Boys and girls, go grab a beer or a mint julep; get your reading glasses (if you need them) and sit down and relax because we are going on a journey. At the conclusion of this narrative, there are going to be a lot of folks that are going to be seething mad, but as my grandmother used to say, “they can scratch their behinds and get glad.”
There seems to be an epidemic, no there is a cancer spreading throughout the world of sports in general and in the African-American community in particular. The illness that I am referring to is single women with children. As I listen and view television programs profiling the lives of Black athletes, one thing stands out to me. The personal lives of a significant percentage of these young Black men and women with new found celebrity and wealth continue to focus on the absence of Black men and fathers in the households and the devaluation of the African American male in regards to their success.
“My father was never there for me. My mother raised all five of us and she had to work two jobs to do it. I have not laid eyes on my father since my early childhood. My father is on drugs or he is incarcerated. He abused us and my mother.” It goes on and on and on…
One of the primary reasons Black males turn to sports and entertainment as “legal” vocations is because these “lines” of work have been incorrectly promoted as the quick way out of the “hood” and the sure road to success. But according to sportsdigest.com; “[out of] 156,000 male, high school senior basketball players only 44 will be drafted to play in the NBA, and only 32 women (.02 percent) out of just over 127,000 female, high school senior players will eventually be drafted. In football the odds are slightly better, with .08 percent or 250 of just over 317,000 high school senior players being drafted.”
Oh and check out this grimy piece of info. There have been more prisons built in America in the last forty years than in the previous 100, why? Well because the powers-that-be knew that when the dreams of the misled, failed and the former high school stars were left without an education, jobless and without many options, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a place that you will never be unemployed and you can still be the star on the basketball court? Could this undiscovered paradise be the penal system of America?
The recent sentencing of former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly sends chills up and down my spine. According to a recent CBS/AP report: “Jolly was sentenced to six years in prison for violating his probation on a drug charge. Jolly was arrested and charged with possession of a compound containing codeine and tampering with evidence after a traffic stop. It was his third arrest in three years, and violated the terms of probation he received in April. That probation was part of a deal that erased a previous charge and spared him prison time.” C’mon six years for a substance “containing” codeine? Are we back to the Cabot-Lodge Bill of 1901 in which U.S. Senate adopted a resolution to forbid the sale of opium and alcohol “to aboriginal tribes and uncivilized races?” Is this is the reason why historically the sentences of White drug offenders are far less than those of their counterparts of color?
According to an article by Vicky Pelaez titled: The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery? “Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the U.S., where they say a prison population of up to 2 million—mostly Black and Hispanic—are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All the workers are full-time, never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.
The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce.”
There may be a reason that the athletic standards in the Pittsburgh Public Schools has been diluted and why the ‘Pittsburgh Promise’ doesn’t seem very promising in preparing African-American student athletes for or getting them into college.
This column is for the young men and women who have been forced to live their young lives without their fathers. When you make it as an athlete or entertainer and only your mother is there; just remember that the game you play on the football field or the basketball court means far less than the games being played in life.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)