The U.S. Constitution was written as a tribal document. Indeed, based upon a careful reading of the document in 1857, the United States Supreme Court in a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger B Taney, ruled that no African-American, free or enslaved, had ever enjoyed the rights of a citizen under the Constitution. Taney argued that, since the time of the ratification of the Constitution, blacks had been “regarded as beings of an inferior order, altogether unfit to associate with the white race … and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
The Constitution was designed to protect the rights and interests of the white American tribe. Those arguing otherwise have absolutely no respect for the intellect of non-whites.
It took a civil war and the deaths of 750,000 Americans to (temporarily) establish that Black Americans warranted protection under its Bill of Rights. That protection lasted a brief period spanning twelve years from 1865 to 1877. The white tribe rigidly implemented and enforced a white supremacist Apartheid/Jim Crow social order from 1877 to the mid 1960’s. The struggle to have the rights and interests of Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and other people of color fully recognized and protected continues today.
But focusing on the Constitution’s shortcomings and flaws can result in an under appreciation and overshadow what it actually accomplished. Its core mission was to forge, out of a diverse population, a new national identity, uniting Americans of European descent into a white America tribe. To a remarkable extent, it succeeded.
Throughout the colonial and revolutionary eras, Americans were a multiracial, multi-ethnic conglomeration… A diverse mix of English, Dutch, Scots, Irish, French, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Greeks, enslaved Africans and terrorized Native Americans.
The Founding Fathers deftly united the people of varying European backgrounds into a white American tribe. The Constitution was a key tool deployed to overcome profound divisions among people of European descent. The Founders guaranteed members of the white tribe religious freedom. The Constitution also declared that the United States would have no national church and no religious tests for national office. These foundational guarantees helped America avoid the religious wars that for centuries had torn apart the nations of Europe.
The Founders also utilized the idea of white supremacy to establish the “others” once they granted American citizenship status to members of the white American tribe. The Black tribe was relegated to “chattel” status. The Native American tribe was deemed “savage” and marked for removal or eradication.
Tribalism lies at the heart of the American experiment.
Today, we are witnessing tribal allegiances return once again to the foreground. The white tribe is alarmed. The United States is experiencing rapid demographic shifts that are resulting in the inevitable tanning of America. The nation is well on its way to becoming a predominantly Black and Brown country.
Formed explicitly to further white American tribal interests, these shifts are resulting in considerable angst and tension for all Americans. The angst is observable in many aspects of contemporary American life, including sports. Riley Cooper, Colin Kaepernick, Lebron James, Drew Brees, Kylin Hill, Pat Chambers, DeSean Jackson, Stephen Jackson and Bubba Wallace are just a few prominent sports figures that have found themselves at the center of racial tempests in recent years.
It makes sense that racial strife permeating American life in general is spilling over onto the playing fields and courts as well as into the locker rooms. Sports have played a pivotal role in American communities since the dawn of the 20th century. Today, athletic contests pushing physical limits are more popular than ever before. Sports is a booming industry at the youth, high school, college and professional levels.
As long as local governments, schools, universities and major corporations continue to see sporting events as sound investments, sports will play a vital role in society for the foreseeable future. This means sports will continue to provides one of the most visible platforms for racial wrangling.
At no other time in American history have sports played such a dominant role in daily life. Their absence due to the coronavirus pandemic only serves to heighten their importance. While we have had no games, yet we have had plenty of tribal warfare taking place in the world of sports.
The white tribe, for the most part, until the George Floyd murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police remained steadfast in their opposition to Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protesting of police brutality and murder during the national anthem. It should be noted that there were some whites that defected and supported Kaeperneck prior to Floyd’s life being extinguished on camera. Indeed, Nike launched a massively successful marketing campaign focused on Kaeperneck’s peaceful protest campaign. However, the tribe’s resistance front remained strong.
