When we know better, we do better.

When I set out to talk about the coverage of the NDHSAA state basketball tournament, it was to shed light on the inequality of our female athletes. It was to show that our girls deserve equal footing on whatever venture that they choose to pursue. It was to honor The Huskies, The Patriots, The Eagles, The Demons, The Rough Riders, The Mustangs, The Majettes, and The Sabers.

The reality is that these athletes are the leaders of their community. These athletes have little girls who will one day pick up a basketball because of them, which is a beautiful thing that helps grow the sport. Why would anyone want to stand in the way of that?

But I feel as though the focus has shifted a little, and I don’t want to lose focus of the seminal point here.

Whatever happens for the boys’ tournament, happens to the girls’ tournament. Equality.

– If the boys are televised, then girls should be as well.

– If the boys have a chance at the main court one year, then the girls should have a chance at the main court the following year.

– It is about equality, pure and simple.

I’ve had so many awesome conversations this past weekend. I’ve spoken to Dom Izzo, I’ve spoken to the NDHSAA Board of Directors, I’ve spoken to countless members of the basketball community and media. The crazy thing there are things we can all agree on:

– When the media rights contract was signed 4-5 years ago, streaming was not a consideration, it was a relatively new technology.

– The contract is for coverage of the girls’ and boys’ semifinal and final rounds of the tournament (both to be covered equally). WDAY has exclusive rights to the entire tournament, so any additional coverage by WDAY goes above and beyond the contract.

I’m order for WDAY to pay for the above and beyond service, someone has to pay for it.

– Since the new technologies are tried and tested, it is imperative that the contract is renegotiated to ensure equal coverage. I believe that happens next year.

So there’s a start, we can agree on those things, but, realistically, it is simply not good enough. We need change.

There is enough fault to go around. We can play the blame game all we want, but here are the facts:

– Shame on the parents (myself included) for accepting the status quo and not challenging companies and entities who play into these inequalities; this has been going on for a while and we know better!

– Shame on advertisers for throwing money at entities and organizations and not educating themselves on the workings of equality in production. They know better.

– Shame on the media for not asking the hard questions and uncovering the truth about what was happening. You know better.

– Shame on the NDHSAA for not protecting our female athletes, which is one of the sole purposes of your organization. You know better.

This is on all of us.

Let me be clear:

This is not about the streaming glitches,

This is not about viewership,

This is not about money,

This is not about me,

This is not about basketball

This is not about my beloved Huskies.

This is about access,

This is about equal protection.

This is about representation.

This is about equality.

We can fix this!

Equal.

Airtime.

For.

Women.

Period.

Equal Airtime For Women

Sexist and Discriminatory.
That is the only way to describe what is going on regarding forum communications and the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s State Basketball tournament.
Let me provide context as I understand it:
The boys’ quarterfinals are televised for free, and the girls’ quarterfinals will be streamed for a price. Do you mean to tell me that in 2022, we are still under the guise that male sports sell tickets and women sports do not? Do we still have entities looking to optimize the mighty dollar instead of furthering the sport for both males and females? We still believe that males deserve visibility and females don’t?
That is a crying shame.
It is bad enough that you barely report on local prep sports anymore, but it is even worse to realize that you have formulated your coverage based upon gender.
It is shameful,
It is disgusting,
And it needs to change. Now!
I am calling on every female, every parent of daughters, every true sports fan, and every human, and advertising companies. being to demand that this be changed immediately, and a statement of apology issued to all North Dakota female athletes.
Shame on the Forum Communications company for perpetuating female athletes’ stereotypes and shame on the NDHSAA for not demanding better for our female athletes. Thirty-two teams qualified for the state basketball tournament; twenty-eight of the thirty-two will appear on Television and get the recognition they deserve for making it. Let’s flip the calendar to 2022.

And Therein Lies the Rub…

This blog post is in response to an opinion piece in the Fargo Forum: https://www.inforum.com/opinion/7139823-Nelson-They-myth-of-white-privilege?fbclid=IwAR1Iuv2jafAfvo40bUMZHgpqXEqjGpbZi6o4Z_M2v46j_r2xILmIehtdYXU

The ultimate mark of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate challenge, the exposition of its roots.

— Trouvillot

Have you ever been told that you are a credit to your race?

Have you ever been told that you are not like “them?”

Have you ever had to attain the highest degree of your profession to become an example of excellence in a homogeneous environment?

The words are meant as terms as endearment as compared to the norms. The action is intended as a way to assimilate to the norm.

