The Root

Halle Berry's Ex Can No Longer Straighten or Lighten Daughter’s Hair, Says Judge

Halle Berry is at war with her ex Gabriel Aubry, and this time it has nothing to do with money. On Monday Berry’s attorney Steve Kolodny appeared in court on behalf of his client because Berry wants Aubry to stop straightening and highlighting their 6-year-old daughter Nahla’s hair.

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5 Not-So-Credible Events in Darren Wilson’s Testimony

A review of the grand jury testimony of Ferguson, Mo., police Officer Darren Wilson opens up a window allowing us to see how police testimony is treated in an investigation. In the case of the shooting death of Michael Brown, Wilson often gets favorable treatment even in several questionable and eyebrow-raising passages.  

If Brown’s family brings a civil lawsuit, it will be interesting to see what attorney Benjamin Crump can uncover in any cross-examination of Wilson.

During his testimony, Wilson received no tough questioning. And because the Ferguson police conveniently failed to take photographs of the crime scene or record measurements of distances regarding where Brown and Wilson were when Brown was shot, what we’re left with are photos from bystanders from Aug. 9, the testimony of Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson and Wilson’s grand jury appearance.   

There are (at least) five specific points Wilson makes that are highly questionable:

1. Wilson admits that he dislikes the community Brown is from and that he views the neighborhood negatively, saying the neighborhood "is just not very well liked." 

The entire passage on Page 238 of Wilson’s testimony reads as follows: "There’s a lot of gangs that reside or associate with that area. There’s a lot of violence in that area, there’s a lot of gun activity, drug activity; it is just not a very well-liked community. That community doesn’t like the police."

2. Wilson, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall and 210 pounds, says Brown had superhuman strength.

“I felt like a 5-year-old holding on to Hulk Hogan,” Wilson testified to the grand jury, even though Wilson himself is large—6 feet 3 inches tall and 210 pounds—and was initially inside a police SUV. Wilson also testified that he considered using mace, an asp (a metal retractable baton) and his flashlight to allegedly fend off Brown. Wilson ultimately unholstered his gun, a Sig Sauer P229 .40-caliber that he would end up firing 12 times in less than 2 minutes.

3. Wilson testified that Brown handed cigars to his friend Johnson at the same time Brown was allegedly hitting Wilson in the face.

Johnson, who was with Brown the day of the shooting, told CNN in the days after Brown was shot that Brown passed him a handful of cigars as he ran away. But Wilson testified before the grand jury that Brown was punching him in the face with his right hand—the same right hand in which, Wilson told the grand jury, Brown held the cigars.

On Page 209 of his testimony, Wilson said, “When I start looking at Brown, first thing I notice is in his right hand, his hand is full of cigarillos.”

Then, on Page 211 of the transcript, Wilson is asked, “Now, he was hitting you with what hand?” and Wilson answered, “I believe it was his right.”

Wilson further testified that Brown freed his right hand by placing the cigars in his left hand and then handing the cigars to Johnson.

4. Wilson refers to Brown as “it” and says that he looks like “a demon.”

“The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked. He comes back towards me again with his hands up. At that point I just went like this, I tried to pull the trigger again, click, nothing happened,” Wilson testified.

It’s interesting that Wilson referred to Brown as “a demon” and then acknowledged that Brown had his “hands up.”

5. Wilson is given two opportunities to explain exactly why he pulled out his firearm. Both explanations reveal that he decided to unholster his gun after backing up his police SUV to confront Johnson and Brown.

Wilson claimed that he pulled his car alongside Brown and grabbed his arm. Johnson said the confrontation began when Wilson grabbed Brown by the neck through his car window.

“I felt that another of those punches in my face could knock me out or worse,” Wilson testified. Wilson then unholstered his gun after Brown allegedly struck him.

Photos of Wilson’s face revealed a bruise and a slightly reddened area—not a major black-and-blue area that the confrontation he described would likely yield. Previous reports that Wilson had damage to his “orbital eye socket” proved to be false.

The point at which Wilson took out his firearm is a crucial moment around the issue of the use of deadly force and is almost certain to come up again in any civil suit.

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Have Black Americans Left Baseball?

While the Jackie Robinson biopic 42 has become a certified success, attracting adiverse audience on its way to becoming No. 1 at the box office during its opening weekend, black Americans are still facing barriers to the baseball field.

The opening of 42 occurred several days before the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day -- April 15, the day Robinson officially broke the color barrier -- when every baseball player, manager, coach and umpire in Major League Baseball sports his number, 42. But in recent decades, the number of African-American players has decreased with each passing year.

According to reports, the representation of African-American players in professional baseball is at its lowest point since Robinson and others first began integrating the game, at just around 8 percent. That marks a significant decline from the 1970s, when some estimates placed the representation of black players at around 27 percent. Baseball historian Rob Ruck says the percentage of African-American players was probably closer to 19 percent in the 1970s, while the 27 percent number likely includes Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Latino players.

The decline of African-American participation in baseball is a stark contrast to the days of the Negro Leagues, which nurtured Robinson, when baseball was seen as more than a mere sport but was also a community pastime. The reason for the sport's decline in black American communities is complex and multilayered.

Cost Is a Factor

Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who is African American, currently serves as executive vice president and senior adviser of the San Diego Padres. He chalked up the decline in African-American participation in the sport to "the three C's," which, he told The Root, stand for continuity, cost and competition. Continuity, he explained, means the importance of consistent exposure to the sport throughout a player's school years, something that is less likely to happen today because of the second C, which is cost.