The unquestioned leader of the white tribe, President Donald Trump, loudly and relentlessly beat the racial drums on this issue. He engaged in a sustained attack on NFL players who kneeled in protest of the national anthem. Trump’s line of attack reached a crescendo in September 2017 when he openly challenged NFL owners to release anyone who engages in the movement started last year by Kaepernick.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’” the president said at a campaign rally for an Alabama candidate for the U.S. senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.
The white American tribe loved Trump’s antics.
Adequately describing social developments prevailing in contemporary America requires a word as primal as “tribe” to place adequate focus on the mindless allegiances and deeply held partisan affiliations. Tribes have formed everywhere. In many ways they are similar to gangs, sans the violence. Like gangs, tribes demand loyalty, and in return they confer the security of belonging to insecure people longing to belong. They’re badges of identity, not of thought. Indeed, they are hostile to intellectual pursuits and sophisticated analyses. Tribes make thinking unnecessary, because they do it for you. This point is important… Tribes will attempt to punish you if you try to think for yourself. According to their imbecilic logic, to get along without a tribe makes you a fool. Moreover, to give an inch to the other tribe makes you a sucker.
This conceptualization is applicable to hard-core Trump supporters. Their blind allegiance to the president is unlike anything in recent history. Those red baseball caps give them a sense of belonging to the white nationalist tribe. These people not only reject intellectual pursuits, they frequently abandon science altogether. Those that accept science-based Center for Disease Control guidance are considered suckers.
Fuck a mask… Fuck social distancing… Fuck your health… The white tribe is “giving up its freedoms.”
The Black tribe is similarly engaged in reflexive and regressive behaviors. Recent revelations that Penn State Head Basketball coach Pat Chambers used the word “noose’ while talking to then freshman point guard Rasir Bolton has riled up the Black tribe. Eighteen months ago, on the heels of a poor performance against Wisconsin, Chambers said, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you.
“I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.”
With these words, unknowingly Chambers initiated a tribal skirmish that wouldn’t see a retaliatory strike for 18 months. But when it came, it came hard and heavy.
With Chambers at the helm, Penn State has made deep inroads into the Philadelphia basketball community. He’s recruited several prominent players from Philadelphia’s Public and Catholic Leagues. DJ Newbill, Shep Garner, Lamar Stevens, Seth Lundy, Izaiah Brockington and Mike Watkins are a few of the more prominent Philly kids that have donned the Nittany Lion uniform. Philadelphia has been good to Chambers and Penn State.
So when it was revealed that he uttered the word “noose” to a Black player, the Black tribe within that community was triggered. Members of this tribe quickly gathered around the fire (social media) and declared their commitment to seeing Chambers terminated. The speed with which partisan lines were drawn was spectacular. Like a gang, the Black Philadelphia basketball tribe demands undying loyalty, and in return they confer the security of belonging to the larger group.
The significance of the sense of belonging cannot be overstated. These are a group of frustrated middle-aged men that could not play in high school and college… They do not coach… They wield zero influence beyond the tribe itself… Basically, it’s a bunch of bitter irrelevant “never was” dudes that were MAYBE honorable mention all-milkcrate. With the Black basketball tribe and the advent of social media, they have created a basketball home for themselves. They have created a self-contained place where their thoughts, opinions and arguments related to basketball matter.
Membership in this tribe is a badge of identity, not of thought. For the most part, they reject anything but the most simplistic instinctual responses. “Chambers is a racist, Penn State must fire him immediately.”
Individual tribal members do not have to think, because tribe thinks for them. In the case of Chambers, there’s no need to examine his actual track record with his Black players. There’s no need to even talk to the Black players from Philadelphia.
The Tribe demonstrated that they will attempt to disparage and punish anyone with a propensity to think for themselves. For them, to spend ven a moment assessing the actual situation as it has existed within the Penn State basketball program over the past decade makes you a fool. Moreover, to condemn Chambers actions, to call for suspension, suggest cultural competency training and NOT demand that he be dismissed makes you an Uncle Tom.