The norm is essential; both what it is and what it means for each ethnic demographic both now and throughout history.

Minority groups did not set the norms until recently—it was either against the law or left them subject to bodily harm. What they did was find a way to navigate. The fortunate ones did this successfully, but most couldn’t or wouldn’t (and why should they have to)?

What was asked of them was to assimilate or die, which is still the case today.

If you’re are not a minority, you may never have to make that choice. And based on the part of the country from which you are raised, either option means the diminishing of one’s self to create anew.

So, if you haven’t had to make that choice, or you haven’t had those things said to you, then you cannot begin to understand what privilege is. White privilege does mean that you haven’t had issues in your life. It doesn’t diminish how hard you’ve worked for what you have. It does not mean that you actively participate in racism or bigotry. It does mean that when the norms were established, ethnic minorities did not have a seat at the table. I will give you a personal example:

I am probably the first generation in my family (on either side) that will have the opportunity to leave investments for my kids when I die. My wife is white, and I am black. The most interesting aspect of our relationship is how different our ancestor’s paths were.

When her ancestors traveled to America, mine were sharecroppers in Alabama — with no hope of acquiring land.

When her ancestors were settling in North Dakota, making them landowners — an investment that would pay dividends for centuries to come, mine were living life under Jim Crow.

While her ancestors were tilling the land with their blood, sweat, and tears, mine was part of the great migration, using their blood, sweat, and tears to escape poor economic conditions and persecution, just as her ancestors did 50 years previous.

The only way that my father was able to open doors for his family was to join the military in the ’60s, which gave us a fantastic future, but also brought its own set of racial challenges for him.

And there is me. I am a doctor, a politician, an educator, a proud father, and a devoted husband. On the surface, it is easy to say, “Look at you, you have pulled yourself up by the bootstraps and made something of yourself. But that would be missing the point entirely.

Every generation in my family had to start again. Learning norms, navigating to survive, facing oppression and marginalization, and overcoming to strive for uncertain success — things that some minorities have to do still today. For every one of me, there are thirty others that could not defy the odds.

With all of that said, I need to point out that my story and your story are only relative to ourselves and not the bigger picture, and therein lies the rub. You cannot base societal issues solely on individual stories. Both mine and your story are important because it provides some context. But your story does not prove that white privilege does not exist any more than mine proves that it does. We must start to criticize the status quo. Only then can we begin to improve our communities. If we continue to believe that each person is born with the same chance at success regardless of race or social-economic status, we are kidding ourselves.

Contact Lenses

As a society, we have gone too far proclaiming who is right and who is wrong. Instead, we should be considering the lens individuals use to interpret the world. Each one of us uses our lends to navigate life. Most likely, the lens used is shaped by the experiences in each of our lives: the successes, the failures, and the traumas. When we choose to place our values on those outlooks to determine what is right and what is wrong, we have conflict.

For example, I know people who think that Ronald Regan was a fabulous President. They can point to all of the wonderful things he did- all of the policies that he created (I mean, he did help bring down the Berlin Wall). But I know others that see his presidency from a different lens. They see policies that deteriorated the African American community, they see his participation in COINTELPRO which places him in a different light. Does that mean that either side is wrong? That may depend on your subjective definition of right…

The important thing about a lens is that is brings perspective – it is not just about ethnicity. A lens is shaped by an assortment of experiences: sexual preference, social economic status, trauma, gender, etc. This is why it is so important that we as a society understand that representation matters. Without it, we are creating an environment that promotes group-think.

Nobody ever wins with group-think. Think about how easy it is to govern when everybody has the same line of thinking.

We’ve started to place right and wrong based solely on people’s lenses.

We’ve stopped trying to look at events through the eyes of others.

We’ve stopped walking in other peoples shoes.

When a person has the job of managing and/or dealing with groups of people, the perspective of self as well as others becomes ever-so more important. When we educate, when we govern, when we serve, we are tasked with taking on the responsibility to look at situations from different lenses Although considering different perspectives is not an easy task (no matter how much education and training you have), it is imperative to the success of any entity.

History has shown us that we are a weaker society when we strive to be homogeneous. It leads to the closing of ideas, the stunting of progress, and the eventual collapse of civilization. Sure, it looks nice on its face, but when you dig a little deeper, you uncover a people who are stuck in time with ideas that won’t stand the test of time.

And that is sad.

Basketball is a Spectator Sport — For Me

I debated writing this, but, in the end, I think it is more important to share. Don’t judge me!

