled to appear on NBC’s TODAY show to apologize for her marijuana use and explain how it was tied to her own personal attempts to cope with her [biological] mother’s death.”

As she told NBC: “To hear that information coming from a complete stranger, it was definitely triggering. It was definitely nerve-shocking. It was just like, who are you to tell me that? No offense against him at all. He was just doing his job. But definitely, that sent me into a state of mind, a state of emotional panic.

“I still have to go out and put out a performance for my dream, go out there and still compete. From there, just blinded by emotions, just blinded by hurting. I knew I couldn’t hide myself. In some type of way, I was just trying to hide my pain.”

Boston wouldn’t ban her

From the Boston Globe: Sha’Carri Richardson isn’t a cheater. She’s human. And she got caught up in a system that might need to change.

“With her newly tinted orange hair trailing behind her like flames, she captured our hearts not only with her performance on the track, but with her moving story off it, seen in the emotional hug she climbed into the stands to share with her grandmother.

“As we know now, it wasn’t any sort of steroid or performance-enhancer that was found in Richardson’s test sample. It was marijuana, a drug that is legal in Oregon, where the trials were held, continues to be legalized in states across the country…

“The mental health of athletes is a similarly heavy topic, one that has gained more and more public attention in recent years, so much so it was listed by both USOPC chairperson Susanne Lyons and chief executive Sarah Hirshland as one of the organization’s top priorities in a recent teleconference with reporters. As Hirshland said, the emphasis on mental health needs isn’t just important for Olympians on their watch, but ‘for society writ large.’

Coincidentally, from the National Memo: “Justice Clarence Thomas Says Federal Laws Against Marijuana No Longer Needed.” Clarence Thomas!

According to the Washington Post, the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list published on Jan. 1 lists the chemical compound found in marijuana, THC, next to cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy, and heroin as a substance of abuse and that the rule book says they are considered substances of abuse because they “are frequently abused in society outside of the context of sport.”

The rules

A right-wing rag complained, in that eye-rolling way, that AOC said that Richardson’s suspension was “racist.” I do find this MoveOn piece interesting. “Elite Black women Olympic athletes undergo exceptional levels of scrutiny, from Simone Biles’ recent record-breaking double pike vault which received artificially suppressed scores despite its difficulty to Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two Namibian runners who won’t be permitted to run in their main events because of their naturally high testosterone levels. And we learned the Olympics decided to ban swim caps designed for the hair of Black swimmers.

Even International Olympic Committee member and a founder of the World Anti-Doping Agency Dick Pound thinks this marijuana ban needs to go, saying, “One of these days, we should probably either take it off the list entirely or say it’s there but the minimum sanction should be something like a warning, so you’re not losing any period of eligibility.” So why is it being enforced now?

Patchwork quilt

In my latter days working as a librarian, the Small Business Administration and by extension SBDCs were, for a relatively brief time, banned from helping any business that was dealing with cannabis. This included people growing hemp for non-consumable purposes. It was, fortunately, rescinded, because it was an inane policy.

The fact that marijuana is treated as though it were heroin at the federal level is crazy. To that end, I support the cannabis banking bill passed by the House in 2021.
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“Banks have generally been unwilling to do business with companies that sell marijuana or related products, fearing they could run afoul of federal laws.

“That has left companies in the marijuana industry with few options, including relying on just a handful of small financial institutions or doing business in cash. The American Bankers Association has lobbied aggressively for the ‘SAFE Banking Act’ bill.”

Lydster: The Biopolitics of Feeling

19th-century “scientists

Biopolitics of FeelingSometimes, your teenager hangs in their room all day. Other times, they wander into your office and engage you in a fascinating conversation.

My child started talking about how sexism, homophobia, and transphobia has been promulgated by a false duality. If they didn’t exist, perhaps those social ailments would not either. What prompted the discussion was an Instagram book report on the book The Biopolitics of Feeling by Kyla Schuller. The subtitle of the book is Race, Sex, and Science in the Nineteenth Century. It was published by Duke University Press in 2018.

Ah. From the book report: “The sex binary – the idea that there are only two, inherently opposite sexes – is not natural. It is a political invention that emerges from 19th-century race science. It has since been naturalized such that in 2020 people understand the sex binary as an indisputable ‘biological fact.’ This is historically inaccurate.”

I was aware that some 19th-century “scientists” were “invested in identifying presumed anatomical differences between the races to justify discrimination.” But I did not know that they posited that “that only the white race could achieve a pure, binary distinction between sexes. BIPOC people were dismissed as gender non-conforming and sex indistinct… They used this racist interpretation of evolutionary theory to define fixed norms and roles for men and women that still influence us today.”

A serious book

In the description of the book, the publisher notes a remarkable analysis by the author. “Kyla Schuller unearths the forgotten, multiethnic sciences of impressibility—the capacity to be transformed by one’s environment and experiences—to uncover how biopower developed in the United States… Her historical and theoretical work exposes the overlooked role of sex difference in population management and the optimization of life, illuminating how models of binary sex function as one of the key mechanisms of racializing power.” Got that?

