Monday, August 5, 2013

White Men Can't Jump – But, Boy, Can They Wince by Josh


Riley Cooper: In the dog house
Editor's Note: The following post was submitted by one of HGP's readers. The views expressed are the authors. As expressed previously, we here at HGP welcome all respectful views. No one has a monopoly on truth, hence, respectful dialogue is healthy.

This particular post is on the topic of Philadelphia Eagle Riley Cooper and his use of nigger. The author's perspective is that of a white man that struggles (my opinion) with the double standard applied to the word based on race. 
A criminal offense is not usually judged based on the level of emotional grievance felt by the victim(s). That is typically saved for sentencing or in civil cases – emotional distress, pain and suffering. But we as a society have long attempted to change that by attaching special classifications to crimes, so that even the initial charge takes into account a victim's mental anguish.

It is a horrendously gross thing to physically harm someone. A man assaulting another man is liable for his actions, subject to charges such as assault and battery and malicious wounding. However, if the man in question is a different race, religion or a different sexual orientation than his victim, that man, committing the same crime, may be subject to a much harsher punishment due to the “hate crime” category.

This is an example of special classifications working to the benefit of special interests. If man A stabbed man B because man B was hitting on man A's girlfriend, then the crime may be aggravated assault, attempted murder, or something similar. Though if man A's reasons for stabbing man B were that man B were a different race, then man A is, in the eyes of the continuously-tweaked justice system, a worse offender. Man A is more deserving of punishment for the same crime due to motivations. Man B is more deserving of justice for being different than man A.

Maybe this is warranted, maybe it's not. But one thing's a glaring certainty here: This type of attitude about worse offenders and victims more deserving of justice has created an atmosphere where an offense resulting in a subjective emotional effect, such as a racial slur, is catapulted well beyond some other offenses resulting in physical effects – drunken club altercations, spousal abuse, etc. – in terms of media outrage and overall societal backlash.  

Not every state has hate crime laws. Not every hate crime law is the same. But the attitude is the same around the nation. If you're of a protected class (race, religion, gender, orientation, nationality) you deserve more justice when assaulted physically or emotionally. A historical context for justification, maybe, but the attitude creates a call for instant, harsh, ongoing punishment not based on the crime itself but based on the classifications given to victim and perpetrator.

Riley Cooper's crime wasn't that he said what he said. It wasn't even entirely due to the way it was said. His main crime was that he is a white man who used a racial slur – a word you can hear every minute of every day, though said by someone whose race bars its usage. It goes from being something stupid and offensive to being a hate crime. It goes from being a foolish, mean-spirited choice to a potentially-career-ending, inexorable mistake. And not a mistake as in an aberration or a slip, but a mistake as in “This is a racist who finally got caught.”

One person cannot tell another person how to feel or the limits to which those feelings extend. What affects us is personal and no one's business.  It is completely logical to believe that a white man using a racial slur in an obviously negative context does cause emotional distress and anger within the black community. Amongst all of a race? Not necessarily, as some people simply let things like that roll off their backs. Of only the targeted race? Not necessarily, as some people truly do loathe hateful speech and are affected personally and emotionally by hate, even if they are not of the targeted race.

As a society, however, we stumble over ourselves and stomp all over thoughtful discourse in favor of placating the people we believe emotionally disturbed with metaphoric back pats and soft, condescending whispers of, “There, there. I understand.”

The white person uncomfortably qualifying their position to the black person in lengthy, painful fashion wants to make it abundantly clear that, while the pain cannot possibly be the same, because we're all apparently so incredibly different, this person understands what fresh hell it must feel like to be treated so brutally, to have such an egregious offense thrown down upon already-weighted shoulders. Though this person, through constant admission, cannot possibly begin to imagine what it  would be like to go through life with such a burden, this person understands and sympathizes and wants to set right all previous wrongs with a puppy-dog look and an open-hearted smile.

