What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Yale dishwasher gets his job back

after breaking a stained-glass window at a campus residence

1:00 PMWhen it comes to the concept of town and gown relations, New Haven, Connecticut, is one of the most stratified cities in the United States. Surrounding one of the most prestigious universities in the country is a population and region whose demographic trajectory followed that of many others: After the second World War, black folks flocked to the coastal town for jobs. Then, white people decided to leave.

The last time I was there — to speak to a group of college journalists — the only black folks I saw were cab drivers and school employees. That included everyone on the panel I was participating on and the students in the program. The tension between the school and the city is still apparent and unavoidable.

In the 1960s and ’70s, it was a full-blown political hotbed. In the ’50s, conservative demigod William Buckley lived there. Then came local “urban renewal” — more popularly known as negro removal, in some parts of the world. The fallout from the New Haven Black Panther Party trials served as a window into how race relations were developing on a local and national scale. It also led to Yale’s decision to become a closed campus. By the ’90s, outsiders considered the city a straight-up violent place once you stepped off school grounds.

So, when Corey Menafee, a 38-year-old dishwasher at Yale University decided he was going to destroy some stained-glass windows that depicted slaves carrying cotton on his way home from work, he wasn’t just some randomly fed up dude that popped off. He grew up in New Haven. He’s got a degree from Virginia Union University and is supporting two kids.

“It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that,” Menafee told The New Haven Independent. “I just said, ‘That thing’s coming down today. I’m tired of it.’ ” It’s worth noting that the word “racist” is in quotes for the headline of this story.

The easiest way to understand just how deep the institutional connection to discrimination is at Yale, all you need to know is that these images were featured at the residence hall of Calhoun College, named after John C. Calhoun, the seventh U.S. vice president who believed strongly in slavery.

“The Ivy League in particular is a bastion of Americana and its often troubling idols,” Doreen St. Felix wrote at MTV.com. “It’s a powerful aesthetic, providing an apolitical zone for the patriotic to profess their love of country. And it seems harmless, a quirk of history filtered primarily through art. But Confederate memory can be found throughout Americana, whether the symbol is a flag or the windows in an Ivy League residential college.”

Separately, Yale’s black student body population has been charging the proverbial establishment gate in the past year or so over a range of issues. Here are three stories from The New Journal, a student-run publication that can catch you up on that.

Perhaps most shocking is that it worked. The university announced Tuesday that it is prepared to reinstate Menafee to his position. “We are willing to take these unusual steps given the unique circumstances of this matter, and it is now up to Mr. Menafee whether he wishes to return to Yale,” Karen Peart, director of external communications, said in a statement. Menafee agreed to return.

“There is a bit of regret, because, as a grown adult with a sound mind and able to think, you know, you don’t never want to resort to those type of tactics, as far as bringing change about,” Menafee told the radio program Democracy Now! last week. “You want to sit down, and you want to talk to people, and you want to — you want to use your intellectual skills. You’re not — you don’t want to physically just destroy something. I don’t encourage anybody to just go ahead and destroy another person’s or another entity’s property because you don’t like it. There’s better ways to resolve it. However, the action that I did, obviously, there is a plethora of people who believe the same thing, who felt the same thing. So, in that way, I think my actions were justified, because other people — a lot of other people feel the same way I feel.”

Lux et veritas is the school’s motto, which translates loosely to: truth through enlightenment. “None of this would have been possible without the efforts of the community and the media. I can’t say it enough: Thank you so much,” Menafee said Tuesday.

Sometimes, speaking up makes a difference.

Fourth officer acquitted

in the case of Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore

4:33 PMLet’s ask ourselves a question: If no one in Baltimore Police Department is responsible for Freddie Gray’s death, who is? Did a man just snap his own neck in the back of a police vehicle by himself? According to the state, apparently so.

Today, a fourth officer was acquitted in the case of the man who died last year after sustaining injuries while he was detained. Lt. Brian Rice, 42, was the highest-ranking officer in the incident. It’s worth noting that he asked for a decision to be made by a Baltimore Circuit Court judge, not a jury. Once again, this is how the system works for itself. Officers Garrett Miller and Alicia White are still awaiting trial.