Baseball "didn't cost me much as I grew up," he said. "There were no travel teams/club teams, tournaments you have to pay for now." He then explained the third C, competition. "When I grew up, baseball was No. 1 in America. Now it has the competition of the other sports -- NBA, NFL, golf, you name it."

Ruck, author of Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game, echoed Winfield's sentiments regarding the financial barriers to the sport that now exist for many poor kids, a socioeconomic reality disproportionately represented in communities of color. Little League and club expenses as well as travel can run between $3,000 and $5,000 annually, expenses that by default make economic and racial diversity less likely among participants.

Charles Clark is the only African-American manager of a Little League team in North Tampa, Fla. In an interview with The Root, he discussed his firsthand experience with the costs. "A typical quality baseball bat for a child is $300." Clark has three sons, all of whom participate in the sport, meaning he spends a minimum of close to $1,000 on bats alone, which pales in comparison to the other potential costs.

Clark explained that while there is Little League, in which nonprofit teams are sponsored by local businesses, and all kids have an opportunity to play, travel ball has become big business. Travel ball teams are where Little League's best and brightest compete. The fees to participate in such a team can cost between $500 and $1,200, not including uniforms and other miscellaneous expenses.

Though Little League exists as a lower-cost option for those who can't afford the expense of travel ball, Clark explained that for kids hoping to go pro, "they would need the exposure of being in travel ball." That's where scouts, coaches and professional baseball players and others connected to the MLB discover future stars. The class divide in baseball, however, extends far beyond childhood.

According to Ruck, "Very few black kids go to college to play baseball. Last decade it was, like, under 5 percent of all NCAA baseball players on scholarship were black, versus 10 to 15 times higher in basketball and football. The reason is twofold. If you play college football or basketball, you get a full scholarship. If you play college baseball, you might be one of 25 to 35 kids who are splitting 11.7 scholarships, so you don't get a full scholarship. You might get a quarter scholarship or half scholarship. If you can't afford the rest of that, you're not going to play baseball but a sport that can give you a full ride." 

Fathers Play a Significant Role

Clark's involvement in the sport at the Little League level highlights another reason cited by Ruck for the decline in baseball in the African-American community: fathers. Ruck explained that baseball is a sport defined in part by the bond between fathers and sons. Boys learn to play catch at an early age, usually with a father. (This is such a defining cultural image that it is currently being parodied in a popular car commercial.)

Ruck explained, "When we start to see the collapse of the two-headed household -- which I think hits black families because of class reasons more than white families -- you no longer have boys who grow up in homes with fathers who teach them the love and the lore of the game." Clark agreed that baseball is a sport in which the role of fathers is particularly important.

"Cultural cachet" is also cited as a reason for the sport's decline in popularity, with certain sports carrying a level of prestige on various continents and within communities. For instance, soccer is a much more popular sport in Brazil, making it more likely that a young Brazilian will grow up wanting to be a professional soccer player, just as a young Canadian is more likely to grow up wanting to be a professional hockey player.

"Everybody wants to be like Mike," Ruck said, referring to Michael Jordan, the African-American basketball icon who influenced an entire generation of aspiring black athletes.

Integration Crippled Negro Leagues

But perhaps the biggest reason baseball has declined in the African-American community is the most ironic reason of all: Jackie Robinson. Once the MLB was integrated, the Negro Leagues collapsed. While white executives who opposed integration worried that black players would scare white fans away, instead white fans stayed, and black fans came in droves.

"Jackie Robinson allowed the Brooklyn Dodgers to set attendance records," said Ruck. "The Pittsburgh Courier, the black newspaper, said, 'Jackie's nimble. Jackie's quick. Jackie makes the turnstiles click,' " a testament to Robinson's popularity with fans.

"Major League Baseball ends up profiting immensely in terms of fans, in terms of great players," Ruck continued. "But they don't bring in black teams -- they could have brought in the Newark Eagles or the Homestead Grays or the Kansas City Monarchs [Negro League teams]. They don't bring in black ownership. They don't bring in black managers or front-office people, and for the next 40 years, the front office and managerial ranks and ownership ranks are almost exclusively white."

Ruck went on to explain that by not incorporating Negro League teams into the minor-league operations, where the MLB continued to groom, nurture and recruit its future stars for years, major-league integration essentially gutted the Negro Leagues, leaving them with no audience. Worse, it left black players who were not superstars like Robinson with no infrastructure like the sandlot community clubs, which operated as the minor-league equivalent to the Negro Leagues; those clubs disappeared, too.

That left aspiring black ballplayers with few options for training and being discovered, particularly since, as demonstrated in the film 42, the minor leagues were concentrated in the South. This made pursuing a career there not a particularly attractive proposition for African-American men, especially those who did not have a high-profile sponsor and protector like Robinson did in Dodger General Manager Branch Rickey.

Ruck did say, though, that ultimately there might be more important issues to focus on than the lack of diversity on baseball diamonds. "I don't think this is a big problem for black America not to have as many baseball players as it once had. I think African Americans in this country are well-represented in athletics. I think I'd like to see more ownership, more front office. I'd like to see positions of power off the field increase the ranks of African Americans. But I think if anything, one could argue that there's too much of a focus on sports in black America, to the detriment of education and vocation."

Would African-Americans Have Been Better Off If Hillary Were Elected?

The same day that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines for their first joint interview, on 60 Minutes, NAACP President Ben Jealous delighted conservatives with his headline-making interview on another Sunday news program. Appearing on Meet the Press, Jealous said, "Right now when you look at joblessness in this country -- the country is pretty much back to where it was when this president started. White people are doing a bit better. Black folks are doing a full point worse."

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