“Schuller thereby overturns long-accepted frameworks of the nature of race and sex difference, offers key corrective insights to modern debates surrounding the equation of racism with determinism and the liberatory potential of ideas about the plasticity of the body, and reframes contemporary notions of sentiment, affect, sexuality, evolution, and heredity.” There are some impressive reviews cited for The Biopolitics of Feeling.

Fat shaming and racism

Since my daughter pointed out something I didn’t know, I shared with her an article I had only recently come across. CBSN has a piece called The racial origins of fat stigma.

“Fatness wasn’t always culturally undesirable in the Western world. … As the art and fashion historian Anne Hollander wrote in a New York Times article from 1977, ‘The look of actual human bodies obviously changes very little through history. But the look of ideal bodies changes a great deal all the time.'”

While the… article considers the switch to thinness as the preferable body type to be part of “a period of revolution in both taste and politics” in the late 18th century, Sabrina Strings’ research traces how that ‘revolution’ is actually rooted in slavery and Protestantism.

Those involved in the slave trade “decided to re-articulate racial categories, adding new characteristics… One of the things that the colonists believed was that Black people were inherently more sensuous, that people love sex and they love food, and so the idea was that Black people had more venereal diseases, and that Black people were inherently obese, because they lack self-control. And of course, self-control and rationality, after the Enlightenment, were characteristics that were deemed integral to Whiteness.”

“Who we are” about race

stark contrast

who we are

Jaquandor noted, in his blog response to the January 6 tyranny, “We are who we were.”

Specifically, “The road we walk is the one our ancestors paved, for good or ill. It’s a road that leads to amazing things: a nation that helped defeat Fascism on opposite sides of the globe, and a nation that built itself on the stolen labor of some and the stolen land of others…

“We’re a nation that elected a black man President, and then turned around and enabled a four-year tantrum by people who hate that this ever happened.

“‘Who we are is who we were.’ We were racists and white supremacists and violent conquerors of people who lived here before us. We weren’t just those things, but we were those things…and who we are is who we were.” It’s impossible, then, to avoid looking at America through the prism of race.

Why is it ALWAYS about race?!

As I read conservative websites, few philosophies of “the Left” aggrieve them more than the critical race theory.” The view is that “the law and legal institutions are inherently racist.”

Some conservatives actually say we need to root out racist behavior. The trouble is that the examples of blatant announced racism they can point to are comparatively unusual.

What’s more likely is that a white Columbus, OH policeman, Adam Coy, a “19-year veteran of the Columbus Division of Police,” will shoot and kill Andre Hill, an unarmed black man holding a cellphone. And within 10 seconds of the encounter. Coy refused “to administer first aid for several minutes.”

Did  Coy shoot Hill because he feared him based on his race? Can someone prove that? No, but the preponderance of unarmed black folks dying that way forces one to ponder that possibility.

You might have heard about that attempted coup of the US government on January 6. According to the Associated Press report: “The Pentagon asked the U.S Capitol Police if it needed National Guard manpower. And as the mob descended on the building, Justice Department leaders reached out to offer up FBI agents. The police turned them down both times…”

This despite the fact that far-right activists on social media telegraphed violence weeks in advance.

By comparison, last summer, “a diverse group of largely peaceful protesters for racial justice were met with tear gas, military tactics, and legions of police in riot gear.” The contrast was stark.

Difference in tactics

Ed Davis, a former Boston police commissioner wondered, “Was there a structural feeling that well, these [on January 6] are a bunch of conservatives, they’re not going to do anything like this? Quite possibly. That’s where the racial component to this comes into play in my mind.

“Was there a lack of urgency or a sense that this could never happen with this crowd? Is that possible? Absolutely.” No rows of “camo-clad and helmeted National Guard troops” watching this crowd, some of them wearing neo-Nazi apparel and/or waving the Confederate flag.

President-elect Biden saw it. “No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting…, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently than the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol. We all know that’s true, and it is unacceptable.” As the article title declares, “What’s happening is white privilege.”

I just started reading The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. The subtitle is “a forgotten history of how our government segregated America.” I’ve gotten far enough to know that the redlining of the US occurred as a result of de jure, rather than de facto segregation.

I’m sure the folks at the Daily Signal are tired of what they deem identity politics. Their conclusion: “the purpose of all teaching about race in American schools is to engender contempt for America.” (SMH) No, the purpose of teaching about race is to recognize that we are on a long, and sometimes imperfect journey. We are striving to form a more perfect union, and we’re not quite there yet.

A random look at the 2020 blog

Thank Allah for music

while blackSome blogger buddy used to do this look at the previous year. He’d select a post date and a sentence from that post at random.

I’ve found it interesting to see how well, or poorly, it reflected the past year. So, the 2020 blog in one post. Sort of.

