So the story goes: “we’ve made great strides in American
race relations. We’re in a post-racial society.” I, of course,
don’t go for that one. As
a matter of fact, I believe we’re rapidly digressing from
the progress we had achieved through the blood and sacrifice
of our enslaved forbearers and civil rights warriors. One
recent example among many is sufficient to make this point.
A Buffalo girls basketball team was suspended after the players allegedly
used a racial slur as part of their pregame cheer last week.
You already know what the slur was…
Tyra Batts, the sole Black-American
on the Kenmore East High
School’s squad, told the Buffalo News that her teammates
would hold hands before the game, say a prayer and then
shout “One, two, three (nigger!).” Now, I have to ask you
why anyone - Black or white - would do that, but you know
what it is. It’s really simple: White people do it because
The behavior came to light when Ms. Batts was suspended
for getting into a fight about the use of racial slurs during
practice, according to the newspaper. Now, I know me; I
would’ve been in fistfights over this too - even at my age.
I was kicked out of the military in the early 1980’s for
that same thing. It retarded the trajectory of the rest
of my life. As I aged, I realized I could’ve done some things
differently, although at the time, I went through the prescribed
channels to address racial threats and discrimination. Unfortunately
in my case, the system was ill-responsive, even blaming
the victim. After I saw that the “authorities” would do
nothing to intervene, I took direct action…and busted some
Ms. Batts said that she was alarmed by the cheer, but
had been outnumbered and told that the use of the slur was
just a team tradition. “I said, ‘You’re not allowed to say
that word because I don’t like that word,’” she told the
newspaper. “They said, ‘You know we’re not racist, Tyra.
It’s just a word, not a label.’ I was outnumbered.” This
scenario is not a surprising one. You see, whites echo the
very excuses we, as Black Americans, make when this vile
language comes out: it’s just a word.
N-Word has never gone away. It was used during the country’s
infancy as a demeaning and degradation tool toward the enslaved,
imported Africans. Don’t be fooled, words have power. “I
love you” has spawned many a baby. “The sentence of death”
quote has killed many a man. Words have power. Even Christians
believe that God spoke this world into existence.
Now that’s power!
incident is more than unfortunate…it is indicative of what
we - Black Americans - allow. We haven’t expunged it from
the English language. Until we make it unacceptable,
white America won’t find
it unacceptable. I watched my first Paul Mooney performance
the other night, and the comedian’s liberality with the
word does us no favors and great harm. He’s one comedian
I’d never heard of before a Bush-era video was brought to
my attention. He is a socio-politically conscious individual,
and liberally uses the word “nigger” in all references.
has the right to say what he so chooses, but the irreparable
harm cannot be calculated. Though we relish freedom of speech
in America, all speech doesn’t need to be free. Though
some feel that language is of no consequence, all dynamics
of race (voting, health care, criminal justice, etc.) are
relevant, important and significant, and thus need to be
on the table.
Incidentally, the 15-year-old eventually exploded after
a practice when a teammate called her a ‘black piece of
says she got into a fight with the girl later in school.
I know what the child was feeling, especially when you’re
supposed to be part of the “team.” I was 18-years old and
under the belief that in the army, we were all green. How
wrong I was.
“It was a buildup of anger and frustration at being
singled out of the whole team,” Ms. Batts told the newspaper.
Her suspension was shortened after the principal learned
of the racial allegations. At least a dozen girls were suspended.
Incidentally, Ms. Batts initially received a longer suspension
than any of the white girls. How ironic, right?
Some of the team’s former players who took to Twitter
seemed to have little knowledge of any “tradition” the team
had of racial chants. Collusion and cohesion was the same
tactic used when I filed my complaint of racism while I
was stationed at Fort
Campbell, Kentucky. I was the sole
Canon Fire Direction Specialist in my unit. They knew it.
They, my tormentors and those up the chain of command, worked
in concert to diminish my claims. Of course, the focus turned
to my “attitude.”
“You (racist) b - -,” a 2010 graduate tweeted. “Glad
I’m out of there.” Another one added, “Haha oh yeah that
Ken East crap that’s going on. I want no part in that.”
Honestly, who does? When it’s all over said and done, children
or adults, racism in America
is live and well. Our children are victims - Black and white.
The perpetuation of this poison has retarded any progress
this country has seen. And with the Republicans dominated
by the conservative right-wing, there’s nothing post-racial
on the agenda for 2012.
Redd, is the former Executive Director of
the workers rights advocacy, Sincere Seven, and author of
the on-line commentary, “The
Other Side of the Tracks.” He is the host of the internet-based
talk radio show, Socially Speaking in
here to contact Mr.