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Audacity of Whiteness: The Lochte Scandal In Rio And The Privilege That Fueled It

Tariq Toure

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By the year 2010, Tiger Woods was a self-proclaimed collage of ethnicities, four-time golf master’s champion, Forbes List powerhouse, and a publicly convicted adulterer. Woods’ reputation as the rising phoenix of model minorities made him a household name. Where else but America could a person of color undermine the racist yarn the young country is quilted with in such a way? 2010 avalanched upon the Woods’ legacy, fracturing an image the golf world was unfamiliar with seeing. After losing $22Million in endorsements in a matter of months, Woods’ still took to a podium to share his heartfelt regrets for cheating on his wife. Mainstream media looped the dramatic account of Woods’ wife confronting him and his subsequent car crash that occurred while he tried to evade her. By the end of 2010 Woods’ lost more than endorsements, he lost his whiteness, or rather his hallucination of it. It was not some outlying ideology he used when he explained to reporters his racial “percentage”, he was doing what many assimilationists do, making America comfortable with him, by moving as far away from Blackness as possible. He was ambitious, but not white. Mainstream media pointed it’s gattling gun at Woods and during a national press conference viewed by hundreds of thousands he told an ugly truth. Perhaps whiteness could have acted as guardian for Woods. Maybe Woods’ would still be held in pristine honor.

Lately, the lives of sports stars have been under the fog-lights of public scrutiny. They are responsible for being ambassadors of American values, which is why Woods’ mistakes cost him so much. You can’t error while representing an ideal, especially while having mixed racial percentages. 

In recent day the events surrounding the lives of white athletes like Ryan Lochte have shown the sinister parts of American values. 

Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte found himself engulfed in a situation that would drown his career this August. Lochte a 32-year-old white male on a privileged trip to represent the United States of America in the Rio Olympics, not only displayed America in it’s rawest form but exemplified the whiteness Tiger was reaching for.

On August 14, 2016 at 4:00AM in the morning Ryan Lochte accompanied by Jinny Feigen, Gunner Bentz and Jack Conger stopped a gas station to use the lavatory. The Olympians had come fresh off gutsy performances celebrated with an eventful evening in a hospitality house entitled “Club France.” After being met with a locked bathroom door, officials say they began to beat at the door, eventually relieving themselves on the walls of the business. Camera footage shows security guards approaching, then apprehending Lochte and friends .They found themselves in no trouble, just responsible for paying $20.00 for damaged property. Before Brazilian officials could make a statement about the incident, Lochte conjured a poetic narrative that placed the audience front row in a robbery of innocent white olympians staged by security guard imposters, in dangerous Rio. His story was believable. It was white. It was welcomed.

Journalist Kenneth Rapoza wrote a mouthy editorial in early January adding ammunition for his alibi, “Brazil just cannot — cannot — get a break. If it’s not their Banana Republic-esque politicians and oligarchs, commodity deflation, inflation and pesky mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus to the world, its violent crime. A new report out this month has Brazilian cities dominating a list of the 50 murder capitals of the world.” Rapoza cited Rio as being safer than Detroit, St. Louis and Compton but the headline screamed, “Brazil is The Murder Capital of the World.” Not to mention a viral video of Rio’s dispossessed youth preying on Olympic tourists for snatch and runs of anything they could get their hands on piercing through timelines. The Western World was ripe for Lochte’s jangled fable.

On August 15, all parties involved in peeing and property damage were accosted by Rio police. A video showing no sort of piracy surfaced refuting every detail of Lochte’s account. Twitter went to work. #LochteGate, a hashtag that put the evidence of cancerous white privilege on a world forced media to candidness.

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Yet and still anchors and pundits chose to reduce what occurred to ‘kids having too much fun’ during their work vacation in Rio. Lochte, a 32-year-old white male was allowed to be referred to as a child while just days later in Newark, New Jersey, a 10-year-old Black child was met with shotguns to the face after being mistaken for a 20-year-old suspect. 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down by police for playing with BB gun in Ohio, an open carry state.

We can’t reduce what Lochte did to an awful lie. It has to be seen in the context of Whiteness colluding to lynch innocent men, rob the sanctity of young girls, usurp mineral wealth from the dead hands of aborigines and having the audacious thought pattern of telling the free-world what it sees is not real. White lies matter. They matter to white lives. Had it not been for cameras and swift action by the Rio police, Lochte would have re-entered America with a “boys will be boys” story to tell over games of beer pong.

