The Richard Sherman kerfuffle reveals the real racists among us

This is not polite behavior, and I expect better from all people.

This is not polite behavior, and I expect better from all people.

Words have always changed their meaning over time.  Some of the ones that used to have neutral, descriptive meanings came to be seen as insults because of their association with disfavored people in society.  For example, a spinster used to mean a woman (usually single) who spun wool or flax into thread.  It came to mean a desiccated, embittered, lonely single woman.  A bel dam was the French phrase for a beautiful mother.  It eventually devolved into “beldame,” meaning an ugly old hag.

Words for people who originated in non-Northern Africa (notice my carefully non-racial phrasing) have long had a similar problem.  Southern whites used to call them “colored” or used the “N-word.”  People who were not racist came to reject both those words.  The former pretty much vanished; the latter has now become more toxic than the formerly toxic F-word.  (While “nice” people once used the “N” word in polite company but not the “F” word, that distinction has been turned upside down.)

The next descriptive word to come along was “Negro” (from the Spanish word for the color black), a word that was considered polite and respectful.  It too was eventually seen as being a demeaning insult, so the word “black” cropped up.  After that, I kind of lost track.  There was African-American, which confused my kids who thought it referred to all people with dark skin.  They’d see a Ugandan or Nigerian on television, shown in his home village, and lisp “Look, it’s an African-American.”  Then there was the phrase “person of color,” which I’ve always thought is unpleasantly close to the Jim Crow appellation “colored person.”  In any event, I avoid it, because it’s too non-specific, applying almost randomly to blacks (my preferred word), Asians, Hispanics, Polynesians, East Indians, etc.  As a person of pallor myself, I find that vague appellation confusing.

The one constant in the past when it came to blacks and neutral/respectful appellations, was that, as time went by, blacks, supported by Leftist whites (usually in the media and academia) would tell the rest of us that words once used to describe blacks were verboten, and then offer up a new word they preferred.  This cycle played out every ten years or so.

In Obama’s America, however, we’re seeing something new.  Blacks are now taking any negative word and saying “You can’t use that word any more, ever, because to the extent it’s a negative word, you must be applying it to us.”  The latest example of this involves the kerfuffle about Richard Sherman, who voiced a short, boorish tirade against Michael Crabtree.  People looked at Sherman’s behavior and sought adjectives to define it.  Words such as “gracious,” “thoughtful,” “kind,” and “clever,” just didn’t seem right.  Instead, looking at his foam-flecked, maniacal rant, people who cared enough to comment decided that the noun “thug” and its adjective version “thuggish” were more accurate.  I would have used “boorish” (as I did above) or “ill-mannered” if I’d been asked.

By using the words boorish or ill-mannered, I would have been commenting on verbal behavior that was the antithesis of gracious, thoughtful, kind, or clever.  The same presumably holds true for those who thought “thuggish” more accurate than “gracious.”  I doubt it occurred to any of us — it certainly didn’t occur to me — that, by accurately labeling Sherman’s conduct, we were all engaging in dog whistle racism. It’s amazing that we’re all so naive.

You see, it turns out that all of the people who thought that Sherman, an African-American, verbally misbehaved when he shouted out maddened insults at Michael Crabtree, who is also an African-American, are racist.  So, if I get this right, people who reasonably expect a well-paid, professionally successful black man to conform to ordinary social standards, and who therefore express surprise when he doesn’t, are racist.  From which one can reasonably conclude the opposite, which is that the non-racist approach is to look at Sherman’s hysterical rant and say, “Yup, that’s totally normal behavior for one of those black-toned people of color.”

I am not making this up.  According to everyone from Charles Barkley to Bill Maher, being surprised when blacks behave badly means we’re racists.  Well, Messrs. Barkley and Maher, I have news for you:  You’re the racists and, to put it bluntly, you’re disgusting, low-down, dirty, thuggish, debased racists.  My expectations are that people of all races, color, creeds, countries of national origin, genders, and sexual orientations can behave graciously, even when under pressure.  I look at content of character.  You revolting race-mongers have made it painfully clear that you believe that color is destiny, and that the darker the skin color the more people are destined to behave badly.  You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!  There is absolutely nothing to distinguish your views from the views expressed by the mid-19th century trader auctioning slaves off under the broiling Southern sun.

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  • Ron19

    I guess I’m a Person of Blandness, for now.