This strain of behavior is spreading almost as fast as the coronavirus…
Then less than 24 hours after the Chambers headlines grabbed the nation’s attention, the Jewish tribe gathered around the fire (social media). Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson ignited controversy by sharing anti-Semitic comments on social media this week.
Jackson posted a quote on his Instagram Story on Monday which was attributed to Adolf Hitler, stating in part “the Jews will blackmail America, they will extort America, their plan for World Domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.” The Jewish tribal response was predictable and swift…
Notably, former Eagles president Joe Banner, who is Jewish, forcefully declared, “If a white player said anything about (Black people) as outrageous as what DeSean Jackson said about Jews tonight there would at least be a serious conversation about cutting him and a need for a team meeting to discuss… Which would be totally appropriate. Absolutely indefensible.”
Here we go again…
Tribes, as I have noted, eschew sophisticated analyses. Banner demonstrated the reflexive and instinctual nature of the tribal response. Tribes don’t think things through. They just want casualties… They are interested in the body count… Careful consideration of Banner’s reaction validates this assertion.
There’s an obvious and appropriate Eagles case study that serves as a useful comparison for the Jackson incident. It’s worth a quick review… During a Kenny Chesney country music concert in June 2013, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was caught on video calling Black people “niggers.”
Despite Banners claim to the contrary, the Eagles did not cut Cooper after he called Black people niggers. One could argue they actually embraced him. Exactly, what were the consequences applied in the Cooper case?
In August 2013, the Eagles announced that, “Riley Cooper will be seeking counseling and we have excused him from all team activities. This is all new territory and we are going to evaluate this timetable every step of the way. He will meet with professionals provided by the Eagles during this period of time to better help him understand how his words have hurt so many, including his teammates.”
Then on February 27, 2014, the Eagles announced that they signed Cooper to a new contract. According to reports, the terms of the deal include $25 million over 5 years.
So… What the fuck is Joe Banner talking about?
Banner is bright man that has manned the helm for two NFL franchises. He most certainly was very much aware of the Riley Cooper “nigger” episode. Yet, he made the patently false claim that if a white player said anything about Black people as outrageous as what Jackson said the team would consider cutting him.
That’s simply not true. The team in question, the Philadelphia Eagles, not only didn’t cut Riley. They signed him to a next 5 year $25 million dollar deal just months after he called Black people niggers on a video that went viral.
It’s tribalism that prevents Banner from making the obvious comparison and conducting a sober analysis. He feels, perhaps rightly so, that his tribe is under attack. His response, nonetheless, does nothing to move the dialogue forward in a constructive manner.
How do we begin to limit the impact of tribalism? From whence does it come?
The causes of America’s resurgent tribalism are many. One obvious explanatory factor is seismic demographic shift underway. Whites have ruled this continent since the colonial era. They have enslaved, subjugated and oppressed people of color for centuries. They are well aware that they will lose their majority status within a few decades. On some level, whites have to wonder if people of color will do unto white as whites have done unto them. Tribalism is spreading like penicillin in a petri dish under these conditions.
Another factor is perceived declining social mobility and a growing class divide. Over 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment is recent months. People are scared. Rent and mortgages are due and they don;t have jobs. The global pandemic is only intensifying despite the quixotic proclamations of President Trump. This seems to be contributing to widespread retreat into tribes.
Finally, social media has evolved in a manner that rewards expressions of outrage. Any dunderhead with a cell phone can “go live” and rally up a tribe predisposed to feeling under attack and pitted against another tribes. Tribal idiots have stages and platforms to spread ill-formed ideas and half-baked arguments among other frustrated tribal members.
Unfortunately, the past three years have witnessed further entrenchment of tribalism. Hence, social interactions, even in the world of sports, are devolving into mindless zero-sum competitions, one in which tribes measures success by the extent to which they can stroke their member fears and appealing to their ugliest us-versus-them instincts.
Count me out… I refuse to stop thinking for myself…