Rasheed Wallace Does the Work

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There’s a lasting image I have of Rasheed Wallace.

Think back to arguably the most chaotic scene in sports history, the Malice at the Palace in November of 2004, when a drunk idiot threw a beer at Metta Sandiford-Artest (then Ron Artest), hit him in the face and instigated a brawl near the end of a Pistons-Pacers game. Players and fans were fighting, drinks and other projectiles flew everywhere, a panicked Mike Breen briefly tried to focus on what was left of the game and instead instantaneously became a breaking news reporter for ESPN. Bill Walton was also calling that game, and not even the weed he’d definitely smoked before the game could keep him from getting hysterical. Some players raced into the stands to break up or join fights, and virtually everyone was looking for either cover or a safe escape route to avoid getting hit by objects — or fists — being wildly thrown throughout the arena and on the court as security lost control and fans trespassed in the paths of players, coaches, and other officials trying to exit.

Watching live, it was easy to lose track of virtually everyone in the blur. But then there was ‘Sheed, standing tall, watching everything, protecting players, breaking up altercations, surveying the turmoil, making sure people were safe. There’s a presence about Wallace that is unmistakable — a wise, serene, stillness that on the surface is in direct contrast to the often outwardly passionate and emotional way he played basketball. But those elements of his persona weren’t actually contradictory at all, they were complementary.

Basically, Wallace relentlessly gives a damn. That explains both his uncontrollable bursts of emotion that made him a true artist in the medium of collecting technical fouls, and it also fueled the deep levels of chill that made him stand out during the Palace brawl — simply, he cares. He was looking out for others.

Rasheed Wallace was in Flint again on July 17. He drove his truck with North Carolina plates here, he pulled into Evergreen Regency, and he precisely, cooly backed it into a tiny parking spot that appeared to be way too tight a fit for the sleek looking new Dodge Ram he was driving. Then he was immediately swarmed by people happy to see him as the TV news van parked next to him pulled out and found another parking spot since ‘Sheed left approximately two inches of room for that driver to open his door — again, PRECISE.

A celebrity visiting Flint in itself isn’t particularly remarkable — a who’s who of Hollywood paraded through the city for concerned photo-ops during the height of the water crisis. But when the attention on Flint waned, the celebrities stopped visiting.

The work wasn’t done. Wallace has never been about photo-ops, though. He came to Flint, and continues coming here, because he cares, because he will show up to do the work — to show people through his actions that they matter, that they’re worthy. He brings people food and water by the truckload, and he and his volunteers unload it and walk it to peoples’ doors themselves. He uses his platform to talk about Flint, and he won’t let people forget why we have to keep talking about what happened here — not because it could happen anywhere, but because it DOES happen in poor majority Black communities all over the country.

“Where are all the white people now?”

Flint, like all major cities, has had Black Lives Matter protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police. Those rallies have been well-attended and had crowds of people of all races. But those rallies have been downtown.

Evergreen Regency is low income housing in southeast Flint. The residents there are predominately Black and deal with high rates of crime, drug abuse, and violence. It’s tucked away from the shiny new parts of the city, the universities and the improving downtown with new restaurants, and a handful of historic neighborhoods that are populated by middle class or above residents. There are not paved trails or bike lanes or connections to the investment and energy downtown Flint. Evergreen Regency and places like it are usually just comfortably forgotten.

Which is why Wallace and Stephen Jackson, another former NBA star, were there, to take care of people who are ignored. When they were talking with residents, a woman near Jackson said, “Where are all the white people now?”

She was right. Other than my son and I, there may have only been one or two others in the crowd of over 100. The rallies downtown were comfortable, with space in lots, proximity to college campuses and city hall. Trekking into a part of the city that white people rarely enter isn’t comfortable. Which is why I went there. It’s not supposed to be comfortable.

I don’t think it’s productive to be overly critical of well-intentioned people, particularly young people, who want to be helpful allies and protest in comfortable places. But the quote from that woman is what will stay with me. The reason I’m sharing it is because I hope more white people will take this to heart: get uncomfortable. Go places you aren’t familiar, and do it in a way that isn’t trespassing or disrespectful of the people who live there. Go there to serve, to listen to, to uplift the voices of the people who live there. Go prepared to back off if your presence is intrusive, but go there to hear people, to offer help when and how it’s appropriate, to do the work of taking care of and looking out for each other, to do what Wallace was calmly doing on the court as chaos ensued around him in 2004.

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I saw that lasting figure of Wallace again today. From the moment he arrived, his magnetic presence, his power and the ease with which he uses it, was felt. People were comforted by him simply being there. Then, after spending time talking with different groups of people who surrounded him, he climbed into one of the rented moving trucks full of supplies and promptly started handing them down to people to carry door-to-door. Because it was time to do the work.