I have come to a pivotal point in my life. I did not know that I would get to this moment, and it came on suddenly. In fact, it came on so sudden that it took me by surprise. What happened, you ask?

My oldest daughter told me that my help was no longer needed during her basketball games.

Back when I was a genius…

I was not surprised that I was told that my help was no longer needed; it was the manner in which it was done.

I will provide some context:

I have been my daughter’s coach since she was able to run. I have been her basketball coach since she could pick up a ball. Playing basketball and learning new skills has been a part of our relationship – a bonding point between us. Like other kids who have played on a team coached by a parent, we had our ups and downs. But, with my wife’s help, we had always hugged it out with some understanding. Now, she plays on the high school team, which puts me on the sidelines – and I am okay with that.
During her second game, she was defending a girl, who I believe was a weak ball-handler.

“Get up on her!” I yell.

And that is when she looked at me, while playing defense, and held her hand in a way that represented open lips, and she pressed her fingertips together – closing the “lips”.

Yup, that is correct; she motioned for me to shut up — all without getting out of defensive position.

Son. Of. A. Bitch! She shushed me.

I was so shocked by this! I went through a gamut of emotions:

What the…?!

How dare…?!

Ungrateful ass!

Just then, I turned and looked at my wife who was sitting next to me with a family friend – laughing. Not just any laugh; it was a full-out belly laugh. And then it hit me – I am no longer my daughter’s coach. It was time for my transformation from father/coach to father/mentor/fan.

I had once read the book, Changing the Game, which has a lot of useful information concerning the way parents can help and hurt their kids in youth sports. One thing I took away from the book is this question:

Do my actions reflect the values I want my child to embody.

Both on and off the court, I want my child to have the following:

  1. A love for the sport,
  2. A growth mindset,
  3. Confidence,
  4. The ability to make mistakes,
  5. The ability to learn from mistakes,
  6. The ability to correct mistakes,
  7. Independence.

By her gesture, she was claiming her independence. She was ultimately doing everything I asked of her since she was in third grade — I cannot be mad at that. It is effortless to yell out and coach from the sideline. But that is just it; I am no longer on the sideline – I am in the audience, which brings up another thing that this book has taught me—the importance of saying to her the words:

I Love Watching You Play.

She is such a fierce competitor.

As a youth athlete, I remember nothing that I disliked more than the post-game report — especially after a loss. I did not get it from my parents but from the parents of my peers. They all thought that they were being helpful, but mentally, it was not. My parents? I believe that they knew that there were more pressing issues in the world than how much I scored or how much playing time I received. They left the improvement up to me. If I was going to be good at anything, it would be intrinsically motivated (but don’t get that confused with not caring).

So, what did I gain from this experience?
I should count my blessings that I have a healthy daughter who loves to play basketball at a high level. Before each game, I should review my goals for her this year. Realistically, the goals I have for her have very little to do with a specific sport but life lessons that she can use for the future.

Let’s Go, Afro!

The Decision

To be a black male is to live a life that is full of contradictions. Contradictions that cause us to make decisions that we may not understand. Decision that now our black boys are having to make.

It is a critical one that directly affects them future and the future of their children.

It is one that has been overlooked in our society for far too long, and it is time we discussed it.

It is a decision whether to assimilate or not.

Each path comes with favorable and less favorable outcomes. And, it is a decision that each black individual will need to make for himself.

The decision is whether to become an assimilationist or a non-conformist.

The definition of assimilation is to act accordingly with the intent of fitting in and or conforming. In this case, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

A non-conformist is a person whose behavior or views do not conform to prevailing ideas or practices. Again, we are talking about societal norms and expectations.

For a black male, assimilation can be considered a good thing. A black person who chooses to assimilate is more likely to be accepted and given privileges that maybe not part of their original environment — an environment that could deviate from society’s expectations of “success.” On the other hand, choosing to assimilate could come at a great price. The acceptance of one set of norms could mean the a denial of another. The ability to attain and keep street credit within ones own community (not just geographical location) is an important part of the black society. To be able to walk down the street and get “the nod” from peers means acceptability and the ability to walk through certain neighborhoods with confidence and respect.

For a black person, to be a non-conformist is to keep and maintain street credit, which holds the ability to walk around a neighborhood as a leader or a a well-respected member of that community (again looking at more than geographical location). People who do not understand this may ask, “Why would anyone forgo the opportunity to improve themselves for street credit?” Those people would be missing the point.

