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The Underside of A One-sided Story

As a part of the OSU student community and as a person of color nothing has made
me more frustrated than the OSU/Corvallis supported racism in regard to the most
recent incident involving four Black college athletes. I write this to question
the racism of the local media and the overtly racist reaction by a large
contingency of the OSU/Corvallis community.
The Underside of a One-sided Story
Dissecting the racism within the OSU/Corvallis community and local media
By Allan S. Lumba

Athletes in the eyes of many fans are too spoiled, too loud, too 'hip-hop,' too
tattooed, too corn-rowed - all of which translates to players as 'too black.'
-David Zirin

all our silences in the face of racist assault are acts of complicity.
-bell hooks

As a part of the OSU student community and as a person of color nothing has made
me more frustrated than the OSU/Corvallis supported racism in regard to the most
recent incident involving four Black college athletes. I write this to question
the racism of the local media and the overtly racist reaction by a large
contingency of the OSU/Corvallis community.

The Corvallis Gazette Times (CGT) and The Daily Barometer (DB) would both assert
that their reporting of the incident is unbiased. Upon closer inspection it is
clear that all angles and parties involved are not accounted for. The local
media only provides statements from either the police officer who made the
arrest, John Sassaman, or OSU football coach Mike Riley, both of whom were not
present at the time of the incident. Also the absence of any direct quotes
from those involved in the incident make the story far from complete, yet it
was treated as such by the OSU/Corvallis community. In later reports and
commentaries the opinions published are monopolized by random students (not
witnesses to the incident) or by military men (also not witness to the
incident) who vaguely knew one of the parties involved in the incident.
Unsurprisingly these views reinforce the media's one-sided story of "spoiled ...
college football players" committing a "hate-motivated" crime. The majority
of high profile athletes in competitive college football programs are Black.
And from what has been revealed by the bulk of the OSU/Community letters is
that "spoiled" athletes, mean Black athletes.

Browsing through the letters published in both the CGT and DB words such as
thugs, primitive, criminals, and idiots are rampantly used to describe these
"spoiled" athletes. This by no means indicates that this incident is a
catalyst to a shift in public opinion. Rather it is one of the many examples
of the counter-civil rights movement that is now more than ever gaining vast
popular support. In fact those who hid under covers for years in the post
civil rights era can finally show their true colors. For example in the letter
to the CGT by Joe Worth of Philomath, Worth laments that "our laws mean nothing"
and was not surprised when the local "diversity groups" (meaning mostly people
of color) responded with "inaction and silence." In essence Worth is simply
focusing in on a tree (the athlete) without noticing the forest
(institutionalized racism). And in the rest of Worth's letter he condemns the
tree for being in Corvallis. What makes this incident so important
(specifically to students of color) is that this is happening in our own
community and little is being openly done about it.

There may be some who will cite the local media and refer to the incident as a
"racial assault." Keep in mind this is the same media that sells a one sided
story pitting the "spoiled" Black athlete fueled with "ignorance and
intolerance" against a white "under appreciated under-hailed American
soldier." And it's the same media that continuously published the words "hate
crime," entering the idea into the public discourse, allowing those in the
OSU/Community, who have their own racist agendas, to turn the tables and infer
that the "spoiled" Black athlete (in this instance) is guilty of racism.

From the sentiments of the media and the OSU/Corvallis community the definition
of racism seems arbitrary. Yet for the most part people understand what a
majority is, both in terms of numbers and in power. If you take a look at the
demographics of OSU's student body, 74% is white and 1% is Black . If you want
to be generous let's say Corvallis has about the same racial demographics. I
haven't been to the Headliner's Cafe recently but from what I remember (and
from other Corvallis bar demographics) the staff and clientele are mostly
white. Let's also look at the people in power (and in monopoly of public
information) at OSU/Corvallis. Coach Riley isn't Black. President Ray isn't
either. The mayor, the council people and the judges are not Black. The
Barometer staff has a severe lack of color. The majority of the CGT staff does
not identify as Black. And I've been in Corvallis for 5+ years and I have yet
to see one non-white police officer.

