Tuesday, September 6, 2022
I learned tennis at a public park in Brooklyn- Lincoln Terrace- where the teaching pro was a mailman named Phil Rubell. Almost all the kids who took lessons with Phil were Jewish or West Indian, and a number of us became good enough to play Division One college tennis at a time when most clubs where tennis was played at a high level kept out Blacks and Jews One of those restricted clubs was the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, which was the site of the US National Championships, which later evolved into the US Open. I actually got to play there under an interesting set of circumstances which I will describe below The year was 1961, and the best woman player at Lincoln Terrace, a physical education teacher named Sheila Marashick, won a place in the US National Championships that summer because she was one of 100 highest rated players in the world. Since Sheila didn't have the entourage of coaches, agents, and personal trainers that today's players do, she asked me and my doubles partner, Fred Lawrence, who had just won the NYC Public Schools Doubles Championships, to accompany her as her hitting partners. Along with this perk came clubhouse passes, which meant we could use the locker rooms and watch matches on the clubhouse court from close range Needless to say, Fred and I were really excited about this opportunity. The day started off really well. After warming up Sheila on a side court for a half an hour, we got to watch a flamboyant teenager with glasses named Billie Jean Moffit play one of the seeded players on the clubhouse court. Billie Jean lost, but she was an incredibly charismatic figure because of how well she moved and how much she talked to herself during points, tossing aside the stiff, "ladylike" persona that most of the women players assumed. We figured this would not be the last we saw of her and we were right Emboldened by Billie Jean's persona and intrigued by the grass courts at Forest Hills, Fred and I decided to push our luck and start hitting on one of the side courts, pretending we were members. That pretense didn't last too long since one of us was Black, and Forest Hills didn't have any Black members. A club official soon came by and kicked us off. I thought of this the other day when the brilliant American player, Frances Tiafoe, who is Black, went head to head with a brilliant Argentinian player, Diego Schwartzmann, who is Jewish, at the US Open and beat him in three closely contested sets. I don't know if Fred Lawrence watched the match, but I'll bet if he did, he was smiling as much as I was. There is a long history of Racism and Anti-Semitism in this country. We have worked too long and hard to let people push us backwards in the name of Christian Nationalism and White Supremacy.
Monday, August 1, 2022
I just found out that Bill Russell, the great Boston Celtics center and coach, and a lifetime human rights activist, passed away at age 88. I have so many memories of watching him play. From the time I was ten years old, he was a hero and role model because of his application of intellect to the pursuit of sports excellence. I sensed this intuitively, but had it confirmed much later when Taylor Branch wrote a brilliant biography of him, “Second Wind,” where Russell describes how he invented defense from the center position by imagining the geometry of each shot and never jumping until the ball left the shooter’s hand. He basically applied the mind of a scientist to perfecting a sport. He was the greatest single competitor I had ever observed - outplaying the greatest athlete of his generation - Wilt Chamberlin- who was taller stronger and faster than him, and a better shooter, in one NBA championship game after another. He was also the first Black championship coach in any US professional sport His intellect, his discipline, his unwavering sense of dignity, his passion for winning, which was only exceeded by his passion for justice, puts him on my Mount Rushmore of great athletes who were also human rights activists, alongside Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson and Muhammad Ali. He truly symbolized the phrase “Rest in Power.” Basketball was a much better game because of his influence; but he also opened up space for athletes to be activists and intellectuals as well as cultural icons. Every racial stereotype, along with every image of the “dumb jock” collapsed in Russell’s presence. No one could undermine his dignity or poise! Not opponents, not sportswriters, not hostile crowds. He strode through the world as a giant, not only in size, but in moral force I am not sure we will see his like again, but his influence will be felt every time an athlete speaks out in defense of justice or shows a mind that encompasses a range of human concerns that extends far beyond sports
Monday, June 27, 2022
Like many of you, I experienced the overturning of Roe v Wade as terrible defeat, something that will inflict hardship and pain on many many people and make women across the nation feel that the advances they have made over the past 50 years are under assault. But I also experienced it as a wake up call, an incentive to push harder on issues where I am best equipped to make a difference And for me, one issue I am determined to push forward on, which I have supported, but not actively organized around, is Reparations for African Americans. Given what my own research, and that of many others, has uncovered, documenting the huge variety of policies, many of them extraordinarily violent, which undermined wealth acquisition among African American in the years following the end of slavery, I think we can make a powerful argument why Reparations are not only fair and just, but can help heal our wounded and divided society. Before proceeding to the justification for my position, which I will present in somewhat compressed form, I want to give credit to all those who have pushed forward on this issue long before I have, resulting in a Reparations movement that is already making headway among Universities, and Corporations whose complicity with Slavery and the Slave Trade has been documented by scholars What I propose doing is extending the logic of Reparations for events which occurred after Slavery ended, and targeting state and local governments for restorative justice. The Logic Behind Reparations for Post Slavery Events When we look at the racial wealth gap in the United States, which is far greater than racial gaps in income and education, we need to address the murder and displacement of Black property owners and the destruction of thriving Black communities by angry white mobs. a process which began in Reconstruction and continued through into the late 1920's Some of these dynamics involved the execution and mass murder of Black elected officials, such as occurred in Louisiana in the Colfax Massacre (1872) and in North Carolina in the Wilmington Massacre (1898) but most involved the killing and displacement of black landowners and the destruction of thriving Black business districts Racial pogroms, involving the murder of hundreds of economically successful Black people and the burning of Black neighborhoods, took place in Elaine Arkansas ( 1919) Oceoo Florida ( 1920) Tulsa Oklahomoa ( 1921) and Rosewood Florida ( 1923) But those truly awful events were paralleled by