The Convenient Contradiction
Racism, whilst being a fact of life, is something that I will never accept or condone. To be completely honest with you guys, this is not exactly something I want to discuss. But with the recent developments in America and the reaction regarding Riley Cooper’s comments, and people on twitter requesting that I actually post my opinion, I have decided to do so.
Before I go any further, however, I feel compelled to say that I am indeed white. Actually, I’m as white as they come. I surf, play rugby, watch cricket and enjoy rock music. I also play basketball and my friends (along with previous girlfriends) come from a variety of races ranging from Latinos to Asians to Africans to Arabs to Caucasians. I am proud that some of my role models (outside of my parents, of course) include Martin Luther King, Bill Russell, Ray Lewis, Kevin Garnett and Stevie Wonder. I want to make it perfectly clear that I hate the N-Word. I feel incredibly uncomfortable even referencing it or just hearing it. In fact, the very first podcast I did, it was with a dude who referred to an NBA Player as a “Nigger”. I finished the podcast with him, hoping I could just edit it out. But I decided to not post that show as by me simply editing it and posting it, would be a form of condoning it. When he asked why I didn’t upload the show, I explained how I felt about it. We ended up having a discussion on the difference between “Nigga” and “Nigger”. I was stubborn (surprise surprise) in my stance that there is no difference in the two, and he has not been back on the show since. In addition to that, before every new guest I have had on here, with the exception of Earnest Christian (check out his website by the way, he has some brilliant content: http://theopnation.com/), I tell them that they can say absolutely anything that comes to their mind in regards to topics and swearing is tolerated (within reason). The only thing I do not accept is any racial slurs or discrimination. I’m a firm believer in that everybody, regardless of race, gender and sexuality, is equal.
And that is not something I will compromise on any time soon.
Despite this, I am aware that this will become the most controversial article I have ever written. That is not my motivation for writing this.
And this now brings me to Riley Cooper. If you haven’t seen the video or heard the comments, have a look and listen before proceeding in this article:
I can see why people got (and still are) offended by those comments. It absolutely goes without saying that what Cooper said was ignorant and stupid. But that is not the reason why I am writing this article. The convenient contradiction is any minority group, whether it be African Americans, Asians, Homosexuals, Feminists etc. feel as if they are somehow entitled to be use racist or derogatory terms such as the N word under the premise that it suddenly OK and a form of endearment but yet be appalled or offended if anyone outside that group use those terms. The irony is that this concept is completely racist and divisive itself. Let’s have a look at the definition of racism from the oxford dictionary “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races“
To counter this, an attempt to create the word “Nigga” with the meaning of endearment rather than the vicious and vile meaning that it has be known for centuries. Now, I am all for the evolution of language, and meanings to change and adapt with the norm. But (and this is a huge but), the problem is identifying the difference between “nigga” and “nigger”. Now this is a written article, so it seems fairly straight forward to see the difference in spelling. The problem lies in spoken communication as they sound identical. How can it be identified which is which? People will say context is key, but the issue is context regarding intention is nothing more than (at best) an inference. If the only basis of interpreting if someone is saying “Nigga” or “Nigger” is if the colour of skin, then that is just as ignorant as anyone using any racial slur. By this line of thinking, how can anyone prove that what definition Riley Cooper used? How can anyone correctly interpret what definition Michael Jordan used when he was screaming abuse to Chamillionaire?
Assuming that all white people are racist is in fact, racist towards white people. It is ignorant and judgmental, and generalises an entire race of people based of a minority. It is just as ignorant as claiming all black people are gangsters, or all Muslims are terrorists.
Now, do not misunderstand the point of this post. It is not to condone the use of the word “Nigger”. It is to point out that if it can offend so many people if a white person says it, the very same reaction and condemnation should exist if anyone of any race uses it.
The contrast in reactions really bothers me. What people don’t realise is to be labelled as a racist, especially if you’re white (because it’s somehow become accepted and condoned if you are of a minority to be racist, but I’ll get to that in a minute), is as bad as anything to be associated with and exactly how powerful it is. Let’s take a closer look at some of Spike Lee’s comments during a 30 for 30 documentary about The Knicks and Pacers rivalry:
(go to 38:43 mark)
Reporter: “Did you have any trouble getting a hotel room here?”
Lee: “Yeah I’m staying in the Governor’s mansion.”
Reporter: “And where in the mansion?”
Lee: “They’ve got me in the slave quarters.”
It gets better when he seriously compares Market Square Arena (the old arena where the Pacers played before their current building was constructed) crowd to a KKK clan meeting.
And here is where the heart of the problem lies: Somehow it has become the perception that only white people can be racist. When blacks are racist towards whites, or even to themselves, it receives nowhere near the condemnation that if a white person is racist. If we want progression, we need accountability and equality from both sides and not just white people.
As I pointed out in the What Fuels Racism podcast, we as a society have made incredible progress in empowering equality and breaking down barriers of race. Let’s not undo the work that has been done by changing and adapting rules and expectations based on race in an attempt to keep any group happy. Equality is equality, and so are expectations. We can’t be conveniently changing definitions that contradict everything that we should be progressing towards.
And that applies to everyone.