It is a side effect of years of being led to believe that a protected class hurts more when offended, and that the offending class is collectively responsible, if only indirectly. It encourages many of those sharing the offender's race to step outside of honesty and logic and to concede that they are not worthy of offering a valid opinion on the subject. A feeling they must help atone for the actions of others.

We all have valid opinions on this subject. We should all speak freely without needing to present a cringing preamble. Being black does not necessarily mean you are offended. Being white does not necessarily mean you aren't. Spoken language belongs to human beings, to those who speak it. Segregated language accepted so widely by a nation with a history of segregation is the definition of illogical.

Being people, we can all “understand” how it feels to be insulted, to be emotionally perturbed due to something someone else has said. Most of us have been insulted. Most of us have been ridiculed for something topical: Race, weight, hair color, complexion, eye-wear, height, and on it goes. But we instantly, without question, throw a racial slur – white to black – in with crimes far more egregious than nasty, embittered, hurtful, pointless speech.


History? Guilt? Fear of repercussions? Why do we so quickly force a racial slur into the category of damn near unforgivable?

People do hurt over hurtful things said. Such has always been the case, such will always be the case. And people will always say hurtful things. People will always be victims of hurtful things said.

But for us to elevate a racial slur so incredibly high on the crime-o-meter causes us all to lose perspective. It creates an environment where honest discussions about how people really feel turn into the perpetrating race by happenstance trying to simultaneously beg forgiveness while acting as mere observers in the conversation. And this perpetuates the impression that the party the insult was levied against should be offended. As if one need be angry and hurt if they happen to be of a certain race. A sense of duty to react. A sense of duty for the other party to feel shame.

Be careful, people. We can't willingly segregate ourselves in these matters and expect to ever help the issue. Some people may be honestly hurt and offended. That is the typical consequence of an insult. Though to treat people purposefully unique for the sake of not offending or pandering or making up for past wrongs just further drives the divide. Classifying someone as prone to more hurt, and thus an offender deserving of harsher justice, is a form of bigotry in itself.


  1. I read and liked your article/manifesto lol... One question: how come your response was only about race and hate speech repercussions?

    NBA great Tim Hardaway (black man) lost his job when he made anti-gay remarks. Actor Isaiah Washington (also black) rebuked by ABC and was fired from Grey's Anatomy for saying faggot. And many people believe that making anti-sematic statements is what really got Glen Beck fired from FOX. PC isn't just black and white (pun intended).

    Oh btw unlike Hardaway and Washington, Riley Cooper still has his job -- he was only fined. And the first to forgive him were his black teammates including Mike Vick.

  2. In the interest of others who may also wonder that as well: I speak about things labeled "hate crimes," and how labeling people differently causes us to view instances of "hate speech" more harshly when directed at someone's race -- also mentioning in there: sexuality, gender, etc. It's an overview of society's view on who the bigger victims are in general, but particularly dealing with Copper because, well, he was in the news recently.

    And the coverage far exceeds that of guys like Hardaway and Hibbert and Bryant. But some were still dealt with disproportionately, I believe.

    Besides, what an employer does with its employees is not what I'm speaking about here. If one wants to make the argument that Cooper got off too easy in the NFL, then that's a separate issue. This is pertaining to how mainstream media and society at large treats a racial slur on the "crime-o-meter," not how employee A is handled vs. B by an employer. The NFL is taking plenty of heat on that front.

    The bigger point is that we expect the hammer to be dropped hard and fast with speech we view as "hateful" directed at a protected class of people. Not only black; not only for racial speech. For a range of people we view as more prone to hurt, people we view more deserving of justice due to status we assign them.

    While there are many included in that protected class, some other "hateful" speech doesn't cut it. For instance: People who have their balls busted due to weight issues, being bald, having bad skin, being unintelligent, etc. (And I can write another "manifesto" if anyone wants to say "Well, but you can't 'change' your skin or sexuality.")

    These things may still hurt; they may still cause emotional damage. But if it's a racial slur, the world has to stop turning while outrage and awkward conversations dominate the landscape. It pushes the idea that people need to be offended and that speech is more potent than actual violence. And we segregate ourselves further in the process by classifying one another based on meaningless topical factors that do not make us who we are.

