Posts Tagged ‘racial codes’

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A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.

The Story

So…suffice it to say I have a new hero: Richard Sherman. I am actually not a football fan. Honestly, I dislike the sport for its aggressive barbaric nature and some other ideological crap most people don’t care about. However, I don’t think anyone could have missed the media storm that was caused by Richard Sherman’s post-game interview on the field after his team’s win against the 49ers.

Richard Sherman

richard-sherman-seahwaks-nfl-adderall-vancouver-sunSo, let’s talk about this amped up dude who was screaming into the microphone after the football game. Let me first revisit my feelings about football. The entire sport is about aggression, physical endurance, and domination. One team is seeking to dominate the other mentally through orchestrated plays and physically through sheer force and body contact. Any man that is successful in such a sport cannot be, at least not at all times, a passive, timid individual. The sport doesn’t require that nor does it have room for it. So Sherman’s aggression and high energy is not unusual. I’m certain that the reporter as well as some of the viewers were not expecting that response from Sherman. I think that expectation is more about the fact that he approached the reporter somewhat calmly and stilled himself to hear what she was saying above the roaring crowd in the background. However, she asked him to take her through the play. That brought Sherman back to the mindset that makes him good at a animalistic sport. Fans and viewers got what they tuned in for…so what’s their problem?

The least of names that Richard Sherman was called was: thug. In response Sherman stated:

It’s like everybody else said the n-word and then they say ‘thug’ and they’re like, ‘Aw, that’s fine,” — It kind of takes me aback.

– Richard Sherman

Now we are getting at why this dude is going in my list of modern day Black heroes. Sherman looks straight through the bullshit and sees the truth. It’s not okay for them to call him a thug. Sherman grew up in Watts and later his family moved to Compton. Everyone knows what these neighborhoods are infamous for: gangs, drugs, violence. Ofcourse, when the media is loving Sherman they emphasize this to create the Cinderella, rags-to-riches story about the poor Black boy who made it out of the ghetto. The undertone of these stories is almost always exotic and dangerous and America lusts for nothing less than the dangerous and the exotic while hating that we lust for it.

Race, ofcourse, is no longer a question of color but a question of zip code: as we cross over from affluent areas to the ghetto, we shift from the realm of citizens to that of criminals. The boundary between these two places is the new color line…What emerges from this is a new vocabulary in which race is recoded as a set of metaphors.

– D. Marvin Jones, Fear of a Hip Hop Planet

Racial coding has painted the ghetto as some dangerous alien jungle in which the natives, called thugs, are all criminalized animals waiting for a chance to exact their violent tendencies on the good citizens of the real world. This is the game they wanted to play with Sherman. But my dude played that shit perfectly.

Richard Sherman makes no apologies for what he did. He states that perhaps is was in poor taste for him to call out his arch nemesis by name (I don’t know why they’re acting like it’s not public knowledge that he and Crabtree don’t like each other a lot) but his only regret is that the media exploited him to the detriment of his team. Listen, that could not have been better stated. I don’t know if that’s the Stanford Communications degree or just his own general savvy but the man played the hand right. And then he wraps it around to the fact that football is a barbaric sport and it is meant to be aggressive and violent and a battle of domination. The other great point that he brings out is that context is key. He asserted that he was interviewed in the aftermath a major winning game in which he played a pivotal part in the win and it was on the field against one of his rivals. Hence, the name dropping, the high energy, and the aggression. Arizona Cardinals v Seattle SeahawksHe then states that what he did can be contextualized but the people who called him out his name did what they did from the peace and quiet of their own homes and, therefore, their responses say more about their barbaric nature and the rapant racism of this country than it does about him. PERFECT.

Not only does Sherman play this whole ordeal perfectly, intelligently and articulately uses his media opportunity to turn the conversation back at the real problems, but he is just an outstanding individual. Richard Sherman is a young Black man that graduated second in his class from high school and he is a graduate of Stanford University and began working on his master’s degree while playing. Sherman He is also a founder of the Richard Sherman foundation which is a charity organization aimed at providing underprivileged children with school supplies and clothes. So, apparently this is what thugs do now. I like it. Let’s all be thugs.

The Problem

In the backlash of Sherman’s interview, he was called an idiot, classless, an ape, a gorilla, a monkey and, ofcourse, he was called a nigger well over a dozen times. Yet, somehow the media conversation continued to be about Sherman’s behavior and whether it was appropriate. Okay, let that really sink in. America basically just had a discussion about whether the use of racial epithets and overt racism and harassment is warranted. Are there really any people in this country left who will say that we are living in a post-race society?!

The biggest problem in this scenario is the fact that there is growing apathy about racism in this country simply because the conversation is redundant and the issue always arises when there is some national attention drawn to a Black person, especially a Black man. This was the same as when the country wanted us to be okay with our president being caricaturized as a monkey. They said it was just humor and satire that every president and public personality endures. But it’s not as funny as it is racist. Even the racially coded term “thug,” which is a word the media could politically correctly embrace and brand Sherman with, is still not okay. Sure he didn’t grow up best neighborhoods, but last I checked growing in the hood/ghetto/projects does not a thug make. So what are they really saying when they use that word?

The word “thug” has been used so many times by the same sort of people about the same sort of thing that it’s no longer even accurate to call it code—it’s really more of a shorthand. It means a black guy who makes white folks a little more uncomfortable than they prefer.

– Kyle Wagner, Regressing.

It’s understandable that not every Black person will be approving of the way Sherman conducted himself during the interview. That’s fine. Not every Black person is a Richard Sherman fan. That’s fine as well. However, we cannot abandon him no when the country has literally brutalizing this man’s character. When I look at pictures of Sherman on the field and listen to his interviews, I see a Black man that is happy with his life. That man has overcome numerous obstacles to be fortunate enough to be getting paid millions of dollars to do something her loves. Shiiiiit, I wish! That is what makes it sinister and egregious for him to be slandered for nothing more than being great at his job and living his dream. We don’t have to like his behavior to support him not being called a nigger and a thug. I would hate to see him become another Michael Vic — what they did to that Black man was a tragedy (but that’s another post).

richard-sherman-800The Point

There’s never been a single thing wrong with black people that the total destruction of white supremacy would not fix.
– Ta-Nahesi Coates, Richard Sherman Is Better At Life Than You.

Stories like Richard Sherman’s always moves me to love and support because in the Black community we have a tendency to lean towards the moral high ground, which is a good thing; however, that is also our greatest weakness in that it is used to divide and conquer us. We would sooner focus on a person’s mistakes and/or poor choices and use that as a basis for condemning them or abandoning them to wolves. My family has a strong family code about loving and supporting one another. Our philosophy is, ‘I got your back when you need me whether you’re right or wrong, but if you’re wrong I’ll tell you about yourself later, at home.’ This was a beautiful and monumental feeling for me: knowing that I was supported unconditionally. I didn’t have to fear being abandoned or ostracized for making mistakes. What I feared instead of abandonment was disappointing all those people supporting me. I would try to do right and be better because I didn’t want to make a fool of those people in my corner who I knew would come to my aid without question. That’s love. That’s the kind of love we need in the Black community. After all, if we continue to abandon and neglect one another in pursuit of some arbitrary moral objective, we will continue achieve the greatest evil: community division and reification of the stereotypes that obstruct our progress. But if Richard Sherman, the Stanford graduate, millionaire, philanthropic, athletic, articulate, aggressive, competitive, driven, level headed Black man is a thug, then, yea, I’m trying to be about that life.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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