Skip to main content

Rogue cartoonist Keith Knight, tapping into the streams of overt racism which have surfaced over young, black athletes being called "thugs," has created a handy series of images to help Americans discern between misguided youths and sinister threats.

This one (NSFW) image is the most helpful, in my view:

This image, which needs no commentary, comes on the heels of an altercation between college basketball star Marcus Smart, who is black, and a so-called 'super-fan,' who is white. Playing in Lubbock, TX against Texas Tech, the Oklahoma State standout stumbled into the stands near the end of the game. Jeff Orr, a 40-something adult, began berating Smart to his face, calling him, among other things, the N word. At which point Smart lost his cool and pushed Orr.

Predictably, Smart – just 19 years old – was castigated widely as a "thug" for having the temerity to respond when confronted by a racist. And Doug Gottleib of ESPN, who is simply one of America's worst sports broadcasters, Tweeted this after the incident:

What's the deal, indeed.


The Nation's Mychal Denzel Smith, in an article posted this week called, "How to Create a Thug," related a racist incident he recently experienced:

“I’m not trying to be racist…”

Last night, a stranger started a “conversation” with me using those exact words. There was nothing positive that could have come out of this exchange.

“I’m not trying to be racist, but do you know where I can score some coke?”

I heard him. It was a pretty noisy bar, but I heard him loud and clear. Still, I wanted him to say it again. “What?”

He repeated himself. My gut reaction? Punch in the face. I didn’t.

“So, what you’re saying is, because I’m black, you picked me to come ask to help you find cocaine?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I’m not trying to be offensive…”

With his anger bubbling to the surface, Smith restrained himself, and did not engage this drug-seeking bigot with anything but words. However, he admits that, at 19, he would have slugged the guy.

And then he writes from the gut, explaining his decision not to punch this guy within the larger, painful, context of the black experience:

I made my choice last night on the basis of feeling that I had something to lose. I haven’t always felt that way. Being black in America feels like having nothing. But at 27, there’s something I try to live for. I use my anger in a way that feels productive. I write, I speak, I teach, I shout, I learn, I grow. Last night, I decided to keep doing that. I decided that’s how I fight back.

Imagine having to make that decision when every muscle in your body tells you to do otherwise. Imagine having to make that decision when you don’t know how to operate on anything but anger. Imagine having to make that decision on an almost daily basis. Imagine having to make the decision when you’re sure there isn’t a future for you in this world. Imagine having to make the decision knowing it could be your last.

Are we still thugs now?


This may surprise those who know me and my writing, but I spend a lot of time at sports bars in surrounding Pittsburgh neighborhoods, getting away at night to decompress, grab a good beer and watch whatever game might be on.

And despite many of these neighborhoods being in mixed, liberal areas, it is rare for me to not overhear something implicitly (or overtly) racist. And more often than not, word thug is bandied around within these contexts, as though it's a normative word to use when describing a black athlete who shows any sort of aggression.

And when I hear the word, I have the good fortune, as a white, Jewish American, of not having it elicit an impulsive stream of anger.

But if I were black, and had to make the calculations Smith and Smart and most black Americans must make on a weekly basis, I can say one thing with near certainty: I would either have spent time in jail or would be there today.

Would I be a thug? Is any black American who refuses to stand quietly as institutional racism persists in this country?

If you don't know the answer, you're a part of the problem.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.

Originally posted to David Harris-Gershon (The Troubadour) on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 09:31 AM PST.

Also republished by Writing by David Harris Gershon.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site