The judge in the Gray case said an error in judgment was not enough to convict Rice of misconduct or negligence.

Most importantly, though, is this notion of erasure through separation. There are so many layers of plausible deniability between the enforcement of law and the termination of a black life that you don’t need a master’s degree to understand why people think they don’t matter. Even when police officers kill a fellow law enforcement official, they don’t go to jail.

The officer who shot and killed undercover detective Jacai Colson in Prince George’s County, Maryland, said he didn’t know that he was not a suspect because he was not in uniform. More plainly, he assumed that because he was shooting a gun and he was black that he was a criminal. And a grand jury agreed with him. Blue Lives Matter? Apparently not, if they’re black, too. Mind you, Colson was actually protecting a police station from an ambush. Hey, at least someone named a dog after him.


What’s also incredibly quizzical is that the city agreed to pay $6.4 million to Gray’s family over the matter, a tad more than the $6 million that the city of Cleveland paid to the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by police in 2014. At the time, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said, “the purpose of the civil settlement is to bring an important measure of closure to the Gray family, to the community and to the city. And to avoid years and years of protracted civil litigation.”

What killed him was his blackness, it would seem.

Daily Dose: 7/18/16

It’s going down in Cleveland

4:00 PMGlad to be back home after a long week in Los Angeles. The ESPYS were a ton of fun, and California is still a tremendous place.

It’s the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. It feels like a big moment already and it’s just the first day. The Ohio city, which isn’t even the capital, is abuzz with people though there’s also a tad of awkwardness because some people don’t want to find themselves affiliated with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Sidebar: If you’re wondering, his whole family will be speaking there at some point this week, as will Scott Baio. Yes, that Scott Baio. All that aside, many are nervous about the event in general. Here are five things to watch from the Quicken Loans Arena this week.

Another day, another terrifying shooting situation involving police. This time, again in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where three officers were killed while responding to a 911 call. Still, no one knows why this person chose to do this, but we again find ourselves trying to heal as result of the actions of someone with a firearm. The truth is that this is all madness. Everyone is afraid of everyone and every other person seems to have fun to assuage said fears. ABC News’ Emily Shapiro has the details on how the whole scene went down in Louisiana.

I have to admit. I have no idea how to process the concept of space. Like, I get it — there are other planets, a solar system, etc. Your boy isn’t on some pseudo-science foolishness. But when I’m told that organizations such as NASA are sending things into other planets’ orbits, my mind is blown. Alas, that’s what it did, and now a spacecraft called Juno is sending pictures back from Jupiter. How does that work? Don’t ask me. But you can ask FiveThirtyEight’s Maggie Koerth-Baker, who explains the entire process.

The sexual assault scandal that rocked Baylor’s campus is finally getting official consideration. The school plans to present tomorrow to the Big 12 conference how it plans to handle the issues. On one level, it’s a tad awkward that this needs to go as far as the conference level to get properly addressed, but whatever. It’s something. If you don’t recall, basically Baylor’s football team was doing everything it could to conceal sexual assaults alleged against its players. ESPN’s Paula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach report.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you haven’t seen this video of a man being wrongfully arrested by an officer who believes that he’s done everything right and even lies to convince himself that he did, you need to watch it. It’s a perfect example of how hubris from an authority figure can basically ruin someone’s life in an instant.

Snack Time: Speaking of, police officers don’t go to jail even when they kill one of their own. Which is mind-boggling when you really think about it.

Dessert: Stephen Colbert is a national treasure. That is all.

Getting caught

isn’t that bad if you’re doing it with someone you care about

7:00 AM[protected-iframe id=”2139088105dfea0f0a3be9ad66b22ea1-84028368-105107678″ info=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/174193780″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen=”” mozallowfullscreen=”” allowfullscreen=””]

What you might not know about street art and graffiti is that, for many people, it’s a matter of love. Love of art, love of paint, in fewer cases, love of vandalism and, in many cases, it’s love of human. Utah & Ether are two graffiti artists who have taken their operation completely global after meeting in the United States. They, as a couple and teammates, travel the globe documenting their often extremely risky painting endeavors.