  3. I always shudder when I hear: Protected Class.

    It gives some connotation of a society that goes out of the way to extend privileges others in society are denied. I would think the recipient of protected class would have: special status with the police and court system; special economic status whereby they live among the elite of the elite in society; special social status where no discrimination happens.

    Many Native Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans and Gay Americans would trade our so-called special protected status for white male privileges in a New York second.

    I agree in the last few decades there may be a protected status in speech (as opposed to actions) but trust me this is a very modern phenomenon. Just review the pre-political correct American public speech (this would be pre-1985 America).

    My personal theory on why it may appear to be a disproportionate response when hate speech is uttered from a privilege class to a non-privilege class is because it highlights inequalities of education, economics, social status, criminal justice etc. that the overwhelming percentage of society want to remain invisible.

    Take for instance Jimmy the Greek who was fired from CBS NFL coverage when he opined that blacks were better athletes because of the way master bred his big buck slaves with the strongest women in order to get more able laborers.

    Black folks did not go crazy with protest (outside of the professional racial ambulance chasers). We knew that there was some crude truth to Greek's observation. The offended party was white America: many whites did not (and still do not) want to hear inconvenient truths.

    But on another issue...I made note of how you narrowly focus on the black/white facet of this issue because I believe it hinders your understanding of the larger issue of PC.

    To make my point: When Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a slut, the outrage far exceeded the Riley Cooper incident. The rebuke of Rush lost his program millions of Ad dollars.

    Second speech segregation cuts across all cultures: I grew up in a community with a high population of Italians and everyday I heard them jokingly call each others wops, guineas and grease balls.

    Trust me when I say: I would probably not be communicating with you today if I used those racial slurs in their company. Is this an example of segregated speech.

  4. As I've said: I focused on the black-white aspect because that was the story. I was speaking specifically about how white men acted oddly when speaking to black men about it. It was about how media and mainstream America (in the context of sporting news) threw Cooper's speech in with legitimate crimes.

    My failing to mention something doesn't mean it was omitted out of spite or a lack of understanding. Just as if I were to bust Obama's chops for haughty vacations, that doesn't mean I'm all for Bush and Clinton doing the same while they were in office. One shouldn't have to qualify a point they're making by listing every other known parallel and analogy and similar situation.

    This is a standard I cannot abide. But if we're speaking about the PC culture in general, I believe that people also place too big an emphasis on homosexual slurs and other acts of speech. And I say that only because we're talking about speech, and only because you CAN use hateful speech to some "classes" (heavy, unattractive, ideological, bald, etc).

    Just not those classes society has decided are too weak to deal with hateful speech, too weak to be insulted without needing outside defense. The classes society has decided are too fragile--maybe for some of what you cite--and thus have earned a right not to be offended.

    And here's a great example why I kept it aimed at white-black. Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN, paraphrased: You have Michael Vick going to prison for fighting dogs. You have Plaxico going to jail for shooting himself. You have George Zimmerman walking free after killing Trayvon Martin. Then you have Riley Cooper and this situation. Black folks want to know if we ever matter.

    Okay, Smith, I can understand your point entirely on Zimmerman. But Cooper--speech in general--isn't even in the same universe! Speech. Words. A vile, nasty, completely unnecessary word, used in a context with the express purpose to insult, but a word nevertheless. A word vs. guns, killing and torturing dogs, and murder. And it's right up there.

    I take your point about it highlighting different aspects. But as a poor white kid who came up without food in the fridge, running water only half the month, drugs and crime around, hit and harassed by cops, etc, I can only smirk at the profiling of white folks as privileged. You gotta have money first, my friend. Green is all that matters. Green might pop more on a white backdrop, but it's still the green.

    Muffy and Buffy might have that privilege, and their folks had a huge head start, but me and the other hundred million Joe Blows are up against it like every other poor folk in America. And when my neighborhood floods and nobody comes, I sound right stupid to say it's because Barack Obama doesn't care about white people. lol