No! Barnes, Barkley and Shaquille: There's No Special Privilege For N-Word Usage

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Matt Barnes; no more enforcement?

Recent events in the sports world have brought to the forefront the subculture of athletes.

For the moment I’m going to sidestep the n-word component and speak about content in general.  Not only am I not a professional athlete I don’t come close to suggesting I am an expert on how athletes conduct themselves. I can only speak from experience.

Having had friends who were athletes, collegiate and professional, I can say a fast and loose social setting definitely can make those with sensitive ears wince. For the most part, it takes a whole lot to offend my sensibilities, so trash-talking is not generally something I shy away from.

While everyone may not know an athlete, I’m betting everyone has stepped foot in a barbershop or beauty salon in his or her lifetime.  That’s a relatively close analogy. It isn’t that barbers and beauticians are incapable of having intelligent conversations -- it speaks more to the environment.

Gossip, jokes, and lighthearted banter are staples in most shops and salons throughout the country. These subcultures don’t follow, nor should they, the strict rules that may exist in a banking institution, for example.

In this day of technology and relationship building, professional sports organizations place a great deal of emphasis on the role of social media.  I get it: superstar lets his followers know his luggage has been lost---glad the airline got it to you finally, Dirk. His fans feel the connection.

Tremendous ticket sales continue; and so on and so forth. 

But just because you know what your favorite player had for dinner last night, does not make you a candidate for his next bff! The key is, private conversations are not meant for public consumption.  Although I don’t agree with comments by basketball stars Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal supporting the use of a racial epithet or the n-word, I do wholeheartedly agree with the notion that private conversations don’t need to be censored by anybody but the parties involved. 

We, as fans, do not have the right to dictate how players should speak amongst themselves any more so than we’d want them coming into our cubicles telling us how we should speak amongst our colleagues.

Now on to the n-word, I am adamantly against anyone using it anytime. Whether it is among people of one race or a multiracial group.  It is disingenuous for a Black person to claim they now embrace the word but be the first one to get bent out of shape when a non-Black person uses it in the way in which it was intended when created.

After all, if the word does not have the same power, then it should be without power regardless of whose mouth utters and the context in which it is said. 

On many occasions my Ivy League educated grandmother has said "Cursing is for people who don’t have a command of the language. You can express yourself and fully get your point across without so much as a four letter word." 

To that point I’d say to those in the music world, the repeated use of the n-word is lyrically lazy; for every n-word, there’s a place where sucka or playa, for starters, could go---look closely, they even end in an “a” too! 

The most recent event involving Matt Barnes of the Clippers tweeting a racially charged rant after being ejected from a game with the OKC Thunder brings it all home with a nice pretty bow. One moment to address the side issue though. So Matt is tired of being the resident bruiser? Man, be for real. That is who you are.

That is what has kept you in the league as long as it has. No team has picked you up based on sheer, raw talent. But the scrappy guy that will get it in and do enough to help his team while roughing up an opposing player along the way—oh that has the name Matt Barnes all over it. 

For the record, I’m not mad at him. If that’s your niche, do your thing; own it and quit trying to play Jedi mind tricks with your identity.

Now back to the big picture.

Private conversations are a separate show. But everyone, public people in particular, should be mindful of what they put out on the information highway. 

Remember being told to count to 10 before you speak?  Well, before you send that emotionally charged text, email or tweet wait 24 hours—more often than not, you’ll be glad you did!! 

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