Check out this story from The New Yorker (I know) about their history, titled “To Catch a Graffiti Artist,” which also does a solid job of outlining what exactly the graffiti world is about these days, and all its different iterations. While you’re at it, make sure you check in on their video series Probation Vacation, which, if you’re like me sounds like a dream come true.

Traveling the world with someone you love painting and documenting it? Sign me up.

Board on Saturday

The nation of ‘Skateistan’

is a place that might be worth your time to explore

1:15 PM“Skateboarding has taught me to believe in myself and to overcome challenges that at first seemed impossible.”

Those are the words of a kid in the latest commercial from “Skateistan,” a nonprofit organization that works with kids in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa to empower children through the world of skateboarding. Why do we highlight activism operations around here so much? Because they’re on the ground floor of a movement to globalize the sport and ultimately help people of color achieve.

What you’re going to see in this video isn’t high-flying pros deftly handling rails and ramps all over some exotic city. You’ll see young kids, including girls, thankfully, trying and achieving the most basic of tricks. As a young person, nailing one of those can be a rather inspirational building block when it comes to learning the value of perseverance. Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk lends his face to this effort, as well, in case you were wondering if it’s legit.

Overall, skating is fun. But it’s also an industry and a business that, when powers are used for good, can ultimately create a world where kids feel they accomplish more than what their typical lot in life may have initially shown them.

Daily Dose: 7/15/16

Philando Castile was laid to rest in Minnesota

2:40 PMAll right, we’ve come to the end of a relatively whirlwind week in the ESPN world, and on Thursday I sat down with Israel Gutierrez and Amin Elhassan to talk about President Barack Obama’s town hall meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C. Tune in.

France is again in peril. On the day the country celebrated Bastille Day, someone decided to turn things dark. Extremely so. A guy took a truck and plowed through people reveling on the street in Nice, creating a grisly scene in which more than 80 people ended up dead. For a nation of its size, France has ended quite a few terrorist attacks in the past few months, and the UEFA Euro Championships had its fair amount of ups and downs as well this summer. It took a shootout with police to kill this particular assailant, who was ready to do more damage, ABC News reports.

Funerals are always difficult to watch. Yet, Philando Castile demise is something that because of the incredible bravery of Diamond Reynolds, we had the brutal opportunity to watch play out live on our mobile devices if we so chose. On Thursday, he was laid to rest in St. Paul, Minnesota. I will admit, these pictures and stories of black pain become very difficult to look at after a certain amount of time, but they are necessary because it reminds us of what life is and what it isn’t. ABC News’ Emily Shapiro reports.

The 30 for 30 Doc & Darryl is borderline depressing. Not because the movie is poorly done, but because the story is so utterly regrettable that revisiting it makes you want to scream and cry at the same time. Two of the best players in Major League Baseball were once on the same team that won a World Series but were both two young to even handle it. Dwight “Doc” Gooden and Darryl Strawberry threw their careers away to carousing, and both came out on the other side to talk about it. FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine breaks down that team, analytically.

Von Miller is about to be VERY paid. The man who tore his way through offensive lines all the way to a Super Bowl title with the Denver Broncos last season and never looked back has been locked in a negotiation battle with his team over his contract. And it appears, he might actually get the better of them. I love these stories of teams where a guy “just doesn’t do that” when it comes to paying certain types of players. Turns out your boy will end up getting $70 million guaranteed, according to Adam Schefter and Jeff Legwold. Wow.

Free Food

Coffee Break: We talk about police brutality a lot in these parts, mainly because it’s something close to us. But how we document and process it is a personal choice for each to make. You should check out this artist who’s recreating “popular” scenes of said instances, and putting them on canvases that look like folders. Very dope.

Snack Time: If you want to see a video of George W. Bush awkwardly getting way too enthusiastic at a memorial for those no longer with us, you can click here. I have no idea what to make of this other than that it’s weird.

Dessert: I wore a suit and sneakers on television today. Happy weekend, folks.

Wendy Williams apologizes

to Roland Martin and the public for her negative comments about HBCUs and the NAACP

6:16 PMSometimes the hardest thing to do is to admit you’re wrong — especially when you’re an outspoken, nationally syndicated talk show host like Wendy Williams. But on Thursday, that’s exactly what Williams did: She admitted she was wrong about some perplexing racial remarks she made last week, for which she received quite a bit of criticism.

