'Thug' Really Is the New N-Word

Richard Sherman interview stirs racial debate
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 27, 2014 1:21 PM CST
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman speaks during a news conference, Jan. 26, 2014, in Jersey City, NJ.   (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

(Newser) – At this point, most people agree that Richard Sherman is not, in fact, a thug. Greta Van Susteren at Fox News even apologized on-air for bashing him, saying a viral Internet graphic comparing Sherman to the actually thuggish Justin Bieber had shown her the light. But Sherman's contention that thug has become "the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word," has proven a bit more controversial. Here's what people are saying:

  • Sherman is absolutely right, writes Jamelle Bouie at the Daily Beast, pointing out that Trayvon Martin was dubbed a "thug" for "ordinary teenage behavior, like cursing or smoking marijuana," and that in the "right-wing fever swamps … 'thug' is the favored insult for Barack Obama." It's a dog-whistle, marking someone as "a dangerous 'other' without resorting to the kind of language that earns public condemnation."
  • But Clarence Page at the Chicago Tribune admits that when he saw Sherman's outburst, the T-word flashed through his mind. "I don't use the word 'thug' loosely. Too many African-American males, as Sherman suggests, have been unfairly stereotyped with it. But I also believe we should avoid feeding the stereotype," he writes. Like it or not, athletes are role models for African-American kids.
  • It's a mistake to call Sherman a thug, agrees Daniel Foster at the National Review, but it's also a mistake to "infer some ready-made lesson about race in America" from the incident. Indeed he was shocked that in his world, among "the conservative commentariat"—where "greater concentrations of racial angst are purported to exist"—reaction was "thoroughly mixed."

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