  • sabawa

    Aren’t these the same people who say it’s an unfair burden to expect certain groups of people to obtain an ID for the purpose of voting?  What an insult.   You’re too ‘stupid’ to go the the DMV for an ID card….or is it that it’s too difficult for you to take the bus….or is it that you’re too lazy to allow the local voting regulators to provide transport to the DMV??  How racist is that thinking?

  • 11B40

    I grew up in the Bronx of the ’50s and ’60s.  My mother didn’t much care for my referring to Negroes as “colored people”.  Her corrective went, “They’re not colored, they’re born that way.”  

  • Call me Lennie

    You are thinking that Richard Sherman was somehow under “pressure” when he conducted himself like a madman right after winning the NFC championship.  What pressure was he experiencing, in that precise moment?  The game is over; his team has won.  There is no pressure.  Any other emotion, in this moment, other than a sense of joy and elation, is absolutely bizarre.  I’ve never seen, either in person or on TV, in forty years of viewing and participating in sports, a person expressing RAGE after winning an athletic contest.  I’ve heard that Muhammad Ali carried on like that after beating Sonny Liston, but even in that situation there was the suspicion that Liston may have just quit the match and robbed Ali of a clean victory
    I was in Richard Sherman’s shoes when I was a teenager.  When I was a Senior we won three straight playoff games in football by narrow margins, including a most dramatic victory over our hated rival.  In none of these victories did anyone on our team express anything but sheer unabashed joy at the end.  And when we finally lost, none of us expressed any anger, and neither did our vanquishers, our second most hated rival.   And we had some cause to be angry because our foe scored a needless TD on us with 7 seconds left in the game. It runs counter to all human experience to be angry at a moment like this.
    Which is why the Left is defending Sherman, I suppose, because they despise all previous understandings of normal behavior.  Moreover, these trash talking antics are reminiscent of the behavior of the University of Miami Hoodlum-canes of the late Eighties and early Nineties, which, I’m convinced, played a role in making the decade of the Nineties the most violent decade for teens since crime statistics have been kept.*  Perhaps that’s another reason the Left is defending Sherman — out of concern that not enough black kids are killing each other
    *I’ve already heard some guy from the gym who works a Youth Ministry complain that he’ll have to, once again, clean up after the mess that Sherman is going to create 

  • Danny Lemieux

    Hear, hear, Book! English is my language, too – I refuse to let anyone take it away from me.

  • Charles Martel

    Like 11B40’s mom, my parents told me that “colored” was derogatory and that Negro was polite and respectful. I’m not quite sure that African American quite takes it place, since it’s such a clumsy and inaccurate formulation that excludes millions of Africans. “Black” works for me, the same as “white.”
    My wife, who is often reflexively left, agrees with me completely that “thug” does not call to mind a black man, it simply calls up an image of a coarse, crude, criminal type who thinks nothing of bullying his way through life. The fact that the left has piled on to assert that “thug” is the new nigger is one more proof of the deep-seated racism and propensity for projection at its core.

  • Libby

    GWB said it best: “The soft bigotry of low expectations.”
    Is anyone compiling a list of all of the words that have been deemed racist since Obama took office?
    I would bet that the same people who see racism in criticizing Sherman saw nothing offensive in mocking Tebow’s Christianity. Maher quite enjoys his Tebow jokes.

  • Ymarsakar

    Maher’s name is on the list. Which will come up during the Apocalypse, one way or another, if he lives long enough to see it.
    The Left needs to keep their livestock on the plantation. They don’t want it getting any weird ideas that they can behave like humans. So they feel glad and proud when their pets behave like pit bulls bred for fighting. That’s what they expect. That’s what they paid the money for in aborting so many genetic rejects and carefully cultivating the hood in producing these specimens of Athletic Might. They don’t expect human behavior. Why should the lEft expect human behavior out of their fighting pit bulls? Did Vic whatever expect human behavior from his fighting dogs?

  • raymondjelli

    We expect better sportsmanship than we do respect in politics. If he was ranting about Sarah Palin on MSNBC no one would be upset.