On Thursday morning, she invited Roland Martin, host of TV One’s daily morning show NewsOne Now, on to The Wendy Williams Show to make a public apology for the comments she made last week about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the NAACP. After Twitter went into a frenzy over what she said, Martin passionately called Williams out on his show, leading the two hosts to hash things out on hers.

“I want to apologize to everyone I might have offended regarding my remarks … I was wrong. So, Roland help everyone understand why I was so wrong,” Williams said Thursday.

Williams’ negatively received comments were made in reference to the acceptance speech actor/activist Jesse Williams gave at the 2016 BET Awards after being honored with BET’s Humanitarian Award. His speech was a call to action against racial inequality in America and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet the TV host didn’t seem to fully get the message.

“His speech was very poignant, on one hand. On the other hand, you know, I would be really offended if there was a school known as a historically white college,” Williams said. “We have historically black colleges. What if there was the National Organization for White People Only?”

Not a good look, especially when your talk show airs on BET (BLACK Entertainment Television). Also not a good look: BET covering how another TV host (Martin) called you out. Another bad look: the fact that Williams’ father and brother went to HBCUs.


While some might question the way in which Martin originally denounced Williams on his show, the fact of the matter is he has the platform to be just as outspoken as she can. And in the end, he got his point across — more informatively and effectively than she was able to do.

Daily Dose: 7/14/16

Tim Scott, a U.S. senator, gets picked on by police, too

1:00 PMIf you care about Western Europe, you know that today is Bastille Day. Aka, the day that people who took a semester of French in high school and studied abroad in college get drunk and say things like “Eh ben, merci!” Party on.

Do you know who Tim Scott is? Well, that’s what I’m here for. He’s from South Carolina, and he’s the lone black Republican senator, at the moment, and he has some thoughts about what’s been going on in this country recently. In a complete non-shocker, he notes that even he gets stopped by police for marginal infractions and understands the shame and problems that come with such type of enforcement. Who knew? Even if you’re an elected official from a state that notoriously celebrates its antebellum history, it can happen to you! In all seriousness, though, he spoke from the heart about it.

The names on the Republican National Convention’s speakers list are out. Included on said roster are Vince McMahon, Bill Belichick, Gregg Popovich, Mike Gundy, Rasheed Wallace and Wendy Williams. Just kidding. Seriously, though, the list is out, even if only in part. This is going to be one the most hilarious conventions of all time from a pundit standpoint. Yes, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is going to be there, so steel yourself for that if you’re not used to people saying incendiary things to the tune of applause. Here’s the whole thing, as of now.

Remember when it was announced that Ghostbusters would have an all-female cast? All the weird fanboys of the original series went insane, claiming that the brand would be ruined and childhoods across the country would be forever stained with the presence of (gasp!) women. Anyways, the movie’s out, and people like it. They like it as much as they liked the old ones, which is to say, enough. Apparently though, we’re not calling it a reboot, or a remake. We’re calling it a revival. FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey explains why its ratings will be flawed.

There were no sports on Wednesday night, but there were the ESPYS. I know, because I was there. And the show’s cold opening somewhat shocked the world. Seeing four NBA players talk so plainly about what’s going on between our criminal justice system as regular citizens on national television was a moment that no one will soon forget. Black suits, black backdrop, black men talking about black lives. Doesn’t get much more powerful than that these days. So, I asked people about it and they talked. And I wrote about it.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Socks are important. Like, EXTREMELY important. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t think about that every day with some degree of sincerity, I don’t know what to tell you. You should spend less money on shoes and more on socks. On a related note, these socks are awesome if you like A Tribe Called Quest.

Snack Time: Every three weeks, I pay a guy I’ve known since I was 15 years old $30 to cut my hair. His name is Ralph. He likes the Dallas Cowboys. He’s smart and funny. I like him. But in France, they do things a little differently. WAY differently.

Dessert: I watched this show on television on Wednesday. It was so hilariously awful that I couldn’t turn it off.