larger patterns which took place over decades one of which was lynching, the other which was "whitecapping." Lynching, an ugly pattern of racial terror used by southern whites to maintain white supremacy,, was not only directed against Black people accused of murder and rape, it was directed against Black landowners and business leaders who failed to show proper deference or defended themselves and their families against assault. Whitecapping, widely practiced in Mississippi during the Jim Crow years, involved white mobs seizing the land of black independent farmers and driving Black landowners out of the communities where they had acquired property. When you put all of these things together- the murder of Black elected officials, the murder of successful black landowners and business owners, and the burning and destruction of some of the South's most prosperous Black business districts, you are confronting a pattern which not only discourages wealth acquisition among Black people, but makes it life threatening and dangerous. In states and communities where this occurred, which I believe can be found in most of the American South, restorative justice needs to take an economic form in terms of compensation for the victims and their descendants. There can be no real healing until this history is understood, and its consequences addressed. You can issue court decisions limiting Affirmative Action, but the more we know about our history, the stronger the logic for Reparations becomes
Thursday, May 26, 2022
Today is my 76th Birthday, and frankly, given all that is going on in the country I don't give a s..t if you send me birthday greetings However, since at least three people I respect have told me recently that they think the country is doomed, I have decided to post this Birthday Pledge. " When I look around me, I see a nation paralyzed by division, filled with hate, unable to address the most powerful issues of the day, from climate change, to gun violence, to racism, white supremacy and threats to democratic governance. I cannot promise you that we can survive these challenges, or that we will even be a viable nation in 25 years. But as someone who has lived through the War In Vietnam, multiple drug epidemics, the burning of the Bronx, the destruction of the labor movement, the rise of mass incarceration and the militarization of police, and numerous military actions in the Middle East which have destabilized that region and left many who served there with lifelong issues, I promise you that I will NEVER stop fighting for the causes I believe in, or defending people who are targets because of their race, religion, immigration status, or gender identities. Moreover, if you are my student, my colleague, my neighbor, my friend, a member of my family, or someone I have connected with through social media, I will be there for you when you need help so long as my health holds up. Growing up, I never gave in to bullies and I am not about to start doing that now I realize that I am very lucky to have reached age 76 in pretty good shape and I plan to celebrate and show gratitude for every day I have left on this planet. But for me, fighting for justice is an integral part of celebrating life and I look forward to joining with you to stop the rise of American Fascism and to make sure the the rights and opportunities of everyone around us is recognized and respected With All My Love, Mark "Notorious Phd" Naison "
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
"You describe a state of affairs that no one advocates and making it seem like a national crisis . The CRT educators practice is "culturally responsive teaching," efforts to include material in the curricula which makes children from marginalized groups feel as if they are being treated with respect. I defy you to find teachers who divide children into categories of "oppressors and oppressed!" What teachers do is present images and stories of Black people, LatinX people, Asian People and LGBQT people which were once completely absent from school curricula. This effort has been going on for more than 30 years and all of a sudden people on the Right are calling it Critical Race Theory. It is stretching language beyond recognition in the interest of intimidating teachers and school administrators. The goal of this manufactured crisis not to protect white children from attack- it is to paralyze the education system in order to slow down the transformation of the nation into a place where those who were seen as outsiders take center stage. These efforts will fail. And all children, including white children, will be better off because of this failure"
Monday, April 25, 2022
In the morally infected worldview of the American Right, the appellation Critical Race Theory has been expanded beyond recognition to include “Social and Emotional Learning.” The intellectual dishonesty implicit in this connection is staggering in its impact. Apparently, there is no limit to how low conservatives and Republicans will sink to attack policies and programs they find objectionable. They have taken a term 99 percent of the public never heard of, and even less understand, and turned it into a metaphor for the threat liberals pose to the nation in every dimension of American life, a threat so potent that it may require a coup to prevent. Make no mistake about it- such corruption of language is stock and trade of would be dictators. Treat anyone who buys into it with extreme caution.
Sunday, April 24, 2022
I just thought of one possible response to the legislation and executive orders restricting what can be taught about race in US History in Florida schools What if a group of teachers, students and civil rights leaders came together to produce a document which listed every single lynching that took place in the state of Florida, with dates and locations, along with attacks on black communities and assassinations of black leaders? In the latter category, there will be incidents like the widely publicized Rosewood Massacre (1923) where a prosperous black town was destroyed by jealous whites. But it is my guess that Rosewood was just the tip of the iceberg, and that if you go back to Reconstruction you will find multiple examples of mass murders of blacks who were deemed too wealthy or politically powerful This document, circulating on the internet, will prompt widespread public discussion of a portion of Florida history that has been kept hidden, and apparently can’t be a focus of instruction in Florida schools Florida friends, what do you think? There are scholars and community leaders who can help you get this information! Why not put it all in one place where it can prompt discussion and show that uncomfortable truth about Florida history cannot be suppressed *The Rosewood massacre was a racially motivated massacre of black people and the destruction of a black town that took place during the first week of January 1923 in rural Levy County, Florida. At least six black people and two white people were killed, though eyewitness accounts suggested a higher death toll of 27 to 150. The town of Rosewood was destroyed in what contemporary news reports characterized as a race riot. Florida had an especially high number of lynchings of black men in the years before the massacre,] including a well-publicized incident in December 1922.