Over the weekend, hip-hot artist Jasiri X posted this image on his twitter feed. It’s taken from the front page of the New York Daily News’ website. Note the screaming headline and the sympathetic caption: “Accused killer Dylann Roof had one chance at a stable family life — and his abusive dad ruined it for…
Former Denver Broncos tight end and current CBS football analyst Shannon Sharpe has had enough.
While the geniuses on Fox NFL Sunday indulged and even defended Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito against allegations that he bullied teammate and fellow lineman Jonathan Martin, Sharpe unleashed a righteous rant on CBS’s pregame show this past Sunday. Focusing primarily on the racial overtones of Incognito’s harassment, Sharpe said this of Incognito’s purported use of the N-word:
If you allow Richie Incognito to walk around and use a racial epithet, that all black Americans know the stigma and hate and vitriol that comes with that word – if you allow him to do that, you’re encouraging him to do that.
I’m 45, I grew up in rural south Georgia. Ask your parents, ask your grandparents. The mountain that they climbed so a black person in America can have respect, can have dignity. And you allow this, in an open locker room to take place, is unacceptable. I’m so disappointed. I hope that someone was misquoted. I hope I’m wrong and they didn’t allow Incognito to say this racially charged word in a locker room and go unchecked. I’m embarrassed.
Moreover, Sharpe destroyed Incognito’s argument that his relationships with African-American players somehow gave him a pass to use that particular slur:
[I heard] [s]ome black players said Incognito was an honorary black. There’s no such thing. This tells me everything I need to know about the Miami Dolphins locker room. How we got here. Why we got here.
Not that you asked, but I wholeheartedly agree.
As a white writer for This Week in Blackness, I’m more than a little sensitive to this issue. I’m proud of my association with this enterprise and all the folks who write and podcast here, most of whom are, of course, people of color. But I can’t imagine why anyone would think that being a white ally somehow means you can sling the N-word around, no matter how edgy you think it makes you or how much you might think you understand the experiences of your Black friends.
And that’s true whether you’re a meathead like Richie Incognito, or a benign liberal white guy like, say, the late comedian Lenny Bruce, who thought he could take the hurt out of the word by using it. Because here’s the thing: It’s not up to white folks to decide whether the hurt should be taken out of it. The hurtful nature of that word has actual, historical significance. Racial slurs, racist language and imagery, and especially the N-word itself, were part-and-parcel of our history of racial oppression. Language was one of the chief weapons in the racist’s arsenal, a tool used to dehumanize African Americans and make institutionalized racism, from slavery to segregation, possible.
And so the point is, we don’t get to erase that part of our history. We don’t get to make that go away just because we want to dilute the meaning of that word, even if we have the best of intentions. White folks made that word what it is, and we can’t just wish it away.
So, yeah, I agree with Shannon Sharpe. If being an “Honorary Black person” means you think you can toss around racial slurs with immunity, then there is no such thing.
An evil trial lawyer from Chicago, which makes me almost as bad as Barack Obama himself. Except, I am a Cubs fan, unlike our President, and so, as the kids say, I AM SHAME. I blog about legal issues, politics, sports, music (that long-haired rock 'n roll music all the kids are into), and, frequently, the interaction between any and all of the above. When I'm not busy undermining the Constitution or circumventing your freedoms, I run, watch too much sports on the teevee, and hang out with my long-suffering wife and three kids.
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