Quit Using Flint to Score Social Media Points

IMG-8430A group of local artists in Flint painted a Black Lives Matter mural on Martin Luther King Boulevard over the weekend. That in itself isn’t particularly noteworthy outside of Flint — people around the country have painted similar murals on public streets or other prominent spaces as rallies continue to force the country to finally reckon with our racist history. Which is more accurately described as our racist present.

What was noteworthy, albeit in an infuriating way, were social media reactions when the story began to be shared. Eric Woodyard, a NBA reporter for ESPN who grew up in Flint, shared an aerial photo of the mural. Dozens of people bombarded his mentions to say some variation of “Flint can paint a mural but they don’t even have clean water?”

The striking lack of self awareness of random Twitter people (many of them white people) jumping into the mentions to lecture a Black journalist like Eric who grew up in the city, has told some of its most powerful stories during his career, and still has family here, is flat out obnoxious.

It’s also just the latest example of people using Flint’s water as a catchy meme to score social justice points. Do a Twitter search at any time for “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” and you’ll see a collection of people working some form of that line into various causes or grievances they’re advocating. Often, those people have only surface level knowledge (if any) of Flint and its demographics. Flint to them represents nothing more than some news clips they saw in 2016, and some Tweets they periodically see in the years since every time some random wants to pretend they’ve been following the water story this whole time.

Reacting to the same barrage that Eric faced this morning, Jahshua Smith said, “My partner is from Flint and she always points out how people topple over themselves to tourist-splain Flint and talk over the people who are from there.”

If you’re truly interested in advocating for Flint and its people, DO NOT DO what the people in Eric’s mentions did to him. As he later pointed out, the local government didn’t commission the mural as a hollow attempt to placate protestors without actually making any sort of substantive change — an incorrect conclusion drawn by many of the people in his mentions. A group of local artists and residents wanted to do it, and did so with the help of a great nonprofit that has helped bring hundreds of beautiful murals to the city over the last year.

Now, if you want to debate whether or not a mural actually does any good, have at it. But what’s the point of art if not to call attention to social issues on a grand scale? Artists should make art that captures the spirit of the moment we’re in while engaging people, right? A huge Black Lives Matter mural on a main street in the city certainly accomplishes that, and it most definitely doesn’t let the government or police off the hook or less accountable for reforms they, at least in Flint, have promised to residents.

It is true, there are residents in Flint that still don’t have pipes replaced. But pipes are the actual fixable problem. Most residents have clean water, and the work of replacing pipes is at least something tangible that can and is being fixed, although nowhere near as fast as it should’ve been. So tweeting “Flint still doesn’t have clean water” is hollow, and doesn’t actually articulate what the structural disadvantages the most vulnerable residents here face, and have been facing for YEARS before Flint water became a national talking point.

Instead of talking about the water, talk about the lead poisoned kids who, already struggling to get the education and nutrition resources they need, face even more structural disadvantages now through no fault of their own.

Start asking why Flint residents pay some of the highest water rates in the country — and why they were well before the water crisis.

Ask some questions about how and why a state government took away decision-making power from local elected leaders, and how that has consistently been allowed to happen in predominately Black communities in Michigan.

Understand that, even before the water crisis, Flint residents were hurt by environmental racism, structural inequities in housing, in schools, in policing.

Caring about Flint requires more than just proving your wokeness by Tweeting a tagline at people who actually live here.

 

Being Rich and Useless in Flint

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University of Michigan-Flint faculty member Mark Perry filed a lawsuit against Wayne State University for hosting a coding camp for black girls.

Though dickish, the lawsuit in itself is not surprising given his history. Perry has filed at least 35 lawsuits against Michigan universities alleging discrimination against males, according to his prideful bragging in The Detroit News. He has a track record of weaponizing lawsuits and media attention to push universities into bending to his will — notably, two years ago, Michigan State University changed the name of a women’s lounge on campus because Perry was aggrieved that men also couldn’t go in there.

Perry — who makes over $140,000 annually from UM-Flint — has a singular intent: to protect male, particularly white male, privilege in higher education. His viewpoint is so absurdly stupid, that it hardly merits a serious response. So let me start with a non-serious one — pointing and laughing at some of his Rate My Professor reviews:

He is a terrible professor. He lectures for hours from powerpoint slides provided by the textbook company (which he is friends with and mentions several times). He offers only one point of view and references his blog often. His political views are very obvious.

Wastes all his class time by talking about his blog posts.

Website dedicated to his stupid hobbies. In love with himself. Lives in fantasy world. Needs to get in touch with reality. has no sympathy for the common person’s struggle. Hard to do when you are a fat spoiled out-of touch brat.

He is extremely boring and seemed to have some build up frustration. He is practically useless when it comes to answering students questions.