  • Caped Crusader

    I find that I must speak up for my native land. As an eighth generation Southerner, whose forbears settled in New Kent County, Virginia in the 1680’s, and whose Cherokee ancestors preceded them by eons, I have never known a Southerner to use “colored” in a derogatory sense, but merely as an identifying description. The “N word” preceded by an expletive deleted would be the vocabulary of choice, if a derogatory statement was to be made. The word we dare not speak today, uttered without a modifier, was not a racist  statement in most instances even though the entire world today believes it was. The rest of the world may have thought that to be true, but I assure you it was not.
    In my eighty years I have lived in the South except for brief forays in Maine and Alaska. I have found that the most racist people I have ever encountered were in New England where the liberals loved everyone in the world just as long as they were somewhere else. In the South it was entirely a black-white “historical phenomenon”, and other races suffered far less discrimination in the South than in other sections of the country. American Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Filipinos were considered “white people”. My wife and myself have Cherokee ancestors, as do 40% of Southerners who trace their ancestry in this area back to 1750. No big deal! I went to school with all the above and more, with no evidence of any racial friction or feeling they were in any way different. Looking back in old school annuals I remember kids who were bronze in complexion, with straight black hair, who must  have been almost entirely American Indian. I once heard Wayne Newton tell of his family, who were 100% Cherokee from the mountains of SW Virginia, having to move to the SW desert too try to save the life of a sibling with lung trouble, and the terrible discrimination he faced, and the shock he felt as a child upon finding there were people who hated Indians. In Virginia they were treated as full members of their community and participated in every activity, and never felt different from anyone else. In the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s most Asians found the South to be a favorite place to go to med school, since they were rejected at most other institutions. During WW2 we had a Nisei Japanese American resident at my university who had been rejected at every other institution because of his ancestry. We had a very good friend in postgrad medical training who, as a lad, had been turned into a Kamikaze pilot, and thought the whole idea a very bad one, and was able to land his plane without exploding, and surrender. The president of my med class the entire four years was a Christian Arab, my very best class friend to this day. We even had a visiting professor from the American University in Beirut, who had been at the wedding of his parents in Syria. In those days Beirut was known as the “Paris of the East– not so today! Once while waiting for the book exchange to open I struck up a conversation with a new student from Taiwan, telling him he should get to know Dr. Takahashi. He stared a me and said coldly, “He is Japanese, I am Chinese.” I did not make that mistake again.
    My point being, that in my life I have found that most people, unfortunately, have someone they hate, and it is not an entirely Southern phenomenon, although we are accustomed to be thought of as ignorant racist hicks, compared to the rest of enlightened America, where all are loved and treasured as long as we don’t have to associate with them, or let them get too close to us. Love at a distance and in theory only, the age old liberal philosophy.

    • Bookworm

      Thank you for this, Caped Crusader.  My blog is a constant reminder to me that everything I learned from the MSM is, if not outright wrong, at least warped.

  • Charles Martel

    Caped Crusader makes a valuable and sorely needed point about the leftist meme that the South is a hotbed of racism. If that were the case, Atlanta would not now be enjoying its status as America’s black Mecca, and blacks would not be migrating back to the South from the Northeast and Midwest in great numbers.
    The meme won’t die, no matter what facts or logic you apply to it. Liberals are too caught up in the comfortable and reassuring notion that their opinions, like so-called global warming, are “settled science.”
    A few years I somehow landed a job writing venue reviews for a wedding planning publication. (I guess I was in touch with my inner bride.) My job sometimes took me down to the part of Southern California known as the Inland Empire–the often hot and smoggy hinterland about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. The Inland Empire served as an escape valve for blacks and Latinos who longed for a quiet suburban lifestyle away from LA’s mean streets. As a result, the region became a hodge-podge of races and nationalities.
    One thing I noticed as I visited various venues, was the casual, unself-conscious, friendly mingling of different people. They were quietly living the liberal fantasy of equality without, apparently, having been shamed or coerced into it. Meanwhile, 60 miles west, in the leafy western part of Los Angeles–Beverly Hills, Bell Air, Brentwood–there was a palpable segregation. The area was mostly white and affluent, and decidedly monochromatic. In short, it was a typical liberal enclave where speech trumps deeds. These are the people who try to tell the rest of us what racists we are. I’ve always wondered how they’d give that speech on an integrated golf course in the Inland Empire.

  • Ymarsakar

    The problem with the South 100 years ago wasn’t racism or discrimination. It was the Democrat party.
    Once the South was able to stand on its own and reject the Democrat masters during Reagan era, things became better economically for the South.

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