January: “Willis was the son of people identified only as Jacob and Charlotte.” This was the first of two posts that week about Raymond Cornelius Cone, who I had just discovered was my biological grandfather. Willis was his father.

February: “Those particular matinees mean three things: cheaper tickets, a lot of older patrons, and best of all, a discussion with the cast after the shows.”This was back in the days when I was going to Thursday matinees at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady.

March: “She had to go into work on Monday and Tuesday last week, which I thought was crazy.” An Ask Roger Anything answer about retirement. I was referring to my wife’s school’s COVID methodology.

April: “Yet, and ‘Holy Crap This Is Insane’: Citing Coronavirus Pandemic, EPA Indefinitely Suspends Environmental Rules.” The 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I was pessimistic.

May: “The United States was allegedly staying out of it.” The music of 1940. The “it” was WWII.

June: “In light of the nationwide outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, movies like Just Mercy and I Am Not Your Negro are available to stream.” Juneteenth links.

Caesar months

July: “He believes the continued popularity of white depictions of Jesus is ‘an example of how far in some respects the United States has not moved.'” He being Edward J. Blum.

August: “He often combined the two.” Another Ask Roger Anything answer about why I’m a duck. “He” was the late Raoul Vezina, who combined his love of art and music.

September: “The moderator said a particular bill meant X.” A discussion of the Federalist Paper No. 62 of James Madison and how far we’ve moved from it.

October: “The search committee was afraid that these folks wouldn’t cotton to working with a black person.” This was the job I held for over 26 years but almost did not get.

November: “Freedom for the Stallion – the Oak Ridge Boys.” A link to a song by the legendary Allen Toussaint.

December: “If I were to have major surgery, such as for this situation, one doesn’t want to deal with the complicating factor of this patient having a bad reaction from the antibiotic.” So, I’m NOT allergic to penicillin!

People who do not read this will ask, “What is your blog about?” Other than About Me, I have no retort. So maybe, just maybe, this shows what was reflected in 2020. Music, COVID, race, genealogy, health, politics. I guess that’s about right.

The race for the jobs

But the South!

race-and-ethnicity-main-imageIn the many jobs that I’ve had, I never thought my race was a factor. Some of them were affected by previous relationships. Being a page at Binghamton Public Library, doing bookkeeping at the Schenectady Arts Council, managing at FantaCo, for instance.

In each case, there were people I knew, one black, two white, who undoubtedly helped me secure employment. Something that I really like about my jobs is that usually they gave me a work uniform in this way I do not have to worry about buying cloth. 

In all the jobs I have been, the companies have used free background check to make sure that candidate is suitable for the position. 

Background checks save you from hiring any dangerous or unsavory individuals. Reduce your company’s liability – Your company can lower insurance costs and avoid unnecessary lawsuits by only hiring people who clear a pre-employment screening. Avoid bad hires – Hiring the wrong person is costly and frustrating.  This also ensures any kind of legal liability and harm to the organization in future. Some of the major issues that could be avoided by performing proper Pre Employment Background Checks are: Any Sexual Harassment and Workplace Violations. Any Criminal Intention and harm to the organization. You can also find more about the using tools like these reverse phone lookup services you can get for free at the link. 

Then there was a slew of jobs where the employer just wanted a competent person for the position. my two stints as a janitor qualify. And BTW, I was pretty good at it, especially in Binghamton City Hall in 1975.

I graduated from library school in May 1992 and applied for several positions. The State Library offered me an interview in July of that year, but I was unsuccessful. Then I heard about this job at the New York Small Business Development Center. My friend Jennifer was interning there. They had just gotten a grant to provide library reference services, not just for the NYSBDC but for the whole country.

Michele, who had started the library as a half-time position became the director. Jennifer was the second librarian hired for what was dubbed the Research Network. I was interviewed and became the third librarian on October 19. Lynne was hired on October 22 and was the fourth. Since the program ostensibly began on October 1, we had a lot of work to do from the get-go, including getting the materials from the Georgia SBDC, which had the gig before New York.

How would they deal with it?

It was only five or seven years later that a person who would be in the know and impeccably reputable told me a story I found rather unsettling. I shan’t reveal who they are except to say they were most definitely in the know.

I had interviewed well enough. But apparently, there were one or more persons on the committee who were concerned about my race. Specifically, the job required that the librarian in that position create liaisons with the state directors and other staff in the other states’ lead centers. Many of them were in the South, of course. The search committee was afraid that these folks wouldn’t cotton to working with a black person. So I was rejected for that reason.

Then, someone up the State University of New York food chain told them, “You can’t do that!” SUNY is the host institution of the NY SBDC. I ended up getting the job after all.

The news, a half dozen years after the fact, was initially jaw-dropping. Then, thinking back on who was on the search committee, not so much. If a certain party hadn’t intervened, I would not have gotten the job. I would not have known why, either.

Of course, it got me to wonder about all the other people who didn’t get the job because of bias. Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, I have no doubt that racism has crept into the employment mix.