Improving oneself is only relative to society’s definitions of success. If a house, a car, and a picket fence is society’s definition of successful, then the non-conformist may net ever meet the expectations for success, which is why it is important that society does not create perimeters for what it is to be successful. Success can come in many forms and is only contingent on each individual who must decide for oneself when enough is enough.

In order for black youth to be able to make a concious decision, they must first be presented with the question through conversation. This conversation between older and younger generations of blacks males needs to be had and must continue because it is critical. The conversation has not gotten any easier — especially for those of us who live in homogenous communities.

Look no further than the current state of events. It is getting harder and harder to avoid the elephant in the room. It is harder to look past the fact that if it were a group of African Americans that stormed The Capitol, we would be reading a different story. But, who bears the cross of uncomfortable silence? Is it me – who fears that the conversation could go too far and disrupt my livelihood or my life’s work? Or is it my community — who has to live with the fact that there are some truths that they must come to terms with? Especially since the community knows and interacts with me, my wife, and my children daily.


Once again, I, a forty-year-old man, am forced to decide between assimilation and non-conformity. I am once again forced to make a decision that can derail what I have worked for. I am forced to make the same type of decision that I had to as a youth.


Is it fair? No.


Is it real? Yes.


So, here I am, stuck between two worlds — forced to navigate this world without a playbook, instructional manual, or a tour guide. Trying to be successful, while trying not to become a traitor –

An Uncle Tom.

An Oreo.

A Coon.

While also not trying to be angry —

ungrateful

ghetto

intimidating.

It is a terrible thing to be black male to be labeled as one of these things. But, it is a reality.

This is why representation matters. This is why we need black people in positions that matter. Black males deserve to have people in positions that matter!

We shouldn’t have to make this decision. But we do — and, as a whole community, it is our job to guide our black youth and not judge their decision. There are no wrong answers, only consequences.

Reading is Fundamental

Literature tells society’s story. A non fiction book not only provides the reader with context, but entertainment value as well. It shows the sentiment of a faction of society from a particular time period — a snapshot in time.

…which is why I cannot figure out why people show disgust for books based solely on their disdain for the author and not on the contents of the book.

Literally judging a book by its cover.

Since graduating with my Ph.D., I have found a ton of time to read for enjoyment (thank God). I have been consuming nonfiction at a stupid rate, and I like to share books that I am currently reading on social media.

And that is when the opinions on the books start.

Check that — critiques on the books.

Check that — critiques on the authors of the books from people who have never read said books.

Book by Candace Owens – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Michelle Obama – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by George W. Bush – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Barack Obama – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by Ibrahim X. Kendi – people are pissed and voice their opinion.

Book by W.E.B. Dubois – yup, you guessed it – pissed and voice their opinion.

And the mad ones never bothered to read the book…

And they are big mad…

I am not surprised that people post their critiques (opinions like assholes, right); I am surprised that people post their opinions without knowing what is inside the book. I am surprised that people judge a book by its author and not the content. I am surprised that people are so comfortable with their sheer ignorance.

Or conscientious stupidity.

I read nonfiction from a wide variety of authors. I feel that it is important to read from a variety of perspectives and experiences. I get it, that is not something every person cares to do. But, if you find yourself if a book store looking at the cover of a book, and the author’s picture conjures a reaction of disgust, it might say more about you as a person than it does the author or the reader.

Just remember, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is Still Time for Good Trouble…

The issue with choosing leadership is that, when it goes our way (either side), we (the constituents) take a breath as if our job/our civic duty/our mission is complete, which, in the end, only leads to disappointment. Let me be clear, the easiest part of democracy is getting your leader in office.

No matter who we choose as a leader:

Rights will be challenged,

personal values will be questioned,

you will be taxed,

people need representation,

children need to be educated, and,

evil will come in some form.

No matter the leader, become educated and active in politics.

If your candidate won, congratulations! Now get to work.

If your candidate lost, sorry. Now get to work.

It is the same as it ever was.

This is Not a Moment, This is a Movement

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There was a time in history when it was illegal for black people to be educated.

There was a time in history when black people could not vote or hold a political office.

Both actions were punishable by death.

But, history tells us that if you tell black people that they cannot do something, they will show you how it is done.

And that is why 2020 is such an important year for my family and me — I did both.

I have been asked why I would want to run for political office or why I would want to hold a doctoral degree. I have always been hesitant to answer the question; I didn’t think people would understand.

The reason is: I know exactly what my purpose is in life. Many people have no idea why they are on this earth, but I do. My purpose in life is to lead. How did I know this?
My ancestors told me.

