The sports world continues the conversation about “n***as”
The last couple months in sports have been very racially charged, ESPN’s most polarizing personality weighs in.
This is strictly one man’s opinion – one white man’s. Take it or leave it. But know from the start this opinion of an impossibly complex issue comes from the most real and raw depth of my being.
This is very personal, as you will see.
This is about the N-word.
To me, it is the most despicable word in the English language – verbal evil – and I cannot bring myself to speak it even when explaining to the editor of this column why I detest it. I have long wished the N-word could be eradicated, that it could die the death it deserves, and as a white man, I’ve never been able to quite get comfortable hearing the new-school use of the N-word, ending in “a,” spoken with affection by black people to black people.
God help us if today’s rampant use of the N-word – by rappers and athletes and movie-makers black and white – is subliminally signaling to white kids that it’s somehow OK to view black people in remotely the same way many of this country’s forefathers did: as subhumans mostly suited for enslaving and serving a superior race.
Skip tells of a conversation he had with NFL great, John Wooten…
John Wooten and I have discussed and debated race for 34 years. I got mad at him only once, over Riley Cooper.
Wooten, now 76, is black. Wooten made two Pro Bowls blocking for the great Jim Brown, and they remain close friends. In 1967, Wooten joined Brown, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and other prominent black athletes at a summit supporting Muhammad Ali’s decision to refuse to be drafted into the U.S. Army.
Wooten eventually served as personnel director for the Cowboys and Eagles. Now he’s chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance and helps oversee the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates when searching for a head coach or filling a senior football operations position.
After Wooten watched me say on “First Take” that Riley Cooper should be cut, he texted me, asking what ever happened to forgiveness and second chances and saying he believed Cooper’s apology and that “if he’s not what he says he is, it will come out.”
I angrily texted back: “It already came out … of his mouth.”
Later, by phone, I told John I was speaking strictly from a white perspective. I told him I glance at my Twitter responses only after we discuss race issues on air, just to gauge reaction, and that I’d heard from an alarming number of white people who said something like, “What’s the big deal? Black people use the N-word. Why shouldn’t we?”
That made Wooten angry. Wooten surprised me with how much he despises the use of the N-word by black people. Wooten said: “People have given their lives to fight against that word.”
He also tells of a diametrically opposed conversation he had with academic rock star Michael Eric Dyson…
Yet, on balance, I’ve had discussions with a man whose brilliance I envy who believes just the opposite. Michael Eric Dyson is one of the most respected voices in the black community, an author, a radio host and a professor of sociology at Georgetown University who has written books on subjects ranging from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, Jr., Marvin Gaye to Tupac Shakur.
Dyson says: “We hijacked, or word-jacked, that word that was used in a nefarious and horrible way … and drained it of its poison and turned it into a word of endearment.”
Or, in this week’s case involving Matt Barnes of the Los Angeles Clippers, the word can be used to criticize within a “we’re all in this together” context. Barnes was the latest of several pro athletes who have used the N-word in tweets. Barnes tweeted his frustration from the locker room during Wednesday’s night game about how he’s tired of getting ejected and fined while taking the fall for his teammates.
“I’m DONE standing up for these n—as!” Barnes tweeted.
Some black people I know are fine with the use of the N-word ending in “a” among black people. Some are not.
Dyson says: “All of us [in the black community] do not agree about the use of that word [as a term of endearment]. But that is our right to disagree among ourselves.”
Is it ever.
Dyson and Wooten, however, do agree on this: When can whites use the N-word in any form? Dyson: “NEVER.”
White folks, take John’s, Michael’s, and Skip’s advice…save yourself a world of trouble. Don’t say “ni**a”. Period. Thanks
We suggest you read Skip’s column in it’s entirety HERE
Image via ESPN