Doesn’t seem to create any of his own curriculum, which should be considered academic fraud at the graduate level. Lectures are deadly boring.

Seriously, he namedrops being friends with a textbook publisher in class? What a hip dude! And I really enjoyed that The Root put him in their “Mayo-American Hall of Fame.”

But that’s immature of me. So here are a few better-formed responses.

  1. Mark Perry draws a $140,000 salary in one of the poorest cities in America. Forty two percent of the University of Michigan-Flint’s student body consists of students whose families earn less than $65,000 per year and it is 24th among all Michigan colleges in median parent income, according to The New York Times. If those students are Flint residents, depending on what neighborhood their families live in, there’s a chance they still can’t drink water from the tap in their homes since the lead pipes have still not been replaced in some of the city’s poorest areas. University of Michigan-Flint is a public university. So his salary is being paid by taxpayers and tuition from a large number of students from middle class and lower families so that he can file frivolous lawsuits aimed at eliminating protections for women, show students boring PowerPoint presentations, and write riveting blog posts about the scourge that is massage therapists with long fingernails.
  2. Mark Perry teaches at a university that is more than 60 percent female. This month, he said this to The Detroit News: “We’re still stuck back in the 1960s or 1970s with outdated thinking that women still need special treatment and special preferences.” Wait … I’m very curious about the “special treatment” women were getting in the 60s and 70s. And if he’s arguing that things like Title IX, scholarships, and other initiatives to provide opportunities for women have now outserved their usefulness and are depriving white men, is he really saying that, what, like, 30ish years of these things existing or being thought about in any sort of serious manner is enough to undo … I dunno … forever? I guess? … of women and minorities being excluded from opportunities?
  3. He successfully bullied Michigan State University into changing the name of a small women’s lounge and making it a common space where men are now allowed as well. You know, the same Michigan State University that harbored a serial sexual abuser of women and complicit administrators who protected that criminal for years, not to mention an athletics program that has had its own severe issues with sexual violence against women on campus. Why would they possibly need a safe space for women???
  4. While he’s attacking Wayne State for offering a Black Girls Code camp, here are a few relevant stats that I’m sure he very much considered before filing his pointless lawsuit: 95 percent of the tech workforce is white, and 76 percent of it is male (Forbes); a Brookings Institute study noted that while women’s “digital skills” have rapidly increased, their share of the “highly skilled digital” job pool has not; a Google engineer was fired after circulating a manifesto that argued, among other things, gender gaps in tech jobs exist because women are not as psychologically suited to those jobs as men; 83 percent of tech executives are white, half of Google’s and Apple’s employees are white, and unfairness/mistreatment in the work environment costs tech companies billions of dollars per year in turnover/replacement costs when those frustrated employees leave (Tech Republic).
  5. College computer science departments are still overwhelmingly white according to Wired, hence the importance of pre-college programs like Black Girls Code. Despite Mark Perry’s “what about the men!” protests, colleges are actually very successful at getting white boys into computer science programs and don’t need the help of his frivolous lawsuits to bolster those efforts.
  6. Seriously, he’s filed 35 lawsuits against public universities in Michigan! Hey guess what, taxpayers? Since these are public universities, you get to pay for the legal resources that universities have to devote to this frivolity. Hey guess what, college students? This frivolity helps your tuition costs go up!

I worked in higher education for eight years, including a significant amount of time at a STEM university. Every major company in America is looking for increased diversity in its workforce. Every major company in America is eager to fund tech-related pre-college opportunities for diverse students. Early exposure to concepts like coding is critical, especially for underrepresented or economically disadvantaged populations who haven’t traditionally had opportunities in STEM education and fields. Black Girls Code is an amazing national organization that every college campus in America would be proud to partner with.

Mark Perry’s contentions, as cited in The Detroit News, that women are actually over-represented on college campuses and, thus, don’t need additional measures like scholarships, specialized camps, and women-only spaces on campus, is infantile. Here are a couple of the more ridiculous passages:

At UM, women dominate in 17 out of 21 fields of study, with business and engineering being the only areas where women are underrepresented.

Hmmm … so business and engineering, the two fields of study that traditionally yield the highest paying jobs to graduates, are the “only” ones dominated by men. Got it.

“Gender discrimination has been embedded, accepted, embraced and institutionalized in higher education for decades,” Perry says.

Just want to throw this statistic out there: despite women composing the majority of students on college campuses, nearly 20 percent of women are sexually assaulted during the time they are in college. And that number is likely much higher considering the number of sexual assaults that go unreported. Oh, and female administrators are still paid less than male counterparts (Inside Higher Ed). White men hold 55 percent of full-time professor jobs nationally, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And male faculty members are not only more likely to assign works by male authors than female authors, they also hilariously and sadly assign nearly three times more of their own published work than female faculty. Which fits with one of the Rate My Professor descriptions above of Professor Cool Blogs here.