This sort of privilege parade carries a deadly consequence that as of late has come to a head, costing women the sanctity of their bodies. In the past 3 months, three white men have been pardoned from severe sentencing due their fluorescent futures. David Becker, Brock Turner, and Austin Wilkerson will never serve any complete sentence in prison after being found guilty of sexual assaults. Becker’s attorney expressed his heartfelt relief saying that the 18-year-old, “Can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender.”

He continued, “We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18, 19 years old, and we shouldn’t be branded for life with a felony offense and branded a sex offender” and “Putting this kid in jail for two years would have destroyed this kid’s life.”

In order of severity Becker survived the “harshest” punishment of the three. Brock Turner, a former elite swimmer at Stanford was found guilty of not only sexually assault but putting foreign objects into an incapacitated young woman’s vagina outside of a party. Against the instructions of the prosecution the  judge, Aaron Persky, ruled in favor Turner being sentenced to only 6 months in prison. He will be released after serving just three months in jail, for rape.

And in Colorado, Austin Wilkerson, 22, was found guilty of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman and will have the pleasure of leaving prison day-to-day to attend school and being placed on probation for the next 20 years.

None of the oppressive infrastructures that people around the world have laid verbal indictments to would stand without the presence of this sort of exceptionalism. Crimes against humanity, and even the people of countries already battling through negative perceptions, are passed off as boyish gestures devoid of accountability. Lochte and many others solidified what a great portion of people already know, that the world still acts as a white society’s playground. White men like Lochte, Wilkerson, Becker, and Brock Turner in particular, are left to commit abuse after abuse, only to be hailed for their youth and inherent innocence. In the path of their play, lay places like Rio, people like their victims, scarred.

“Whiteness has nothing to do with culture and everything to do with social position. It is nothing but a reflection of privilege, and exists for no reason other than to defend it. Without the privileges attached to it, the white race would not exist, and the white skin would have no more social significance than big feet.” ~ Noeal Ignatiev

 

Toure

Tariq Touré is a Muslim essayist, poet, educator and public speaker from Baltimore, Md. He uses prose as medium for shedding new light on issues such as social justice, racial inequality, black culture and Black Muslim narratives. In 2015, he was honored with the Real Men of Baltimore award by 92q jams radio station and the Alumni Excellence award by his Alma Mater Bowie State University.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ted Clayton

    August 31, 2016 at 2:22 PM

    Alcohol was Ryan Lockte’s leading liability in Rio (perhaps spiked with other local drug-offerings). Plenty of Caucasian, European people (American ‘whiteness’ is a dispersal of Euro genetics – and culture) performed in the Olympics and enjoyed Rio, without blundering too far into foolishness. For one to be white, hardly means to be another Lockte … nor did Lockte’s DNA oblige him to act the fool. The problem is chiefly in the bottle, not in the color of the skin.

    All the leading religions take a dim view of alcohol, and not just because the scriptural authorities can’t abide someone having fun. Intoxication alters the function of the brain & mind, in ways both disabling & corrupting. People do things under the influence, which they would have the sense & fortitude to avoid, sober.

    Tiger Woods, on the other hand, transgressed with sex. Again, the ‘boring’ scripture has condemned unsanctioned sexual activity, since the invention of the written word. Sure, ‘casual’ sex can be fun & exciting … but time & again we watch recreational sexual practices lead to the destruction of relationships and one’s own potential. Power & wealth are better risk-indicators, than race or culture. As we saw with the white Pres. Clinton … so it was with the brown Mr. Woods.

    Ryan Lochte and Tiger Woods are best viewed as classic, universal ‘Sunday School Lessons’ … casting wider and digging deeper tends to muddy rather than clarify.

  2. Avatar

    AF

    August 31, 2016 at 8:30 PM

    A racist article. No surprises there, Muslim Matters. The US press completely destroyed the reputations of the three swimmer and lost them untold amounts of endorsement money. The swimmers were extorted at gunpoint, probably BECAUSE they were white and it was assumed they had something to steal.

    • Avatar

      PrivilegedCaucasian

      September 1, 2016 at 7:49 AM

      You’re in denial. Another white privilege.

      • Avatar

        AF

        September 1, 2016 at 9:01 PM

        I’m in denial about what? Be specific. Yeah, I’m privileged, relatively speaking. Any black person in America is also privileged relatively speaking. Black Americans have a lifestyle that would be the envy of kings and queens of old and IS the envy of huge swathes of the modern world who live in crippling poverty with little opportunity. The poorest region of America is white. There are places in eastern Europe with desperately poor white people.