I was recently shown that I am a vital part of American history. My people were from Africa; brought here for slavery in Auburn, Alabama; persevered and sought opportunity through the great migration; marched through Jim Crow; and fought for this country in the United States military. I am a product of their perseverance, diligence, sacrifice, and hard work. My ancestors told me that I am needed and that I should prepare. I was told that I would have to sacrifice personal pursuits for the greater good.
So that is what I did.

While some were on vacation, I was locked in a room typing away. While some were watching their child’s events, I was seated next to them, feverishly typing on my laptop. While some spent their weekend at their lake cabin, napping and tubing, I sat in a classroom from 10 am to 6pm, learning, debating, and sharing. I am not saying I am better than, I am saying I had my orders — this was the sacrifice I was told about; this was part of the grand plan. All the while, my wife was tirelessly and selflessly holding the fort down in my absence.
Now, I am not trying to be “the next great” anything. I only needed to lead by example. The objective is simple, beat the odds and achieve at the highest levels without excuse.

So the doctoral degree? Not for me.

The City Council Seat? Also, not for me.

These achievements are for those who look like me; those who have the same backgrounds as me; those who came before me; and hopefully, those who come by way of me. I am a vehicle for others to achieve success. If 3 to 4 people of color see me and feel that they can achieve anything, I have done my job.

So what is next? Unfortunately, my mission is not completed — no, it has just begun. And I am not sure it will ever be until I am in the ground. I still have responsibilities. It is part of being young, gifted, and black.

Signed,

Councilman David L. Woods II, Ph. D

B761CB75-4EB5-4940-9D35-36C94A338F9E

To Scroll, or Not to Scroll

We have lost our way in terms of communication and social media etiquette. Far too often, I see a person post a not-so-popular opinion on social media, and a different person comes along and adds a comment to the opinion. What ensues is what I will call a cluster f—. Something like this:

“You should not think the way you do!”

“I don’t mean to offend you, but…” (Note: the person meant to offend).

“I hope that never happens to anyone in your family!” (Note: they, in fact, mean to wish shitty fortune on the person and family).

“Well, a simple Google search will show you…” (Note: Insert shitty articles passed off as research from a highly suspect author/group/firm).

“Well, it is my opinion — and if you did not want it, you shouldn’t have posted what you did!”

Here is the thing, purposeful or not, people who post on social media want some sort of reaction or dialogue from their audience. A person would be correct by saying that the author should not have posted something without expecting a negative response. But the audience member also has a responsibility — one that requires some maturity on their part. What is not appreciated is when a person comes along, reads the post, then adds their opinion with the intent of only being right and not to have a dialogue.

If this is you, guess what? Approaching information with that sort of intent does not make you right; it makes you an ass, and here is why:

  • You don’t have to answer. You could go on about your business and have an awesome day.
  • The person who created a post is most likely not going to change their mind.
  • You, I am assuming, are not an authority, nor are trained on researching the subject.

That means that you are entitled.

Sorry, it does.

Not only that, but you also gave up your power. A person that you may not even know got a rise out of you and caused you to react. The person got you.

“But, what if they say something offensive?”

Simple answer, keep scrolling. Physically show someone close to you the post and laugh at the dumbass comment. But keep scrolling and have a nice day.

If it is a company that says something offensive, even better — boycott the business and get others to do the same. But you don’t need to comment on their post.

I have watched long time friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, daughters, disown each other on a public platform because of a need to be right. The sad thing is, both sides were right. Dead right.

I’ll explain

When a person is willing to give up everything, even if it comes as a detriment to their well-being to be right, they most likely will be dead right. Why? Because being right is just a subjective construct. Being right does not mean that you are fair or honest; it only means that your set of values justify your stance. It also means that each person is not willing to change their view, which is not necessarily wrong – unless you cannot coexist with someone who does not believe the same as you.

Let’s review:

  1. If you see something that you don’t agree with: Keep scrolling.
  2. If you see something that offends you: Keep scrolling.
  3. If you see something that you believe is not true: Keep scrolling.
  4. If you have some information that you would like to share, but it does not come from a peer-reviewed article: Keep scrolling.
  5. If you want to add some emoji, fine, but after that: Keep scrolling.

The highest form of discipline is self-restraint. It is wise to practice that.

Arguing with a fool only proves there are two.

*I know there will be some who will not agree with this post, and that is okay. But guess what? I don’t give a shit, so do yourself a favor and keep scrolling.

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