So no, Mark Perry, discrimination against white men has not been an “embedded, institutionalized” issue in higher ed. Higher ed mirrors the rest of society, where it has been substantially easier for mediocre white men to advance than anyone. 

Sadly, based on my anecdotal experience in universities, Mark Perrys aren’t uncommon, he just happens to be more media savvy than others I’ve encountered. I’ve witnessed tenured male faculty dominate or actively belittle or resort to passive aggressive tactics to derail meetings or silence voices of female colleagues. I’ve heard horror stories from female colleagues about the behavior of men on tenure committees who made the process exceedingly difficult for them. I’ve seen men openly scoff at being open to or showing empathy to the experiences of marginalized or underrepresented groups of students. Not all of the male colleagues I’ve worked with have done these things, but an emboldened and vocal enough minority of them certainly wield enough power to make things hell for those with good intentions.

It is disappointing that Mark Perry is allowed to use his position at a great university in a community that I love to gain media attention to attack marginalized groups. It is disappointing that he continuously finds media outlets who give him a platform and are complicit in his attacks. And it is doubly disappointing that he’s protected by a tenure system that often enables bullies rather than protects academic freedom.

Flint Couture

Flint Couture

A ridiculous thing happened to me. On the day I found out I was an honorable mention for My City Magazine’s Greater Flint Best Dressed, I had accidentally worn two different socks that I didn’t realize were mismatched until like halfway through the day.

Being selected for this honor came with the promise of an interview about my fashion sense, an interview I took extremely serious. But, sadly, my fashion hot takes were dramatically condensed in the print version of the story. So below are my complete responses to their questions. The world needs to know.

Name: Patrick Hayes

Occupation: Director of Marketing & Communications, Kettering University

What three words define your personal style?: My boss at Kettering, Kip Darcy, best summed it up in two words: “Aging hipster.”

What’s your signature wardrobe piece? I don’t know if I have a signature piece, but I have a go-to category with core components: Dress shirt, unbuttoned top button with loosely knotted, solid-color skinny tie. It’s versatile. In the office, it gives off the aura that you’re attacking those deadlines with such great vigor that you had to loosen the tie, roll up your sleeves and get dirrrty. But untuck the shirt, swap the khakis for some jeans and throw a thin sweater overtop and you have a great semi-formal bro-on-the-town look.

Also, I do have a somewhat renowned banana yellow sport coat that I break out on only the most special of occasions.

Who are your style role models? My wardrobe’s personality is inspired by a weird mix between Eddie Vedder, Rashida Jones, C.M. Punk, Cardi B, Hunter S. Thompson, Randy Savage, and Rasheed Wallace. I don’t necessarily dress like any of those people, but I would want them all to think I’m interesting and approve of me, so my fashion choices probably reflect that on a subconscious level. Also, and somewhat related, I’m deeply insecure.

What’s your favorite outfit or article of clothing you’ve ever worn? I have a pleather motorcycle jacket that I bought on Amazon for $18 last year. I am a pacifist, and I don’t condone violence, I should say that up front. But should I ever be in a situation where a threat of fighting was possible while I happened to be wearing that jacket, I like to think the aggressors would look at me and say, “Whoa … let’s think twice before we attack the guy in the Danny Zuko jacket. He looks like he can handle himself.” So the jacket is both a great look and an insurance policy.

What are your favorite places to shop in the area? I have a very brick-by-brick mentality for outfits, which requires a lot of bargain shopping. T.J. Maxx, Goodwill, any clearance rack, and Old Navy late in the fall when all of the thin sweaters go on sale for super cheap are all my go-to spots. America is a Trunk Club culture now where people just want virtual stylists to do all of the outfit assembly for you and hand-deliver perfect wardrobes that some algorithm figured out. I’m a blue collar guy. I believe the components of a great outfit have to come together organically, sometimes over a period of months or even years. It takes persistence, a keen eye and patience. Never give up on an article of clothing. Sometimes, the right accessory comes along like an RKO out of nowhere and takes an outfit from good to great.

What’s your favorite fashion trend right now? When I was an 8-year-old whose mom forced him to wear elastic-banded sweatpants from Kmart, I never imagined “cuffed capri-length sweats” would be a fly look, but here we are. I don’t own any (YET), but I’m pretty jealous whenever I see people wearing them. Clothes that automatically make you look athletic, whether you are or not, are a lasting trend in my book.

What fashion trend do you wish would go away? To borrow a quote from Fetty Wap, “Everybody hating, we just call ’em fans though.” Fashion is art. It’s an extension of all of our personalities. If dressing a certain way makes you feel good, you should do it. I have no hating to add to the world and support every trend. All looks are good looks.