        Likewise, Muslims in America tend to have very pleasing statistics for education and income. Nevertheless, they spend almost all their time complaining. I have never seen a religious group with so many opportunities perpetuate such an ungrateful and unthinking spew of gripes.

        Social justice has become a joke. The people on this planet who really need to be rescued by the social justice movement are completely ignored in favor of groups of people who actually enjoy enormous privilege in a global sense. In fact, it is only the leisure of the well-to-do that gives certain Americans time to be full-time grievance-mongers.

        Why not say “Thank God/Allah for my remarkable and undeserved good fortune in life.” Then try actually doing something for those in real need.

  3. Avatar

    M

    September 3, 2016 at 10:20 PM

    The article is looking at the whole situation from the wrong perspective. Yes, there is a issue of race in America but this was not of the examples. This case was more of men privilege rather than white privilege, and of course alcohol. There is a reason why alcohol is not allowed in Islam, and is looked down upon in many other religions. I Wonder how many sexual assaults and rapes might have been avoided if it wasn’t for the alcohol and party culture in the west.

    Secondly, all these people got off easy for their crimes because well, isn’t that what men do? Boys will be boys, it was the women’s fault anyways. This is an idea that is quite ubiquitous. After the Olympics, Usian Bolt was found getting chummy with other women, and what was the reaction? And what was the reaction of his girl friend?

    • Avatar

      Time to correct

      September 13, 2016 at 8:12 PM

      Your post is sexist, an example of misandry and anti-male. It is overwhelmingly women who are given lenient treatment in every possible situation in life. This is something we all see every day. This post was about race not gender. Had women done this, they would have been the victims. Poor women needed to use the bathroom and were forced to urinate outdoors. We all know how it works. Anything wrong for a man is right for a women. You won’t get away with it forever. Islam inherently understands the nature of both genders. In this regard, it must be respected as an ideal social system.

  4. Avatar

    Hmmm

    September 6, 2016 at 1:36 PM

    Very interesting and thought provoking article. It’s good to see Muslims addressing race issues. The issue of white priveledge is real and it’s funny to see how many people want to disguise the issue as something else. Yes there are groups in Eastern Europe who are poor but what about the high levels of poverty in the us. Why ignore the issues in your own country. According to the 2014 us census blacks have the highest level of poverty (26.2%) And since you want to talk about Europe why not talk about the disgusting levels of racism in Europe and specifically in Eastern Europe. We live in a world where white is right and if you can’t see that then you’re deluded.

  5. Avatar

    mcao larof

    September 13, 2016 at 8:15 AM

    nice one here good

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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#Current Affairs

Ben Shapiro Gets Wrecked on the BBC for Racism Against Palestinians and American Jews

Andrew Neil so thoroughly destroys Ben Shapiro that he has a snowflake meltdown and retreats in the middle of the interview to his own safe space, off-camera. 

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The video plays at the 10:00 minute mark where Neil begins to break down Shapiro on his statements about President Obama, Palestinians, and American Jews.

Let’s set the context – popular conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, known for his aggressive debate style in the public square, visited the BBC to promote his new book.  The interviewer, Andrew Neil, after giving Shapiro a chance to introduce himself to the BBC audience, questioned him about the anger both the left and the right feel towards one another, and Shapiro’s own role in stoking that anger and polar opposition within the Republican party over many years.

The reason for this line of questioning is because Shapiro claims this to be a problem in American discourse and fails to consider his own contribution to the problem, and it is this hypocrisy that Neil confronts him about.  Shapiro attempts to respond, but is promptly crushed by Neil’s responses with Shapiro’s own quotes.  For example, he brings up the following tweet written about Palestinians which Shapiro agrees was wrong but hasn’t taken down:

 

Shapiro futilely attempts to respond, but Neil continues to quote Shapiro until he is left with no choice except to throw ad hominems at his interviewer, which were deftly turned back on Shapiro, leaving him to look even more petty for his attempted condescending remarks.  The end result is the man claiming earlier to welcome a spirited debate quickly found himself running away to lick his wounds.

Perhaps the greatest irony in this debate – Shapiro accused Neil of being an opinion journalist of the left-leaning variety, while Neil is a conservative and chairman of The Spectator, whose editorial outlook is conservative.

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