... if you are from an American college or university, is your campus a modern
plantation?
- Patricia Hill Collins

Who makes money off of college athletics? College football by itself generates
"$5 billion in revenues annually" with individual universities making scores
of millions of dollars off of merchandise, bowl games, television appearances
and ticket sales. OSU is able to budget out $80 million for a new football
stadium , $15 million for a practice facility and Coach Riley's contract earns
him a base salary of $200,000 a year . But not only does the university (and
the administration) reap large profit from a successful athletic program, we
also see Corvallis' local businesses increase in revenues. All of this leads
to the conclusion that a lot of people are making a lot of money off of college
athletes. What do the college athletes get out of it? In an article pertaining
to the exploitation of Black athletes, Emmit L. Gill Jr. articulates that
"athletes receive room, board and tuition" spending "approximately forty hours
per week in preparation for their respective sports." Gill goes on to reason
that "this is a tremendous amount of work considering that this does not
include attending class, class preparation, travel, or off-season
conditioning." Echoing the plantation reference by Patricia Hill Collins, Gill
maintains that "we may not fully be capable of estimating the impact of slavery
in college athletics -- that is to say -- the way the NCAA has stripped
communities of their natural resources. The point is that college presidents
and coaches realize the value of black gold."

Where does that leave us? The marginalized (in numbers, power, and opinion)
must mobilize to fight this seemingly overwhelming wave of overt racism. We
must hold the media accountable for playing off the fears of racial
stereotypes. We must hold the OSU athletic department and the administration
itself accountable for silencing the truth, in order not to "blemish" an
"otherwise cleanly run football program." Finally we must challenge the large
part of the OSU/Corvallis community's belief that young Black college athletes
are simple objects of racialized entertainment.

David Zirin "Fight Night in the NBA," Edge of Sports, November 22, 2004
 http://www.edgeofsports.com/2004-11-22-104/index.html

bell hooks Killing Rage (New York: Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, 1995), 19.

Delys Silverman "Letters to the Editor," Corvallis Gazette Times, November 17,
2004 (Silverman is one of many people to use the word "spoiled" in their letters
to the editor)

Editorial "Again, an Attack in Corvallis," Corvallis Gazette Times, November
15, 2004

Joe Worth "Letters to the Editor," Corvallis Gazette Times, November 20, 2004

Peter Chee "Student Reactions to Alleged Assault Run the Gamut," The Daily
Barometer, November 17, 2004

Forum Editorial "Yellow Flags off the Field," Daily Barometer Barometer,
November 16, 2004

Delys Silverman "Letters to the Editor," Corvallis Gazette Times, November 17,
2004

Theresa Hogue "Three More Men Identified in Assault," Corvallis Gazette
Times, November 15, 2004

OUS Factbook 2002 website:
 http://www.ous.edu/irs/factbook02/contents.html#Enrollment%20and%20Student%20Demographics

Patricia Hill Collins "Toward a New Vision" Race Sex & Class Reprinted in Fall
1993

Rick Horrow "College football: Search for revenues, protection for athletes"
CBS Sports Online  http://cbs.sportsline.com/general/story/7741030

The Official Athletic Site of OSU "On Campus with Bob Decarolis, Athletic
Director"  http://osubeavers.collegesports.com/school-bio/orst-ad.html

Mike Fish "Coaching Contracts" Sports Illustrated Online
 http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2003/writers/mike_fish/12/19/coaching.contracts.data/index.html#oregon_state

Emmett L. Gill, Jr. "Black Gold & College Basketball" Black Athlete Sports
Network  http://www.blackathlete.net/College_basketball/collbask040701.html

Forum Editorial "Yellow Flags off the Field" The Daily Barometer Barometer,
November 16, 2004

(edited by Kim Un Hye)
So who do women belong to, if not ourselves? 02.Dec.2004 13:23

M. P. (OSU alumni)

It does seem to me that if a group of white college students (athletes or not) had approached a white woman married to a black man (soldier or not) in a bar to argue with her about her marriage choice, you would cry "racism" very quickly, with or without the ensuing violence. So, how does this incident differ? Except that there IS white racism operative in Corvallis, as in the rest of the US, unfortunately. But that fact does not seem to ME to translate that black women belong to black men, to criticize and bully, any more than white women belong to white men, to criticize and bully. (or that women belong to other women, to criticize and bully, either.) Who one marries is one's own damn business. In the concern about racist reporting of the incident, and the letters to the editor, I think you may have lost sight of the above fact.

Later outcome 23.Apr.2005 21:24

Marvin L. McConoughey (real name)

Time passes and truth becomes evident. The athlete charged with assault received his day in court. One writer noted that a presumption of innocence was warranted until the case was resolved. He was right. The case has now been legally resolved. The athlete pleaded guilty and he plea was accepted and he received sentencing.

I have written Mr. Lumba separately on his views, with no reply received. However, the white community has sufficient problems of its own that I need not point out his.