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Monthly Archives: February 2015

 

The word “thug” has been quoted frequently of late in our modern day society.  Marshawn Lynch, the man of few words when interviewed by the sports media, and the never bashful and gregarious Richard Sherman, teammates on the Seattle Seahawks football team, have been labeled ‘thugs.’ A  white colleague has called the prolific Jameis Winston, the Florida State University quarterback, a thug.

What is a thug exactly?  The Bing search engine gives two definitions of ‘thug’: 1) a violent person, especially a criminal (synonyms include, ruffian, hooligan, vandal, hoodlum, gangster,  bruiser  or villain); or 2) a thug is a member of a religious organization of robbers and assassins in India. Devotees of the goddess Kali, the Thugs waylaid and strangled their victims, usually travelers, in a ritually prescribed manner. They were suppressed by the British in the 1830s.

Well, Sherman, Winston nor Lynch live in India; so we can rule out this definition as a basis for calling these men thugs.  And, for Lynch and Sherman, I think we can rule out the first definition too as I have not read anything about them being engaged in any criminal behavior.  Jameis Winston, on the other hand, has participated in criminal activity.  For instance, a sexual assault allegation was leveled against Winston.  However, according to the USA TODAY (December 21, 2014), “the official FSU hearing, presided over by retired Florida Supreme Court justice Major B. Harding, on December 21, 2014 cleared Winston of violating the student conduct code in the sexual assault allegation.” In 2012, Winston and another FSU player were held by campus police for allegedly bringing a BB gun on campus and firing at squirrels. Winston was handcuffed but later released when it was discovered he was not on campus and the gun was just a BB gun. In this case, no charges were filed against Winston in this incident. And sadly, Winston has been involved in shoplifting incidents and has made vulgar comments.

Verdict? Of these three men – Lynch, Sherman and Winston – only Winston has acted like a ‘thug’ or criminal per the first definition. Did he behave as a violent criminal? I do not know.

Are there other legitimate instances were a person has (or a group of persons have) been involved in thuggish behavior? We can say that those black men who destroyed property in the aftermath of the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American adolescent Michael Brown acted like thugs. I get that; no disagreement here. However, what do we call white kids who destroy property during the Keene Pumpkin Festival in October 2014?

Is there parity in pejorative name calling? Not in this case because, instead of calling these white kids ‘thugs,’ they were called a less offensive name, ‘rowdy.’

There are some legitimate times to call those who participate in criminal behavior, thugs, as those who destroyed property in Ferguson and those who destroyed property in Keene, NH.  Clearly, in these two instances, both whites and blacks acted like thugs – so I want to strongly encourage those who label criminals to be ‘an equal opportunity pejorative name labeler’! At other times, it seems like some are quick to call black men like Sherman and Lynch ‘thugs’ because they rarely play by the sports media’s rules. It is the latter instance that I consider cowardly and I cry foul! If, by chance, mindlessly tossing out the label ‘thug’ is a covert way of actually saying the N-word, then this is particularly shameful and abominable for such a civil society as ours!

A final note – we live in a culture that likes to label or to put people in categories.  However, oftentimes labeling persons reduces persons to a label which undermines the person’s worth and value and humanity. It is okay to label, however, let’s remember above all else, that a person is not his or her label; a person is a human being.

 

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